History, eh? Who needs it? I managed to become an incredibly successful Games Editor whilst only knowing one date in history. And that was 1066, when Queen Victoria had his 8 wives executed, and went off on a crusade against the Welsh. See, it's all the history you need to know. [Actually history is really interesting and cool, and will get you a much better job than being a crap computer journalist, so stick at it, kids. - Ed]
Anyway, in the olden days when we had wars we didn't namby around with laser-guided weapons and poncy battle-tanks. Oh no. What tended to happen was that several hundred very hard men would find a pub car-park big enough to hold them all, and then bash it out with halberds and pikes (and other freshwater fish). And this, rather spookily, is more or less exactly what happens in CCS's Cromwell At War.
YE OLDE BATTLE-TYMEThe first thing you've got to do is choose which side in the English Civil Punch-Up you want to be on (if you don't know anything about it, I'm not going to tell you. Go and look it up). The map you play on is pretty huge, so CCS have provided a sort of medieval radar scope thingy to tell you where everyone is. On the main map all the men are shown, as well as woods, rivers and villages. The general (general, geddit?) idea is to give orders to your troops every turn. You need to call a messenger (no walkie-talkies here!) and, once he's run off, you have to wait until he's told the units what to do before they act. Then you sit and watch as everybody moves and fights and then anyone's survived) you give a load more orders.
Not that you're always in control, mind. Sometimes the units themselves decide they know best and do whatever they want anyway. This usually happens when their morale levels drop, whereupon they tend to do a kind of 'running away as far as possible' manoeuvre, and can't be controlled again.
Each piece of combat in Cromwell is run separately, with battle reports flashing up now and again to keep you informed, so it all takes quite a while to play and isn't the kind of stuff you need to get really fired up for. (So just settle down and stick that Walkman on your head.)
And it's certainly very tactical. Serious wargamers (or alternatively anyone with a beard) will no doubt go a bundle on it. But by the same measure if you've never tried this type of game and quite fancy dipping your toe in the water then it's as good an intro as any. It's impressive and accurate. It's also flexible enough to allow you to play virtually any strategy you fancy. And all you really need is patience, a bit of practice to master a slightly finicky control system and a decent strategical brain. After all, they do say that inside everyone is a great tactician - so it say aaah! and I'll have a look for him.
Solid and playable wargame. Could serve as an okay intro to the 'genre'.