From the safety of his dug-out Sean Masterson sticks his head up to take a look at this wargame...
There are still relatively few disk drive owners in the UK Commodore community at present, so there are not going to be many people rushing out to buy this game. It's a pity really as it's probably one of the best of the recent batch of wargames by such companies as SSI and Microprose. It has always been difficult to fit a good wargame onto a home micro without putting it onto a disc, but that does bring its own advantages to those lucky enough to have their own drive.
Crusade in Europe is the latest in Microprose's 'Command Series' strategic simulation games, and involves several scenarios set in 1944 between the D-Day landings and the Ardennes counter offensive in December of that year. There are five scenarios in the package, and most of these have a series of historical and hypothetical variants (such as different initial troop deployments). The five scenarios are, The Battle for Normandy, Race for the Rhine, Operation Market-Garden, Battle of the Bulge and Crusade: The Battle for France. For all of these scenarios there are one and two player options.
The display is in the form of a free-scrolling map with a choice of icons or symbols for unit representation. The symbol setting gives 'standard' wargame unit signs, whereas the icons are on a more simplistic level. Both are rather chunky, but clearly defined, and there are more colours on the map than in some games, so the final result is certainly respectable.
Game involves play in day and night turns, which affects the result of combat accordingly. Although the game doesn't run in real time, game time is running all the while (which is in terms of processing a unit's status once every eight game hours). Therefore it's imperative that once the scenario has begun, the player keeps concentrating solely on the action. There is a pause facility should you require a coffee break (normally a necessity in these games).
The game rules are of medium complexity but an inexperienced wargamer would not do too badly, as a bias is allowed for any given force on any scenario. The rules booklet itself is beautifully clear and accurate, and learning the various intricacies of play is interesting rather than annoying, as such activity can sometimes be. Each scenario is finely detailed in terms of victory conditions, troop dispositions, historical notes and other miscellaneous facts. Microprose have always gone for an upmarket look for their games, and Crusade in Europe is no exception to the rule. At the centre of the book is a summary pullout which has a glossy colour map of the general game area. The summary sheet will prove useful until all the commands are understood, but the map is totally pointless other than the fact that it looks very pretty!
During play, the command procedure for communicating with troops is fairly straightforward and units automatically give you status reports. Unit movement is hidden, as on all the best games, so you're not aware of the enemy unless you encounter them one way or the other. Combat too is fairly easy, being split mainly into Attack and Defend procedures.
After playing several of the shorter scenarios, winning with a bias in your favour should not present many problems. The enemy forces' actions become a little predictable when play is stacked against them. Nevertheless, the fact that there are more complex scenarios, coupled with being able to stack the odds against yourself with biases and variants, should mean that this game ought to provide a challenge for some considerable amount of time.
The usual features prevalent in wargames of this nature, such as terrain and weather effects, are present in this game as well. There are no startling innovations in these departments, but they are handled in a reasonable way.
There are few moans or gripes with respect to this game. Not because it is the most dramatic and interesting wargame ever published, but simply because it has no pretense of being such and therefore, in its own unimposing way, lives up to expectations.
A few niggles however, about the way the designation of air strikes are handled. The number of key presses to set up one of these almost makes you question their worth. The other thing about aircraft is, well, it is true that the allied forces maintained air superiority over the Luftwaffe in this stage of the war, but... surely the Germans should have at least one in the air!
The only other bone of contention is in the bias or balance system used. Surely the fact that there are scenarios and variants of varying complexity should be enough. It really does detract from a game when there is so little challenge that victory may be practically arranged. Still, you are not required to use such a feature, and in normal play you will get a good run for your money (in fact, all the way to the Rhine) with this game. All in all then, not up to the standards set by SSI for their state of the art wargames, but certainty worth adding to your collection.
Clear and neat, without too much gimmickry.
Acceptable but not particularly outstanding.
Generally well executed, but you won't find anything excitingly original here.
Only good as long as you stick to unmodified scenarios, but even there are one or two questionable points.
Easy to get into the relatively uncluttered routine.
Value For Money 60%
Quite good, considering the number of scenarios.
This could have been higher had Microprose given the game any really exciting features.