Employing an updated version of its classic Battlefront play system, Australia's Strategic Studies Group presents MacArthur's War, a war game that depicts eight battles in the Korean Conflict.
Termed a police action, this three-year struggle that pitted American-led U.N. forces against North Korean and Red Chinese armies ended in a stalemate. Its early battles, however, were dramatic and decisive. By focusing on the first ten months of the hostilities (June 1950 to April 1951), SSG extracts exciting military encounters from what many historians have called "The Forgotten War."
To be successful, however, combat simulations need more than entertaining and historically accurate scenarios. The game system must be complex enough to control the many facets of the program, yet simple enough to be mastered quickly. Action should move along at a reasonable pace, and the documentation should be clear yet thorough. Finally, a construction set should be available so scenarios can be modified or new battles created. MacArthur's War scores high in all of these areas.
The entire game is menu driven. Your first choices, via keyboard, include whether to play an existing scenario or to create your own, how much of a handicap to give yourself or your opponent, and which army to control against the computer or another human. Once inside the game, branching menus allow you to issue orders and gather vital information about the armies, objectives, and other elements. With the help of the instruction booklet and the handy menu cards, in a short time you'll become skillful in manipulating this system.
Scenarios vary in length, allowing for contests lasting from 30 minutes to 3—4 hours of realtime. As a corps commander, you control up to three divisions, each consisting of up to four regiments, which in turn are comprised of a number of battalions.
Unlike in other combat simulations, you have no direct command over individual pieces. Instead, you issue orders to your regiments, and battalions move out to best carry out your directives. As a result, your orders are quickly carried out. Combat is also resolved speedily, without lengthy disk access.
In addition to detailed game instructions and descriptions of each menu, the easy-to-read, 56-page player's manual has other worthwhile elements. These include a tutorial to help you get quickly into the game, informative essays dealing with the various battles, and directions for revising existing scenarios or fashioning new ones. Also, an attractive, colorful poster containing all eight battle maps and a terrain key is included as part of the documentation.
With WarPlan, SSG's war game construction set, modifying any of the scenarios is a snap. Creating unique situations, however, can be a chore, despite a menu-driven interface, extensive explanatory notes, and blank forms, rosters, charts, and layout grids. These last items may be photocopied and used to store statistics and graphic designs.
Constructing maps, defining terrain, forging armies, and editing shapes with the game's construction set all require a great deal of time and patience—and a certain amount of artistry. Map making is complicated somewhat by confusing keyboard commands. A joystick or mouse option would simplify and speed up this process; it also would be welcome within the graphics editor and throughout gameplay as well.
Simulations of this sort rarely boast impressive visuals and audio. MacArthur's War is no exception. Its graphics are bland and two-dimensional; its sound, merely functional. By way of compensation, all Battle-front play system programs are compatible, so you can use any scenario with any master disk in the series.
Original scenarios and games in progress may be stored on a separate disk. Saving as often as possible is particularly important because of a nasty glitch. If you accidentally hit the Restore key instead of Return, the program will lock up and you'll be forced to reboot.
Minor reservations aside, MacArthur's War provides just the right mixture of historical perspective, stimulating gameplay, and creative opportunities. Compared to some arcade games costing as much, the price you pay for this program is money well spent.
Commodore 64 or 128—$40
STRATEGIC STUDIES GROUP