Fields Of Glory
Theres been no shortage of computer wargames whose gameplay and graphics have failed dismally to live up to the bright promise of the packaging. You know the ones I mean: the heroic (or murderous) looking soldiers in crisp red and blue uniforms slogging it out with bayonet and sword on the front of the box turn out to be brown blobs on a lurid green battlefield with the occasional burp from the speaker as it tries to simulate the explosion of a 12 pounder shell. Fields of Glory promises to be something quite different.
The Fields of Glory box is equally impressive, of course, but its whats inside that counts. As wargames go, its not entirely original - others have tried to animate miniature soldiers that march, fight and die on the computerised tabletop, but this one knocks them all into the proverbial Napoleonic style cocked hat.
Opening the box reveals a glossy manual running to over a hundred pages and the mandatory technical supplement containing the It didnt seem important at the time but since the hotlines are getting jammed wed better put it somewhere bits. Add to that the really last minute stuff thats cobbled together in readme files and youre often left wondering just how up to date the manuals are.
I almost completely forgot to mention the five high density disks (they were useful for getting the game up and running) and the A3 glossy map. Clearly someone decided that as all wargames come with maps, this one had better have one too. No matter that it doesnt tell you anything that you couldnt achieve by simply zooming out now and again.
Fields of Glory requires a 386 pc or better, running ms dos 5.0 or 6.0 and it isnt guaranteed to work with disk compression software. As it takes up 15 megabytes of hard disk space when fully installed (11 without the intro), it isnt exactly going to go unnoticed. It isnt fussy about memory, and I had no problems at all running it with my normal Windows set-up with various assorted device drivers for things like the cd rom, Sound Blaster and Stacker drives.
Diplomacy by other means
With the intro sequence out of the way, you can opt to play the overall commander of either the French or Allied forces in any one of six scenarios at five difficulty levels. You can alter the disposition of your troops before the battle to a limited extent: they can only be placed in the rear and, as this involves losing ground, it isnt really to be recommended.
There are two fictional battles to cut your teeth on and four major ones for the experts. The real life ones are Quatre Bras, Ligny, Wavre and Waterloo itself, all of which were fought in the same area between 16 and 18 June, 1815, and all of which are based on minutely detailed research.
Nivelles, the first battle, is a good place to start with a French army attacking an Allied one across a valley. It helps to play both sides to get the feel of how to attack and how to defend. It even becomes a good, challenging game in itself and as it takes under an hour or so to reach a conclusion, I found myself playing this one quite often.
The disposition of the Allied troops leaves something to be desired but then the Prince of Orange was in command. He cant help his name, I suppose, but history still regards him as a prat; the best thing that happened to him on the day of Waterloo was that he got shot.
Officers and gentlemen
The command and control system is flexible enough to interest all sorts of players, from those who want to launch their cavalry at anything in range to the thinking players who want as much realism as possible. You can send orders through subordinates (taking longer to get through) or take over from brigade commanders and stick your oar in wherever you feel the urge.
Clicking on a unit brings up a dialogue showing the units name or number, the current formation its in, what its doing and its general status. Possible formations include line, column, square, skirmish or mixed line/column (French only) while the orders can be assault, hold, deploy (move) or withdraw. Status can be formed (under full control), disordered (much less use) or routed (no use at all). Cavalry can only be in line or column and artillery have an additional limbered/unlimbered status.
Generally speaking, you can have considerable control over your units or let the divisional and subordinate commanders take care of things. Occasionally a brigade of cavalry can take you by surprise and charge the enemy, and sometimes less reliable troops will suddenly turn and flee, but on the whole your army does what is expected.
To obtain information on how a unit is faring requires you to use the database which is instantly accessible at any point of the battle. It provides a detailed breakdown of the command structure and information on the remaining number of troops or guns in a unit as well as their capability in one of four categories, militia, line, light and guard.
Vision of hell
The 256 colour graphics are excellent and the sounds through a decent soundcard lift it even further. Each time you order a cavalry charge, for example, youre treated to stirring bugle calls and the thunder of hooves. Units can be observed at onfe of three zoom levels and although it only appears as a flag at the overview or strategic level, in close-up mode the individual figures move, present arms and volley in thrilling animation. Even the gun crews run industriously around their guns before standing to attention and firing. Each figure has its own shadow and actions are marked by a pile of corpses or broken guns wherever they occur; something which adds considerably to the atmosphere of the game and becomes a good measure of how far through some units are.
Cest magnifique, mais...
Fields of Glory isnt the most difficult opponent Ive come across, even at the top level, but it does take a different approach to each scenario every time using built-in artificial intelligence rather than standard opening moves. If you attack or even threaten an infantry column with cavalry, it will form square and if you leave your guns too long in the face of an infantry or cavalry attack, theyll route for safety, whether you want them to or not. Computer controlled units can do daft things too and while there are occasions when units of different sides are completely mixed up in totally unrealistic situations, it doesnt detract from the game.
The controls do lack a certain responsiveness, especially in the bigger scenarios and even on a decent 486. It is doing a lot of behind the scenes work, of course, but occasionally it can require several clicks before the game responds. Scrolling, too, is very slow and Im tempted to say dont run it on a slow 386 but then that wouldnt stop me since its a brilliant game whatever minor criticisms 1 might have about the ponderous controls.
Fields of Glory doesnt have to be a perfect opponent. To enjoy a good wargame its enough that you play an opponent that acts and reacts in a realistic way. Fields of Glory will provide weeks of entertainment for battle scarred veterans and interested newcomers alike. Lets hope for a few add-ons and scenario disks for this one - its a real winner.
The military tactics of the time seem like insanity to us now but they represented the only way to wage war and stand a chance of success. In the same way, Fields of Glory requires you to have some idea of how to fight with a Napoleonic army if you are going to win against the computer.
Infantry were kept in tight formation because otherwise theyd have run away but some better quality troops could and did fight loosely in open or skirmish order. The main formations are the column, for quicker movement and shock in close combat, or the line, which meant every man could fire his musket. In the game you have no control over musketry as the effective range was very short and units tend to fire at will or when attacked. The square was the universal defence against cavalry which is why one sound tactic is to threaten a charge then mop up squares with your artillery or infantry.
Cavalry dont have the same power that they have in films. Launch a heavy cavalry brigade at a formed infantry unit and the chances are theyll make little impression. They should be used to threaten enemy infantry, forcing them into square, or to ride down disordered and routing troops at which theyre extremely effective. Light cavalry are relatively weak and should be used with care.
Artillery are the hardest arm to get to grips with as each unit has a different range depending on its guns. Find out the range of the guns and place them as close to the enemy as you dare, making sure theyre screened by cavalry or protected by infantry if possible. Used properly, artillery can be the most effective weapon on the battlefield.
Download Fields Of Glory
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP