This is a bad game. A very bad game. This game didn’t need a manual – it needed an apology. The world can breathe easier knowing it’s out of print.
The focus of this “game” (and I use the term loosely) is the military career of Frederick the Great, in particular the years 1745-1760. These were good years for the Prussian war machine. At the start of Frederick’s reign Prussia was a small country amongst many other small countries in a loose conglomeration of Germanic states. Austria was the single largest entity and looked to be the most likely candidate to form the nucleus of a unified German state. When Frederick was done he has carved out a significant role for Prussia in the formation of the German state (eventually capped off with Bismark).
These wars are the coming-out party for the Prussian war machine. It’s hard to say enough good things about the Prussian organizational methods, especially the officer corps. They were educated, effective, disciplined, inventive, loyal, and professional. They fought Napoleon, helped unify Germany, fought WW1 and WW2, and produced Clausewitz.
One might think a game about their early days might be interesting. And it would be, if it weren’t this game.
The problems started at install. Hmmm, I thought, the graphics are a little fuzzy. Maybe it’s not running at the monitor’s native resolution (this can be a problem on flat panels). So I went to change the game’s resolution and what do you know? I can’t. I didn’t know you could even buy a game with only one resolution any more.
Ok, this is one guy in a garage. But the graphics themselves are awful. Why do the individual soldiers look like disjointed jumbles of circles and rectangles with crummy faces and lousy facial hair? The terrain itself is functional, if nothing to write home about.
We can let that slide if there’s a decent engine underneath. The manual describes a system that looks to be well suited for a turn-based strategy game of this era. Each turn has a series of phases (bombardment, command, activation, action, fire, defensive fire, assault, withdrawal). The basic idea is that the acting primary commander has a certain number of command points. He can give these command points to subordinates or keep them himself. Each leader can then use their command point(s) to attempt to have a subordinate unit perform an action (each unit has various reasons why it might not perform an action – morale is important). After these determinations have been made each unit will perform its action in the appropriate phase.
The actual mechanics are more complicated than the brief description above. This is definitely and engine that has been worked on a lot. The big problem is the user interface. The user interface provides absolutely no clue as to what to do, what’s going on, and what just happened. It is as if the developer did not want you to play the game. It was difficult to figure out what phase/sub-phase was happening. I couldn’t figure out how to undo a move. The scale was such as to obviate most maneuvering. You could move units either separately or as a group, but it was never clear how to do either or what would happen on a particular move.
Overall, this is a bad game. The underlying engine might be ok, but it’s impossible to tell under an opaque user interface and primitive graphics.