Let's face it, wargames are usually written for love rather than money. Afficionados can immerse themselves in the playing and writing of these for months on end, surfacing only for food and beer, whilst others simply fail to see the attraction.
GMS, from SPM Software (the acronyms are already lending a military feel to proceedings) combines both of these pastimes; you can play the pre-set games to your heart's content or you can completely design your own battles.
The creation program is separate from the pre-set games, but both work off the same menu-driven system. If you wish to play a pre-set, an Italian campaign and a tank war are included. All you do is choose which side you want to be (and you can play the computer or another person).
Two scales of map show you the position of all the forces (no hidden movement here), and to give orders you must access a movement menu, position a cursor over the relevant unit and access a further menu to choose the orders. It's a bit fiddly as the keys have different functions depending on what level of sub-menus you're in.
Moving all your forces takes an age as you dive in an out of the various menus, but once you've done it you're able to go to your movement phase and see how your troops are faring. Then it's up to the computer or your human opponent to do the same, combat being worked out at the end of his movement phase too.
Battles occur when units are next to each other, and are worked out using Effective Strength equations (modified by quality and morale). It's a fairly simple system which works well.
Undoubtedly the greatest attraction of GMS is the creator program. Quite simply, it allows you to set up any battle you choose, from any period in history. You start by designing the terrain, then move onto other aspects such as the icons which designate the units. A character designer is included, so with a minute or two's cursor movements you'll have the little symbol of your choice. Setting the parameters of the units is also fairly simple.
When everything's to your liking, all you have to do is SAVE it all and start to play (with exactly the same rules as the pre-sets). It's advisable to note on paper all the types (and strengths) of the units you've set up because things could get confusing in the heat of battle.
GMS comes with a concise yet comprehensive manual, and gives examples when anything doesn't appear obvious. To set up a battle of any considerable size takes about a hour (if you're fairly quick), and to play it takes about the same time. So this certainly isn't a game for those wanting a quick blast of strategic warfare.
The graphics are clear, and nicely handled for such a complex game. Where the program falls down is in the finicky menu system it employs. To move your units one by one using these menus is irksome, and detracts from the otherwise quick and smooth operation of the sim. The computer is a pretty boring opponent to play. too. It only has one skill level and seems content to dig in and let you destroy yourself against its fortifications.
But once you get used to these annoyances, you can have a lot of fun with General Military Simulator. It's about the only detailed wargame designer there is for the CPC, and if that's what you're into it's got to be worth getting hold of a copy.
P. Battles limited only by your own imagination.
P. Smooth, fast and with good graphics for a wargame.
N. Fiddly and finicky to use.
N. The computer plays a cowardly game!