PC Game Review: Birth of America
Two if by a land hex, one if by sea hex. The Wargamer's Leo Farrell signals to readers his review of AGE3D's new wargame covering the American Revolution and the French & Indian War.
The American War for Independence is a war buff B-lister. Itís a step above the really obscure, like the War of Jenkinsí Ear or the Scanian War, but it lacks the box office draw of World War II or the rabid fan base of the American Civil War. This doesnít mean the potential isnít there for a star, it has all the makings of a great story: tragedy (the horrors of conflict against the backdrop of a smallpox epidemic), star power (Benedict Arnold, Baron von Steuben, and, of course, George Washington), and a happy ending (We win! USA! USA!).
The newly formed developer AGEOD has also seen the potential for this neglected subject and has made it the focus of their rookie effort, Birth of America. The turn-based strategic game presents a sweeping take on the conception of the United States of America: fourteen campaigns and scenarios from the French and Indian Warís start in 1755 up to the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781.
Installation, Documentation, and Tutorials
Birth of America is available both as a boxed copy and as a digital copy online. I was provided with the latter and found the download and installation easy. Additionally, AGEOD is quickly establishing a reputation for great customer service. A few patches fixing some minor bugs have already been released and the lead developer, Phillipe Thibaut (the original designer of Europa Universalis), has been a presence in the gameís online forums helping with user problems. Also just released prior to this review was a demo of the game which can be found on the official forums.
While a direct line to the developer is a clear advantage of smaller start-ups, the possibility of an unpolished product seems to go hand-in-hand. The twenty-eight-page manual is helpful, but the tutorial casts off the game on a rocky start. The meandering text is peppered with typos and hard to follow. This is further complicated by text directing the player to click on arrows that werenít onscreen (this specific problem has since been fixed in a later patch) and that the player can proceed to the next turn without having given the correct orders. With contorted instructions and no warnings for incorrect orders, it is easy to diverge from what the tutorial boxes are actually asking and end up having to restart the tutorial.
Gameplay and Game Mechanics
The Birth of America map is board game style -- region-based and two-dimensional. The same map is used for all campaigns and scenarios. The map is huge, covering the eastern half of the North America, although some of the scenarios use only parts of the map.
Units and leaders are represented by sprites. Clicking on a sprite calls up cards at the bottom of the game screen for all units and leaders grouped there. Cards display relevant unit information like name, type, special abilities, and the statistics that determine performance in battle. Leaders are real historical personages from the conflicts.
The game is incremented by month-long turns. Scenarios range from four to twenty-seven turns while campaigns average around one hundred. Each turn, the player provides unit orders for movement and posturing. With no resource gathering, control of city infrastructure (except for the ability to upgrade and destroy forts in some situations), or micro-managing at the tactical level during battles, strategic control of the army is the focus of gameplay.