I don't want no teenage dream, I just want my M-14...

Halls of Montezuma logo

Distributor: SSG Price: £25.99

US Marines are a tough bunch. In the service of America's interests for nearly 200 years they have been kicking butt all over the globe, from Asia to the Caribbean to the Gulf. All this scrapping has earned the "Leathernecks" a reputation for grim efficiency and a fighting spirit second to none. It has also inspired a rather good strategy game from SSG.

Taking its title from an important battle in the American-Mexican War, The Halls Of Montezuma recreates seven episodes from the Corp's past. Starting with that conflict, it encompasses campaigns in WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
You have the option of playing either the Marine commander, or, if you don't feel like fighting for mom, dad and apple pie, their adversary. A small booklet included with the game gives a potted history of each, and there is a useful colour poster with simple maps of the battlefield.

In chronological order then, the first scenario is the assault on Mexico City. You take on the role of either the fancifully named Major General Winfield Scott - the Marine's leader, or the even more fanciful Santa Anna - the Mexican head honcho.

Santa may have been his real name, but he certainly wasn't the sort to dress up in a silly white beard and give out presents to kids in department stores. No, this guy planned to give the Americans a good hiding when they came knocking at the city gates. Entering rather late into the First World War, the Marines still played their part in it. Never was this more the case than at Belleau Woods, another scenario, where they lost a large percentage of their strength due to some cunningly placed spandaus.
Even with these heavy losses they pressed forward, taking the woods, saving Paris from the squareheads and halting German's last desperate fling for victory. Gasp! I guess this made up for them being a few years late!

Perhaps the most memorable of all the Marine's actions were in the next World War - the storming of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Here they faced their most vicious opponents yet, fanatical Japanese dug in so deeply they could only be dislodged with constant bombardment from Danni Minogue records - sorry, high-explosive and falme-throwers (the Marines may have been tough, but they weren't barbaric!). Can you take Turkey Knob - a Japanese stronghold - before Bernard Matthews turns it into a stud farm?

The last three scenarios deal with Pusan and Inchon in Korea and Hue in Vietnam, commie-bashing exercises beloved of the Americans. Of course, if you don't like the smell of napalm in the morning, you can always can take charge of those pinko subversives and give the Yankees a taste of their overseas diplomacy, heaven forbid!

So that is the military history lesson out of the way, what about the gameplay? Well, it's a fairly traditional hexagon-based wargame, controlled with the mouse. Icons depicting various movement options etc, can be selected and orders sent.
Unit status is called up by clicking on the unit, and this will give important information as to its combat-readiness. Use of this system is pretty straightforward and smooth and can be picked up reasonably quickly by non-strategists. If you are not sure as to what you should be doing, the objective display will help.

As well as the historically accurate scenarios, there is the opportunity to change some of the parameters of the engagements. This allows you to play out "what if...?" scenarios, and adds to the game's appeal. Some ideas are given in the manual. For instance: what if the NVA at Hue had three Shredded Wheat for breakfast?
There is also an "enhanced" setting to give either side a bit of an advantage over the other. This is particularly useful for novices like me! Great stuff.

In the Army now...

Halls of Montezuma logo

Fast drei Jahre ist es her, daß dieser strategische Streifzug die amerikanische Prügelgeschichte für den C64 erschien. Genug Zeit, um Rost anzusetzen - ob es noch für den Spiele-TÜV reicht?

Das Game bietet acht historische Schlachten, vom amerikanischen Angriff auf Mexico City 1847 bis zum Kampf um die vietnamesische Stadt Hue 1968. Dabei darf man sich auf jede beliebige Seite schlagen - wer einen Freund zur Hand hat, kann auch gegen ihn antreten. Die Szenarien entwickeln sich Zug um Zug auf Rundenbasis, wobei von vorhherein klar ist, nach wievielen Turns das Ende naht (höchstens 99). Sieg oder eweige Schmach hängen dann an den Victory points, die das Programm vergibt: für die Zerschlagung gegnerischer Bataillone etwa oder für's Erobern und Halten wichtiger Positionen.

Zur Präsentation: eine gräßlich rucklende Karte aus Sechseckfeldern zeigt Terrain, Orte, Army-Units und dergleichen; lage-Infos sind per Pulldown-Menü zugänglich. Die Einheiten bekommen ihre Befehle durch ein praktisches Iconsystem - man muß nur erst die Funktionsweise kapieren, denn das englische Manual gibt sich meist ziemlich allgemein. Die Rettung des "american way of life" findet in strategisch schlichter Grafik statt, aber wenigstens ist die Optik nicht gar so schlimm wie der Sound (die Titelmusik klingt verdächtig nach einer altersschwachen Schellack, die FX sind samt und sonders grausam). Lobenswert dagegen der komfortable und umfangreiche Editor zum Basteln eigener "Sandkästen"! Wer "UMS II" zu schwierig findet, kann sein Glück ja mal hier versuchen... (jn)

Halls of Montezuma logo

As AMIGA POWER's newly-appointed Really Complicated Strategy Games That No-one Else Wants To Review Because They Take Ages To Work Out And Then Turn Out To Be Crap Editor, I was delighted to be presented with SSG's Halls of Montezuma. 'This is all I need' were the words furthest from my mind as I cast aside my finals revision, cancelled all appointments and settled down the fire with the 824 page manual.

At first glance it looks overwhelmingly similar to every other wargame (lots of flashing squares, movement phases, etc), the only major anomaly being the eight different scenarios to choose between. They all involve the US Marines, following their history through action in Mexico, WW I, WW II, Korea and Vietnam, which some people will no doubt find interesting.
Closer examination of the manual reveals, however, that what we've got here is really more of a wargame designer. The Marines scenarios are actually just sophisticated demos, and you can alter them at will or even design your own wargames from scratch. Nifty, eh? (Assuming you like this sort of thing, of course, which, let's face it, won't account for many people).

At the heart of the package is the 'Battlefront' system, which encompasses just about everything a wargamer could hope for. Units can be ground-based, airborne and amphibious. There are the usual impenetrable lists of attributes for each one - more than I think I've ever seen before, in fact - which can all be set up from the editor. And you can even design your own maps with all sorts of colourful icons and things. It's yet another case of the only limit being your imagination. The Australian-based company which has come up with all this has apparently produced a range of scenarios which you can purchase (probably a good idea, as even a minor skirmish would probably take years to set up by yourself) and a magazine full of hints and tips too.

So, um, it's up to you, really. As wargames go this one's been professionally put together, and you can't fault it on value for money. But it is formidably complicated, as these things always are, and it would take a braver man than most to stick at it for very long.