Sid Meier's Gettysburg

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a game by Electronic Arts
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 1 review
User Rating: 8.0/10 - 5 votes
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See also: Civilization Games, Strategy
Sid Meier's Gettysburg
Sid Meier's Gettysburg
Sid Meier's Gettysburg
Sid Meier's Gettysburg


One of the most enduring moments in American history is the Battle of Gettysburg, where the Confederacy under Gen. Robert E. Lee makes its last, great stab at breaking the Union's resolve to fight and achieve foreign recognition of sovereignty. It is a moment that defined the United States as a country, and the question always remains -- what if the Union had fallen to the military genius of Gen. Lee? It also invites military second-guessing -- what if Gen. Lee had not ordered Pickett's Charge? It is the ability to provide alternative outcomes to these questions, to relive and possibly rewrite pivotal moments in history, that make historical war games so appealing to historians, amateur or otherwise. Sid Meier and his team at Firaxis worked from their own enthusiasm for the Civil War to create a unique gaming experience that could answer these what-ifs. Sid Meier's Gettysburg offers the strategy gamer the most realistic reenactment available of the pivotal battle of the Civil War that does not require dressing up in costume, sleeping in a tent, or firing a rifle. It achieves this by utilizing the strategy concept du jour -- real-time action -- to recreate the difficulty and confusion of commanding troops during America's bloodiest conflict.


The game breaks down the three-day battle of Gettysburg into a variety of historical, theoretical, and randomly-generated scenarios. This allows you to relive a small portion of the battle, such as Pickett's Charge, or fight the entire conflict as a campaign. Each scenario starts with a multimedia background of your generals discussing the strategy of the events about to unfold, which helps you determine what your are doing strategically and why. There are also victory point locations on the battlefield that help define your objectives. In addition, as you move from scenario to scenario, the AI does not blindly stick to historical events, but instead reconfigures the objectives accordingly, which enhances re-playability. Within the context of these little battles, the main focus of Gettysburg is military leadership. Unlike other strategy games such as Age of Empires, there are no economic, scientific or cultural algorithms to contend with, only military. Also unlike other real-time action games, there is finesse to the control of your troops -- combat is not reduced to mob-like meetings of men on the battlefield. The most importing thing you learn in the tutorials is how to control and keep your men moving and in formation. If you allow things to degenerate into an all-out melee, your men will suffer the consequences of flank attacks and mindless charges into the enemy line.


Gettysburg is all about command, and the game controls reinforce this to great effect, if not frustration. Moving and controlling troops is basically a two- or three-step process -- click on a unit by selecting its regimental flag, drag in the direction you want to move, and if necessary select an action (use the command bar at the bottom of the screen or hot keys). Although you can command on a unit-by-unit basis, it is much more effective to use your commanders to control entire brigades. Without commanders, combat and movement becomes a constant task of keeping track of all units and getting them going in the right direction. Occasionally, in the midst of the gunfire, cavalry movement and artillery barrages, you can loose track of your commanders. Keep an eye on the command bar; it will let you know when you have a single unit or an entire brigade highlighted. Each unit is represented by a regimental flag, with the strength of its wave indicating the morale or strength of the unit. In addition, there is a hidden menu at the top of the screen, which appears when the mouse is over it.

All in all, although it takes some patience to find all the controls, everything you need is accessible from the main screen. You can even zoom in and zoom out to get close up views of combat or panoramic views of how the battle is shaping up.

Artificial Intelligence

Gettysburg uses three distinct settings to control AI: History, Difficulty Level, and Tactical Personality. History allows you to control how much game play is based on historical events and how much is randomly generated. Difficulty ranges across four levels, least competent to most competent. Tactical Personality allows you to combine different sets of strategic thinking, Aggressive, Prudent, and Cautious cross-referenced with Indirect, Flexible, Direct, with each combination being represented by an opposing general. For example, if you take the side of the Confederacy, Aggressive and Direct AI is represented by General Ulysses S. Grant.


This game has great graphics, period. No other Civil War game comes close, and it gives most real time strategy games a run for their money. The soldiers become much more distinct as you zoom in on them, as do the rolling hills, farmhouses and wheat fields.


The sound effects provide an excellent backdrop for the battle without becoming intrusive. The boom of artillery, the crack of rifle shots, and the rumble of horses' hooves helps place where you are and what is happening on the battlefield. You respond to them without thinking. Music only plays at the completion of each scenario.


All this game needs is the fog of gunpowder smoke over the battlefield to make the realism complete. Line of sight is always in effect, which means the enemy appears suddenly from the wheat field in front of your men. Your men think and act independently from you. They will retreat if they feel the need, as well as stand and hold ground until receiving further orders.


Gettysburg comes with two very solid manuals, which make up in detail what they lack in fanfare. The main manual covers the game fundamentals and mechanics, as well as providing a synopsis of each of the battle scenarios. In addition to a historical background and a day by day account of the battle, it also includes a full account of the Union and Confederate Orders of Battle. The second book is entitled "Reynolds' Rifle & Light Infantry Tactics" and is designed to look like a vintage Civil War training document. Organized into Articles, it contains a lot of useful tips and tricks, as well as a full description of the hot keys associated with command bar.


The game includes solid multiplayer functionality for 2 to 8 players. You can play 7 against 1, or 4 on 4. It supports Modem, Null-Modem, IPX network, Internet connections, and Mplayer Online Gaming (not currently working). One nice feature is the ability to customize the difficulty levels to handicap more experienced players. The Firaxis website also has an online forum where you can schedule a multiplayer Internet game.

System Requirements

Required: Windows 95, Pentium-90, 16 MB RAM , 70 MB of free hard drive space (uncompressed), 2X CD-ROM drive, 100% DirectX 5.0 compliant sound and video cards

Preferred: Pentium-133, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive

Reviewed On: Pentium II-266, 64 MB RAM, 20X CD-ROM drive, Matrox Millenium (4 MB), Integrated Yamaha soundcard.

Bottom Line

Sid Meier's Gettysburg is a groundbreaking historical strategy game, but not because of innovation, rather because of execution. It utilizes the concept of real-time strategy to emphasize the reality of Civil War combat -- a chaotic mess, directed only by the sheer willpower of the leaders. In addition, the random scenarios, the multiplayer combinations of 1 to 7 players on each side, and the top-notch AI make this a historical game that has great re-playability. All in all, with its realistic and challenging gaming experience, it is more than just a Civil War game which should appeal to everyone.

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System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

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