Sid Meier's Gettysburg
In this sense, Gettysburg! excels. The brigade commander only gets the information that such an officer would have, and to the greatest extent possible, it provides you the information in the most realistic manner. As a result, much of the sounds you’ll hear when on the battlefield are as important as what you’ll see. All these subtle pieces of information help provide the commander with the details necessary in planning his next move.
The detail in the map is beautiful. The 3D view is provided isometrically but enough so that it looks like you’re watching the war from a nearby hill rather than watching it from a plane. Moreover, the game allows you to zoom in and out at will. Subtle shading with respect to hills and other relief provides you with information on terrain so as to place your troops in a strategic area. You can also scroll around the map as freely as you want. As you do this, however, such as the trees and buildings disappear so that you can easily see your troops. Once you stop scrolling, the scenery re-appears.
The game also incorporates true line of sight. As a result, the enemy appears only when in full view of your troops. Moreover, the game gradually gives the player information regarding the enemy troop’s relative size and strength. Each soldier on the field roughly represents 30-40 men. Therefore, a large regiment of about 600 men could comprise of about 15-16 soldiers. This is enough so that you can clearly see their formation.
What I found truly innovative about this game is how the player can see the morale of his troops while in battle. Few games can capture it as realistically as Gettysburg!. Each regiment carries a flag, which is held at an angle. The angle of the flag represents their respective morale. The success of the regiment in overcoming the enemy is due in part by morale and whether men are remaining in the regiment. Add other factors like battle fatigue and extreme stress, there is a “breaking point” in which the regiment will no longer follow orders or, more importantly, flee from the fight. Once that happens, it is possible to talk them back into the fray by sending in a charismatic general to their aide. Morale boosts are also accomplished by the regiment’s relative position on the terrain with regards to the enemy and/or whether their flanks are guarded by friendly units.
Learning this game is very easy. However at harder levels the game requires good judgement and an ability juggle many factors at once. Moreover, this requires constant monitoring of all your regiments and knowing when to push on or fall back. Flanking fire is especially deadly to regiments. Knowing how to avoid and how to inflict it upon the enemy is an important skill. All this can be gained through experience.
Since all of this is happening in real time, the emphasis on the “feel” of battle is important. On normal speeds, one hour of battle time is equivalent to about 40 minutes of actual gameplay. On faster systems, the speed is increased. This becomes useful in larger engagements where you command several troops at once.
Issuing orders is straightforward. You click on a regiment and on the bottom of the screen, you must select what they’ll do. For example, you can tell your regiment either fall back, charge or change formations. If you select a brigade commander, you’re telling all regiments what to do.
The only complaints I have with Gettysburg! is of its lack of a “what-if” scenario. Unfortunately, you cannot create your own scenarios but are relegated to the ones the game provides for you. Another problem is in its interface. It’s almost impossible to choose an object near the edge of the screen without having the entire screen move with you. This results in confusion because the player is now trying to find out where he is in relation to the enemy instead of concentrating on the battle.
However, all that aside, I believe that Gettysburg! is a profoundly innovative game. It almost makes you feel like you’re actually in the battleground. The user interface, with all its minor quirks, is elegant and simplistic in design. This allows the user to interact more meaningfully. It makes for a truly challenging and unique game that should appeal to a broad range of wargaming fans.