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Steve McGill positions his artillery, orders his troops, inspects his cavalry, retires to a safe distance on a nearby hilltop and yells Chaaarge!

By God sir, I've lost my leg! - By God sir, so you have! So ran the conversation between The Marquess of Anglesey and Wellington at Waterloo after the Marquess lost the aforementioned appendage. And, amazingly enough, after having discovered some bugs which made the game unplayable that's how the conversation between Steve Bradley and myself ran: By God sir, I've lost my sense of humour. BY God sir, so you have!

Hopefully, Microprose can fix the bugs before too many people buy Fields Of Glory because it's got a lot of potential and a great pedigree backing it.

It's set in the Napoleonic Wars and covers the major battles, including Waterloo. There are also a couple of fictional battles to help initiate beginners in game mechanics and tactics. You play either side in the conflicts but your opponent is always the Amiga due to the real-time aspect of play. The artificial intelligence routines are set for five difficulty levels - Conscript being the easiest and Guard the most fiendish.

Jim Bambra wrote the original game on the PC and helped convert the Amiga version with WJS Design in Leeds. Tabletop wargamers will know the game - Him wrote most of the Avalon Hill and SPI hex-based games.

Even the most ardent tabletop gamer has to bow to the superiority of computer-based wargame systems. The look-up tables, moves, line of sight and casualties are all taken care of for you so that you can concentrate on strategy and tactics, which is why the Napoleonic Wars are ideal for the computer to calculate.

Soldiers wore brightly-coloured uniforms so they could see each other easily and marched at each other in lines and columns due to the inaccuracy of their guns. This meant that a line or column firing in tandem created a blanket of fire which mowed down opposing forces.

These tactics, plus artillery fire and cavalry charge strategies, are well implemented but bugs tarnish Fields Of Glory's playability. The worst of these is that you can run over rivers and up hills without disadvantage. If you wanted to, you could set up artillery in the middle of a river. An unbelievable mistake which diminishes the whole game.

Wargamers won't play this game because of this bug. It makes a mockery of everything that wargames are meant to simulate. It's surprising that Microprose let this error slip, especially considering the polish of their UFO: Enemy Unknown.



Böse Niederlage

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Uns armen Amiganern bleibt aber auch wirklich nichts erspart: Nach dem Reinfall mit der AGA-Version dieses drögen Strategicals hat MicroProse nun noch lahmere Iso-Regimenter auf den A500 beordert!

Rein inhaltlich ist dabei alles beim alten geblieben: nach wie vor können hier die Schlachten Napoleons am Bildschirm nachempfunden werden - wobei seine legendäre Niederlage bei Waterloo der spielerischen Realität wohl am nächsten kommt...

Es warten vier historischen belegte und zwei frei erfundene Szenarien, wo bis zu zwei Spieler für jede der beiden Seiten (Nappi vs. England/Preußen) Partei ergreifen dürfen.

Solisten werden auch von der CPU bedient, wobei dann fünf Schwierigkeitsgrade zur Verfügung stehen.

Das Gameplay an sich besteht aus dem menügesteuerten Echtzeit-Verschieben von Infanterie, Kavallerie und Artillerie, während eine dreifach zoombare Karte für Übersicht auf dem Feld der Ehre sorgen soll.

Damit ist sie aber immer noch hoffnungslos überfordert, denn die grauenhaft animierten Sprites neigen dazu, sich bis zur völligen Unkenntlichkeit ineinander zu verkeilen.

Davon abgesehen ist das Spieltempo am 500er derart langsam, daß jeder Kartenzoom für eine Kaffeepause gut ist - und auch so genutzt werden sollte, wenn man hier nicht binnen Minuten in die Tiefschlafpause abdriften will.

Kurz und sehr schlecht: Wer historische Schmalspurstrategie mit umständlicher Steuerung (Befehlsverweigerung inklusive), herbstem Ruckel-scrolling, 08/15-Sound und akzeptablem Iso-3D sucht, der greift zu Fields of Glory... in der AGA-Version.

Hier sollte dagegen nur zugreifen, wer darüber hinaus am so ziemlich langsamsten Spielablauf der Weltgeschichte interessiert ist! (mic)



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Harry Attrill, a man with a pasion for history but about as much wargaming experience as Charlie Mouse, plays Microprose's latest and advises: 'Steady the Buffs'.

Microprose's new strategy game, Fields of Glory, re-enacts the battles which decided the future of Europe following Napoleon's dramatic escape from the island of Elba in 1815. The campaign which climaxes at Waterloo, includes five other battles, Nivelles, Wagnee, Quatre Bras, Ligny and Wavre. Two of these, Nivelles and Wagnee are of course, war fans, entirely fictional.

FOG is a hybrid, half strategy, half combat and features MicroProse's CQCS (Close-Quarters Combat System) which lets the player see things happening close to (well about as close as you'd get to a troop of Britain's finest).

It's very like the combat system in Dune 2. You use the mouse to direct your army and watch as your orders are obeyed. This system is a sweetie and manages the action smoothly and quickly. FOG also features a zoom-in, zoom-out facility which enables you to view the carnage at a range of one, four or eight miles.

DIORAMA
The game looks like an animated diorama. As action is joined, units move stiffly but smartly into position and because the graphics try to create the illusion of a kind of cyber-table top - rather than the reality of say, an episode of Sharpe, they leave most of the work to the imagination - which is a neat trick. It's easy to pretend that you are controlling events from a nearby hill-top and viewing the action at close quarters through your telescope.

During engagements opposing forces sort of meld into each other, but zoom-in and you will see sabres waved about, vollies fired and smoke mushrooming from artillery pieces. To complete the picture, the sound boys have added the appropriate crackles, screams, whinnies and booms.

FOG's programmers have taken great pains to be as historically accurate as possible. They've included as much detail in the game's database as might be required by the avid wargamer, or digested piecemeal by the curious. The manual is packed with information and reads, appropriately enough, like a history lesson in miniature.

The producers obviously hope that you will study it at length, because as I quickly discovered, it's not hard to win a battle without knowing what's going on. You are probably getting away with playing only half the game and can therefore expect only half the enjoyment. But, if you can win comfortably knowing zippo about the Napoleonic War, where is the incentive to read the manual? And won't the buffs know it all anyway?

But let's cast any doubts aside for the moment and play the game. To begin, the first thing to decide is which battle you want to fight and which army you want to control. Chose from the Allied forces (Wellington) the French (Bony) or the Prussians (Blücher). Then you select a skill level (ranging form the lowly 'Conscript', which forgives basic military blunders, to 'Guard', which pitches you against a computer opponent with the tactical brilliance of a Clausewitz).

You can also choose from a number of opening deployment options: Historical - which disposes the armies with historical accuracy; Non-historic - which is a suggested deployment but allows you to move some units and Free Deployment - which allows you to move everything within the bounds of a predetermined level of realism.

Fighting the battles is easy as pie. Select a unit and a window appears which gives you the low-down on its strength, formation, attitude (i.e., assaulting, deploying, holding, etc.). So, issue some orders, sit back (though not for long because the game is played in real time and bags of other stuff is happening all around you) and watch your boys giving it to the enemy hot and strong.

Messages pop up throughout the engagement when an obejctive is reached, when a prominent general or commander is killed and if, as in the case of the Prussians at Waterloo, a new unit arrives on the scene.

When you win you're allotted a score based on the number of casualties and can enter your name in a high score table, presumably hoping to do better next time. I wonder though, if you triumph at the first attempt (as I did) and at a respectable level of difficulty to boot, whether there is sufficient incentive to fight a battle again merely to improve your score? Only, I suspect, if you want to fight the perfect campaign.

ANY GOOD?
After a few days playing Fields of Glory I was beginning to doubt whether it was any good. I, a strategic Norman Wisdom, had on at least six occasions, thrashed the pants off the much vaunted armies of Imperial France, by the simple tactic of attacking everything under the Tricolour. They obviously don't like it up 'em sir, those Frogs. I did eventually loose at Waterloo - playing without anything remotely resembling a strategy and at the hardest level - but not without a titanic-sized struggle.

The fact is that you can play Fields of Glory (and win) with as much, or as little strategy as you want. Whether this will turn buffs off, or attract the X-mas browser is debatable. A critic might say that FOG falls between two stools (and I'm talking furniture), an apologist, that is attempt to bridge the gap between out and out strategy and simple combat. But which is it? Dunno mate.



Waterloo für Microprose

Fields of Glory logo AGA A1200 Speziell

Lang genug hat es gedauert, bis MicroProse die Kampfreihen dieser Schlachtensimulation am Amiga postiert hatte - anderthalb Jahre nach dem PC zieht nun endlich auch der A1200 in den Krieg.

Auf dem Marschplan stehen die Schlachten von Napoleons letztem Feldzug anno 1815, als der kleine Kaiser großen Knatsch mit England und Preußen hate. In der berühmten Schlacht bei Waterloo fetzten ihm dann Blücher und Wellington knapp, aber gründlich den Dreispitz von der eroberungssüchtigen Birne - diese Ereignisse bilden hier den Hintergrund für vier historisch belegte und zwei hypothetische Szenarien, wobei der Spieler jeweils zwischen den beiden beteiligten Seiten und fünf Schwierigkeitsgraden wählen darf.

Auf den belgischen Feldern der Ehre werden dann die aus Kavallerie, Infanterie und Artillerie bestehenden Armeen menügesteuert und in Echtzeit aufeinander gehetzt, was unter Zuhilfenahme der drei Zoomstufen stets ganz genau in recht nettem Iso-3D zu sehen ist.

Bloß bekommt man dabei grauenhafte Animationen zu Gesicht, zudem sind die ineinander verkeilten Wuselsprites wegen der strengen Kleiderordnung kaum noch voneinander zu unterscheiden.

Für zusätzlichen Verdruß sorgen das ruckelige Scrolling der Karte und die unerklärliche Nichtbeachtung so manches Feldhernbefehls. Auch Sound- und Musikbegleitung stellen keine Ruhmestaten dar, so daß die eher umständliche Maussteuerung bei der abschließenden Manöverkritik plötzlich überraschend gut dasteht...

Alles in allem ist Fields of Glory ein schönes Beispiel, wie man aus einem historisch genauen Ansatz und einem im Prinzip recht ansprechenden Gameplay durch viele kleine Schlampereien einen echten Verlierer macht. (mic)



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Mud, blood and death, concealed in the swirling FOG of war. Cam must be a happy man. Or is he?

Fields Of Glory is all about what might have happened during two days in June 1815. Although younger readers probably won't remember it, June 1815 was particularly memorable for a series of battles between the French and various allied armies leading up to an almighty bang shoot at a place called Waterloo in Belgium.

The tactics are a little too complex to go into here, but basically much maiming and hurtage went on with both sides kicking mucho ("Class" - Ed). Eventually the Allies won, leaving the victorious English free to go into terminal economic decline, and the defeated French to indulge in their twin passions of food and making art movies about relationships. Still, c'est la guerre, right kids?

HURTAGE
The game's split into four real battles and two fictional ones, and you're free to play either side in all of them, and if you're not happy with the placing of troops, you can move them all around.

Being a Napoleonic wargame, each battle has the French fighting either the Prussians or the English (although in Waterloo itself those Gallic funsters had to cope with both enemies at the same time, so it's hardly surprising they lost).

Each battle's viewed in three scales. The largest scale shows just the location of unit commanders and so is just a map overlaid with lots of flags. It's good for the start of the battle, but you quickly need more info than it's giving you.

The next scale's far more helpful, and it's possible to fight an entire battle quite successfully from this view, as you can see and move individual units of infantry, cavalry and artillery. This fine-tuning is essential as artillery units are weak in hand-to-hand combat and need to be protected by infantry, and it's useful to back up charges with cavaly.

The final scale lets you see individual figures, with each man on screen representing a few solders, and each gun, a battery.

In this scale, you can actually see the effectiveness of different formations during attack and massed cannon fire on infantry Troops advance, let off a volley of musket fire and then charge into the enemy to give them a taste of cold steel, and cavalry strike down fleeing survivors. Each clash leaves the battlefield scattered with bodies and smashed equipment and it's simply a matter of counting the holes in the ranks to see how many casualties a unit's taken.

It's fun, but the down side is that you can only scroll around a small area of the map at a time, so have to keep zooming out and then back in again to get to different areas of the battlefield.


Eventually the allies won

GROUCHY
The control method's fine, but could be improved. Every time you click on a unit, an information and order box pops up, obscuring much of the screen, so you're endlessly moving the command box around to get at the map underneath. Hot keys or some command options down one side of the screen would have been much better.

The three scale system cleverly portrays the confusion of war by sucking you into minute details when you should be looking at what WW1 generals referred to as "the big picture". Although you can move the entire army by selecting the supreme commander's flag, or a division by selecting one of the lesser commanders, command at this level is unwieldy, and invariably places some units in the wrong place.

This forces you to close in on the action and concentrate on moving battalions, and once you do that you start fiddling around with individual companies with the battalion.

This constant stepping down of attention means that either you've got to think extremely fast, or spend all your time gaining a victory at one end of the battlefield only to find that you neglected troops at the other have have been wiped out. Such is the joy of real-time wargaming.

As you can see, the game's got masses going for it, which makes it all the more annoying to have to say that it's fatally flawed. In all but the hardest levels, the enemy are loath to attack, forcing you to go on the offensive all the time.

This gets to you when you've spent ages setting up a a rock hard defensive line only to have to send them all forwards, ruining all your planning. It also prompted a silly stand off situation where I had only one company of infantry facing about two battalion of French who wouldn't attack and finish me off.


Take away the need to capture woods

DONZELOT
Being real-time, there's a clock ticking away in the top corner, but battles can last five, ten or even twenty hours without it ever going dark or any unit reporting fatigue. You can wipe out all the troops in a battalion but can't target the commander for attack, which leaves loads of impotent enemy officers on horses drifting across the battle field. Clearly stupid, clearly niggly faults.

The big, crippling problem is that the game completely fails to take terrain into account, which is a bit like having a flight sim that ignores the ground. Artillery units can travel through woods, cavalry can charge through them. Hills don't slow the progress of units, roads don't speed them up, and get this - rivers can be crossed at any point by alone without incurring casualties or taking any more time than it would take them to cross a field. And, worst of all, artillery can even fire from the middle of woods or the middle of a river, which is quite clearly ridiculous.

The Battle of Wavre looks like it's going to be a fantastic struggle to see who can control the bridges that cross the wide river, but seeing as all units can cross anywhere, the entire thing (or indeed any battle in the game) might as well be played on a green, featureless background for all the difference it'd make.

In 1983 I was hooked on a Lothlorian game called Johnny Reb for my Spectrum, and even that recognised the fact that units couldn't cross rivers, so what's gone wrong here? We seem to have gone backwards.

PONSONBY
Take away the need to capture woods or bridges, to defend farmhouses and hills and you've got a wargame that requires little or no strategy. FOG is fun for a while, but you soon realise that all you have to do is close in and engage the enemy. It's all a bit samey and tedious.

FOG is still the best wargame of the year (which says more about the faults of the others than the quality of this), but Microprose haven't half messed it up.
Get some terrain recognition in, and it would be brilliant, but as it is, it's nothing special. You'd be better employed dusting off Dune 2 and playing it again.



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Last month, AF reviewed the floppy version of Fields Of Glory (Microprose 01454 326532 £34.99). It received a low mark of 44 per cent due to what we figured was a fundamental flaw in the mechanics of the game. Namely, that despite the seeming inclusion of natural terrain hazards such as rivers, hills, and woods, they bore no relation whatsoever to the progress of troops.

Unfortunately, this glaring fault hasn't been rectified with the CD32 version. In effect, the battlefield is as flat and obstacle free as The Battle Of Guagamela at Arbela - the decisive battle between Alexander The Great and Darius King Of Persia where the Persians had flattened the fighting area months in advance.

There are six battles to be fought in all. Two of them are fictional to help the gamer familiarise themselves with the tactics and control system and the other four are based on true historical battles as they happened - the most famous being Waterloo.

This problem is a shame, because the graphics and real-time action making FOG more exciting than your average wargame.

Microprose have implemented a mechanism called Close Quarters Combat System which lets you see skirmishes and fights at a Brigade level where one figure represents about 70 men.

Exciting stuff indeed, which makes the flat terrain flaw all the more exasperating. Still, the CD32 version offers the same database of commanders as the PC version. But, unlike the PC, the database can't be accessed during a battle. Which pretty much makes it ineffective.

All in all, AF would like to recommend this, but the glaring fault of the flat terrain makes a mockery of any tactics and strategies employed by budding commanders.