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BATTLEPLAN is a new style of online wargaming. It comes from celebrated Military book publishers OSPREY
and is helped onto the PC through the MUSTARD Corporation and NORTHERN Film Media.

The first screen offers you the options of playing the CAMPAIGN game, which takes you through the American
Civil War from its beginning battles, to QUICK Battle - choose a battle and learn on the job - and the main place
to start - the TUTORIALS.  There are also buttons for Statistics (Win Lose or Draw) Rank (Military Status) and
Achievements (Victories etc).

The Tutorials are short and basic but each points you to different aspects of play so they are worth going through
if you aren't used to the commands mechanic of games like Command & Conquer. In BATTLEPLAN you give
your orders to as many of your units as you wish and then one click sends the orders out from your command post
seen as small arrows (representing runners) that zip across the open plains but slow down for hills, mountains and
water until they reach their unit. Once the unit has its commands it activates accordingly. There is a clock at the
top of the screen which you can stop until you are ready for your units to activate. One click and the action starts.

Tutorial play covers the Basics: objectives, movement and building pontoon bridges. Combat: artillery, destroying
cover and resupplying ammo to gun units etc. Dashboard: quick unit selection, building earthworks, parallel and
converge movement.

Taking the CAMPAIGN option gives you three choices: Militia (easy) Regular (normal) or Veteran (tough). For each
of these there are two options - 1st Bull Run: Confederates or Union  or 1st Manassas: Confederates or Union. After
each battle is fought you have the opportunity to fight it again or continue on. You also get to see the statistics of the
fight you just won, lost or drew compared to those from the actual battle. In general I have managed to keep to the result
of history, but usually with slightly better (ie less) losses on my side and slightly more deaths for the opposition. I have
yet to change the course of history by winning or drawing when I was expected to lose. I have managed to lose with my
dignity intact though.

Battles have 3 objectives and depending on the difficulty setting you generally have to hold onto, or take and hold onto
a preset number of objectives - usually strategic farm buildings, houses. etc.  If the objective has a red ring around it
then it is currently held by the enemy. If the ring is orange then it is neutral and if it is green then you control it - nice
and easy to see onscreen at all times.

You can use the WASD keys to move the map around and you can use the central mouse roller button to zoom in and
out. This is something you really need to do often as the enemy units are not always visible from the general view. You
can check the status and type of units on the battlefield by the number of chevrons: 1 chevron = militia, 2 = regular and
3 = veterans plus A = Aggressive, S = Steady and C = Cautious.

The Tutorial says that you can save Ammunition by stopping them firing - otherwise they fire until empty of ammo. I
have yet to find the off-button for the cannon and I have played many hours of battles. I am not blaming the game, it is
probably my error, but the control for firing and stopping fire isn't as easy as you would expect. Double-click and aim
the crosshairs at a target and the cannon auto fire at it. Double-clicking again on the unit does not stop the firing.

Strategically and tactically the game is excellent - just like tabletop boardgame play. And just like so many of those
boardgames the units are generic plain blocks, though in this game those blocks are different lengths and shapes. I am
not a programmer so I don't know the difficulties of creating visual effects in games, but on a personal viewpoint I would
have liked to have seen the units as figures like they are in games like the "Total War" series. Other than that I believe
ACW fans will be happy with the battles and indeed the complete Campaign.

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015