If you were told to 'present pilum' or 'form a tortoise', would you think: a) my God, what will these perverts think of next; b) this is definitely the last time I go country dancing; or c) golly, I seem to have been mysteriously transported back to the Roman army circa 57 BC.
If your answer to this question is c) then you could well be interested in the new strategy game from Impressions, the people who brought you Rorke's Drift. If your answer was either a) or b) you may still be interested. Take it from me, Cohort is a lot more fun than country dancing.
Cohort follows in the tradition of Rorke's Drift, being an attractive war game. Each unit (comprising 100 men) is represented by a small figure not dissimilar to the old toy soldiers you used to catch lead poisoning off. Your soldiers fight on one of four battlefields: Open Field, The Bridge, Cliff Defence and Hill Terrain.
Once you've selected the terrain, you need to select your troops. You can decide the composition of your army by either selecting one of the pre-defined armies, putting together your own or going for random generation. Having done the same for the computer's army it's time to get down to the nitty gritty - or rather the stabby stabby.
Units can be commanded as groups or individually and can be made to move or charge to certain designated points on the battlefield or continuously in one direction until they run out of battlefield. Combat is automatic when opposing soldiers meet. Groups can also form up intro impressive military formations such as squares or lines two ranks deep. You can stop the action at any time during the battle to view the battlefield and check on casualties.
Action also stops whenever you wish to give new orders to a unit. Anything else... oh, yes - the object of the game is to kill all the enemy troops. Easy-peasy, eh?
Paul: My life has been full of disappointments. One of the most painful was the arrival of Impressions' Rorke's Drift. It sounded such a good idea and looked really nice, yet it was frustratingly flawed. Happily Cohort is a considerable improvement on the same theme. The graphics are as good as those in Rorke's Drift but the control system is much easier to get to grips with. It still has a few problems, though - you can only give precise orders over one screen's-worth of terrain.
If you want a unit to go further you have to send it off in a straight line until it gets into the right sector and then give more precise orders. Selecting the unit to which you wish to give commands could also be made easier.
I was somewhat baffled when playing the game by the fact that, although the two sides are ostensibly red and blue, the blue heavy infantry were wearing red. They might have been traitors, they might have been part of some cunning plot that my secret service had to tell me about.
This apart, Cohort is very effective and it doesn't take too long to get to grips with the ins and outs of the control system. The need for continual involvement heightens the excitement. You may have the battle by the scruff of the neck but if you stop concentrating for a few minutes things will swing against you, requiring new orders, new tactics and a new hair transplant to regain the initiative.
The idea behind both Rorke's Drift and Cohort is excellent. The old skirmish wargames were always great fun and prime material for computer conversion. Impressions' first effort was a bit disappointing, but Cohort is a lot better. In the words of the great Bruce Forsyth it's a "Good game, good game". I think they're on the verge of producing an excellent one.