RT Smith is the most notable programmer in the field. His system of wargames has seen coverage on most popular micros: but how has he used the unique capabilities of the Amiga in Vulcan, set in the second half of the North African campaign of World War II?
There's a very nice picture which is used to decorate the front end. You can select a one or two player game, and choose to play the Axis (German and Italians) or Allies (Brits, Yanks, and, er, French). For non-participatory fun, make the computer play itself.
The scenario is well chosen. Tunesia from later 1942 to mid 1943 was the centre of the Axis attempt to cut the Suez Canal, and then capture the precious (but largely untapped) oil wells of the Middle East. There's ample opportunity to manoeuvre and counter-
In 1942, the Torch landings in French-
So, the idea is for the Germans to survive (hold either Tunis or Bizertal) and for the Allies to take control.
There are five options available in which the history before the battle is subtly different. There's the seizure of Malta by the Aixs, Bone Airfield being occupied by German forces, Rommel being annihilated in Libya (which is what Hitler ordered him to do, fighting in Libya taking more time) and also the French colonies remaining neutral rather than joining the Allies.
A system of icons is used to order the various forces about. The unit sizes vary from Hqs (typically 300-odd men) to regiments (3,000) up to French divisions which have 6,000 men in. Morale and fighting strengths are not overly keen in these formations, but boy are the impressive when they are on the move.
A description of the icons: 'movement' will make a unit spread out and move cautiously (there's an option to keep the enemy movement secret), 'Assault' is to deliberately attack a position, taking heavier casualties but also handing them out in their fashion. 'Travel' is totally non-combative, sticking to roads and shooting along at speed.
If a unit moves, you can order it to dig in. This takes a whole turn, but the unit suffers less damage from attacks, especially from tanks. If dug in, a unit can fortify its position, and this can be accumulated over several turns to make a static strong point.
You can get a report of the unit, plus a quick look at what terrain it's on. You can move units onto the same square (although not more than a division can stack together) and also split them off to send them their separate ways.
Units can run out of supplies very easily if you're not careful: they draw these from their headquarters which in turn must get them via the nearest road. But if stomachs and magazines are full, crashing through massed enemy positions with a front-
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The graphics used in the game are not striking. There's a very nice pic on the front end, and that's about it. A more dramatic use of the Amiga is in air strikes, when the hexes around a given target are cratered to the accompaniment of suitable amounts of noises.
Another use of sound is for ground attack. There's one sample for each side's infantry and tank units: the length of the sound is an indication of the damage handed out or taken. Nice touch.
All in all it's a creditable effort that will have you waging war on your Amiga for a good few months. The computer opponent is pretty good, but a human opponent is best: if you can avoid looking at each other's moves! £19.99 Mouse.