PC Game Review: Field of Glory Battle Pack
Jim Cobb experiences war through the ages with the latest add-on for the longstanding miniatures-to-PC conversion.
Some games capture historical accuracy through detailed mechanics; others are able to reach a high level of accuracy through abstraction. Slitherine’s Field of Glory series falls into the latter category. The base game and seven subsequent add-ons have covered European and Mid-Eastern warfare from antiquity to the Late Middle Ages. The simplicity of mechanics and broad scope, developed from tabletop rules, has made the series a favorite with wargamers. The latest addition to the series, Battle Pack, continues the fun.
Simplicity is Good
Battle Pack requires patch 1.8, which allows access to the pack and fixes bugs to the battle generator and scenario editor. Terrains cover many types with villages, forests and ridges. These features can obstruct line-of-sight and hide units when fog of war is used. Units are shown from a top-down angle and are slightly oversized for the hexes, allowing great graphic detail and colors using the zoom feature. Animation includes flights of arrows, floating casualty figures, death heads and text showing unit cohesion states. Sound effects emphasize movement and melee combat.
The game’s mechanics are simplicity in itself. Selecting a unit brings up five characteristics, such as experience and strength, in an info bar at the bottom of the screen. Accessible hexes are highlighted as is firing range for missile units. Missile targets are shown with a bull’s eye—mousing over a missile target shows the chance of it undergoing a cohesion test. Similarly, a red sword indicates a possible melee target with the chances of both defender and attacker attaining victory. Right clicks will allow facing changes and give skirmishers evasion options.
Once in melee, most units can’t disengage until one is routed or eliminated. However, cavalry is allowed to disengage while fighting infantry—if the infantry isn’t disrupted. Adjacent units affect melee results and units that are out of the control range of a commander may go their own way—depending on the troops and their commander. Combat results are shown in casualties and cohesion degradation. Cohesion steps are “disrupted”, “fragmented” and “routed”. The first two reduce efficiency but a rally during the intra-turn phase can bring units back to snuff. Routed units can rally, but most of the time they continue their route and retreat off the map. Furthermore, routed units can degrade adjacent friendly units and units through which they rout.
Cohesion is the key to victory: each army has a break point limit. The different levels of cohesion steps have point values that increase the number of break points. Once the limit is reached, that side loses. Since larger armies have higher limits, small armies must rely on quality or maneuver to win. The AI player is fairly crafty but the online system run by Slitherene makes multi-play so easy that players will want to challenge their peers. A scenario editor, a map editor and an army generator assure great variety.
Slaughter through the Ages
Unlike the other add-ons, Battle Pack doesn’t concentrate on a single theme or period. It also doesn’t add any new units to the “Digital Army Generator”. Rather, it adds twenty scenarios that range from the first recorded battle, Megiddo, during the Bronze Age to Bosworth Field in 1485. The beauty of the pack is the wide variation of battles. Players can pick battles like pieces from Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. However, a more sophisticated and interesting approach is to sort battles by year. Players can then follow the evolution of Western warfare from chariot armies to light infantry, heavy infantry, cavalry and, finally, massed pikemen. Results can be surprising. For instance, most sources describe the Battle of Morgarten as a Swiss romp over stupid Austrians. The game, though, is very tight with the Swiss having to be clever to win. Al-Qadsiyya may be the most zoo-like battle. This three-day slug fest between the Arabs and Persians featured camels, elephants and fine Arabian horses. Hastings is a very tight game for either side and will draw history buffs almost automatically. One regrets the absence of Pavia. That battle was not only crucial to the Valois-Hapsburg rivalry in Italy but also marked the emergence of the harquebus as a key feature of the battlefield.
The battles are accurate enough given the game's scale and Slitherine's nice balance between history and gameplay. Some players may turn to more complicated games but this product has something for every level of wargamer. All in all, Battle Pack is a fine and entertaining addition to the Field of Glory series.
- Al-Qadisiyya 637AD
- Battle of the Standard 1138AD
- Bosworth Field 1485AD
- Brunanburh 937AD
- Caesar in Britain (Devil's Dyke) 54BC
- Caesar in Gaul (Ariovistus) 58BC
- Crecy 1346AD
- Degastan 603AD
- Dorostolon 971AD
- Eurymedon 466BC
- Granicus 334BC
- Hastings 1066AD
- Las Navas De Tolosa 1212AD
- Leuctra 371BC
- Lincoln 1141AD
- Lindanisa 1219AD
- Mauron 1352AD
- Megiddo 1457BC
- Mortgarten 1315AD
- Plataea 479BC
- Raphia 217BC
- Saving Jerusalem 582BC
- St Matthews Day 1217AD
- The Elephant Victory 273BC
Review written by: Jim Cobb, Staff Writer
About Jim Cobb
Jim Cobb has been playing board wargames since 1961 and computer wargames since 1982. He has been writing incessantly since 1993 to keep his mind off the drivel he dealt with as a bureaucrat. He has published in Wargamers Monthly, Computer Gaming World, Computer Games Magazine, Computer Games Online, CombatSim, Armchair General, Subsim, Strategyzone Online and Gamesquad.