American Civil War: Gettysburg
is rich on strategy, yet keeps things fairly simple. You can battle through all the historic missions - 16 in all; like Picket’s Charge and the defense of Little Round Top, from either the Confederate or Union forces. Before each mission, you are briefed on the aspects of the engagement, providing a lot insight into the tactics and context of your coming actions. There is also a Skirmish mode where you can set up random encounters to your liking and just go at it.
This is tried and true turn-based action, something becoming a bit of a rarity these days. The map itself is divided into classic war game hexagons, and you have movement restrictions based on these. I, personally, really enjoy being able to sit back, examine the field, and apply chess-like ideas… instead of the point-click fest of RTS's these days. Several units are at your disposal, all with different firing and movement ranges. These include soldiers, militia, cavalry and cannons.
The tactics are simple enough such that most people will master them quickly. Utilizing cover and attacking an enemy when he is exposed is the key in most engagements. Also, the cavalry charge can be absolutely devastating to infantry in open fields… but beware of entrenched forces surrounded by forests. The readouts are also ridiculously simple, based on modifiers according to range, cover and morale. You know beforehand what an area will offer in terms of affecting these modifiers, so don’t feel like you're leaping into the unknown. Hills of course are huge in these types of games, especially with such simple, grunt-based weapons. Each unit serves a clear purpose, and it’s this last point that may let down the hardcore war gamers. In general, this game is simplified almost too much, but the tight focus on the battles (all on Gettysburg, not the entire war) make a case for why this is so. Just don’t expect 100+ units to command, and various types of resource management, diplomacy and the like. This is an “interactive educational game” at it’s roots, one that plays better than any Oregon Trail game I have come across.
The ugly areas of American Civil War: Gettysburg crop up with some wonky outcomes in battles and skirmishes. Sometimes cavalry will be decimated by cannons, or non-entrenched infantry will put up a surprising fight against fully covered troops. Perhaps the developers modeled the random absurdities of war; either way it left me scratching my head more than once.
There is multiplayer support included and there is a nice community website to link up with other players, and it was a nice change of pace from the single player mode.