Mobile Warfare logo

With a tin hat and a vague idea which end the bullets out of a gun, intrepid 'Stormin' Andy Smith prepares to liberate Eastern Europe. Gulp.

Some mad Italian General is running amok in Eastern Europe apparently - how do all these loonies get hold of armies, eh? So it's time to call in the cavalry and, erm, that's you that is. Applaud Software's latest, coming via the Islona label, is this turn-based wargame.

Each battle is strictly of the skirmish-type in that you only ever have a handful of units to control and your theatre of operations is limited to a single screen, representing a mere couple of hundred square yards. There's none of this taking a whole horde and sweeping across the Russian Steppes or anything like that.

Just which units you have to control depends on the scenario. At the start of each mission you're given an objective and told which troops are available to you, possible just a couple of chaps with rifles or maybe a couple of tanks. Then it's down to using your bestest warfare tactics to achieve your objectives.

Now then, using your bestest warfare tactics in Mobile Warfare is a little unrealistic. Not that it actually matters much because both sides are fighting with the same rule book, but you can't, for example, move a tank through a bush.

It sounds a bit ridiculous, but once you're aware of these little quirks they can be used to your advantage, like the little quirks could be used to your advantage in Dune II, which Mobile Warfare bears a passing resemblance to.

If you've got limited firepower in a particular scenario then a good tactic is to get your units into a position where the enemy can only attack you from one side. It's your basic tactical thinking really, innit?

The combat then. Each unit (bloke, tank, helicopter, whatever) has a set number of movement points that can be used during its turn. Suppose a tank's got four. It could then move forward two steps and have two attacks on any adjacent enemy unit. Or it could move forward one step and have three attacks (armour permitting) on an adjacent enemy.

Notice how the enemy units have to be adjacent? Good, that's because there are no ranged weapons in Mobile Warfare. All of the combat between units occurs when they're next to each other, and I don't mean diagonally either because there's no diagonal movement inMW.

Each battle is strictly of the skirmish-type in that you only ever have a handful of units to control...

You can, however, call in airstrikes form time to time. Your ability from time to time. Your ability to do this though is limited by two factors - the scenario and whether you have the funds to afford one. In most scenarios you're given a set amount of cash and a barracks where you can 'buy' a variety of units (think of it like your construction yard in Dune II or Command and Conquer) decide which unit you want (the porkier the unit, the more expensive, natch) and the thing pops out.

It's making and using the right mix of units that's the key to success in MW. Every unit has what the designers call a 'best target' which is the target it's most effective against, like helicopters against troops, and a 'worst target', like riflemen against tanks. Getting the right unit to the right place all the right time is what this game is all about.

You're never in the position where you've got too much money to spend on unit, but by the careful use of nurses to heal soldiers, and technicians to heal tanks and so on, you can make your limited resources stretch a long way.

You occasionally get the chance to replenish your coffers during the battles. If you see a small brown chest on the screen, get one of your units onto it as soon as possible as it'll contain money and you don't want that to fall into enemy hands!

In essence, this is what Mobile Warfare is all about and it's not half bad either. It's nowhere near the quality of something like Dune II but the designers have come up with some interesting scenarios that provide a good challenge.

It's simplistic and limited but actually very addictive. There aren't enough scenarios to keep you playing for weeks but you can create your own little skirmishes where you decide which units face either other and their relative strengths, which is something I suppose.

There's no game save option. A password is given to you every other level, which does create its own problems as it's a little annoying to get through a scenario by the skin of your teeth, only to have to go back and do it all again because you messed up the one following it.

It's not a huge problem though, so if you fancy a pretty awful-looking but enjoyable skirmish wargame then don't let that put you off. Mobile Warfare will prove you with a fair slice of fun.

Mobile Warfare logo

Price: £14.99 Publisher: Applaud Distributor: Islona 0500 131486

Dune 2 style real-time wargaming returns to the Amiga? Not exactly. We take a look at a bizarre cross between Command and Conquer, Red Alert and... a board game.

Flick through the pages of one of the plethora of PC gaming mags currently hogging the shelf space at your local newsagent and you won't fail to notice that real-time wargaming is one of the genres of the moment. Spawned by the enormous popularity of Command and Conquer, every software company and their respective canine companions appear to be producing top down scrolling real-time wargames.

Inevitably those intrepid Amiga games programmers are getting in on the act too, with some tasty looking hats being thrown into the ring by The World Foundry, Ablaze Entertainment, Charm Design and others. Superficially, Mobile Warfare would appear to belong amongst their number, but a few moments of play shows you that appearances can be deceiving. This 'top-down, real-time, scrolling wargame' is top-down and a wargame, but scrolling and real time it is not.

Mobile Warfare allows you to play out a campaign or play custom conflicts. In the campaign setting you play a sequence of battles which start out as a small "police action" by your UN squadron in Romania and end up playing out a bizarre James Bond style mad dictator story line. Custom conflicts pit you against the computer in a training session where you set the parameters.

Singles screen action
The battles take place on a single screen. You are given a small complement of troops and some money. In some screens you have a barracks where you can buy extra forces.

Money can also be spent purchasing air strikes or, if you have a spy unit, bribing opposing forces to change sides. The range of units available to you changes from mission to mission, which gives a nice sense of progression. Units vary from the simple infantry man through special forces units, tanks, missile launchers to Harrier attack jets.

The game is played on a turn by turn basis. Each unit has a certain number of moves which can be expended during your turn phase. Moving onto a square occupied by an enemy initiates an attack, in which the opposing units exchange blows. To add a certain degree of complexity and technique to the proceedings, each unit is better at coping with some type of opponent than others, so that a missile weapon is more effective against a tank than a trooper.

During your turn phase you can also spend as much of your cash reserves as you like on air strikes. Not just limited to bombing, you can also at times deploy paratroopers, drop medical supplies or fire a cruise missile which destroys anything it hits.

There are four types of special unit. The spy mentioned earlier is joined by a saboteur who can disable enemy vehicles, a nurse who can heal wounded soldiers and a mechanic who can repair damage to vehicles. Unfortunately, beyond this there is not much difference in units beyond their relative speed and attack and defence strengths. Although at later levels you do get aircraft, they behave like ground troops even as far as having to fly around obstacles such as trees.

Once you have got over the shock of what seems to be a stunningly underpowered C&C clone, you start to realise that this is a fundamentally different sort of game and the parallel is unfair. Mobile Warfare is about planning out your strategies, figuring out how many moves bring you into conflict with the foe and using this to develop your strategy. It is more like Risk or one of the many similar warfare board games than it is like C&C.

Mission impossible
Mobile Warfare grows on you after the first couple of games. There is definitely the basis of an interesting puzzle game in here. Alas, a few more games in and you realise it is let down by that all important aspect of any strategy/puzzle game, balance. The learning curve of the game is thrown a loop by the occasional impossibly hard missions, one of which comes rather early, while in many later missions an imbalance of play can make things far too easy.

Mobile Warfare is a game that is likely to give you a few hours of fun, but it is a long way from being state of the art. It is a good notion with a lot of work put in it, but one which is ultimately let down by dated presentation and weaknesses in the level designs that are so critical to this sort of game. It is a cheap game at £15, so I guess you do not expect more than a few hours of amusement before you put it aside. To that aim, it succeeds.