The French & Indian War29 Apr 2003 0
The good thing about long-ignored topics in gaming is that, when they do receive notice, they often get the treatment they deserve. American Conquest did a good job with an RTS version of tactical combat in the Americas from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. John Tiller and HPS began looking at the same topic in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with their turn-based Early American War series. The latest entry, The French and Indian War, shows us young George Washington learning his trade, everybody learning light infantry tactics and Native Americans teaching the Europeans some special tricks.
"By the Shores of Gitche Gumee"
The French and Indian War was the first spark of the Seven Years War and the first time that the British colonies made an impact on the world stage as anything but a bauble to be grasped. The colonial militia would take the first faltering steps toward becoming the army that would defy an empire. As such, the two-level approach taken by Tiller serves the topic well. Many of the 284 single battles, including many variants to historical clashes or hypothetical ones, are small actions fought by small units of uneven quality. Only the scenarios of the Plains of Abraham represent a set-piece battle in the European style and, even then, the number of troops involved would hardly catch Frederick the Great's notice.
Even more interesting is the game's campaign shell. Like all of Tiller's pre-World War II land games, players can play one of 5 campaigns, ranging from Washington's less-than-brilliant debut to Wolfe's campaign, by choosing a side and then deciding if the AI is reckless or cautious. The strategic situation is explained and the player is given choices on how to proceed at a strategic level. The choice of actions and the AI mode feed into a branching system that produces a tactical situation. These situations are not static as an element of chance helps determine which battle pops up. The results of the battle determine which branch the campaign takes next unto final defeat or victory. This system forces players to understand the period not only in tactical terms but also in strategic goals and limitations. This blend of strategic and tactical consideration is far too rare in the hobby. Usually, attempts at this combination fail but Tiller seems to have hit upon a nice balance.
Installation and Documentation
Installation is a snap with the usual install wizard, although the setup file may have to be accessed through the "run" feature of Windows. The documentation is Tiller's usual on-screen overview, basics and in-depth guide. By using the Windows' Help feature, the documents can be accessed without using ALT-TAB and are nicely cross-referenced with hyperlinks. The native search/index features can answer any questions in a hurry. Of supreme importance to play is the scenario parameter data. The French and Indian War has many variables that can change from one battle to another. Having these variables viewable with a click and a drag enhances play. A "Getting Started" file walks beginners through a couple of turns of a simple battle. For those players owning stock in Scott Paper, all docs can be printed.