Sid Meier's Gettysburg! manages to do what many similar takes on the great conflict have failed to do -- take the events of the battle and present them with epic grandeur yet keep them simple to play without getting bogged down with too many rules.
The actual gameplay is set in semi-real time rather than strictly turn-based. This makes the individual games much shorter since units can be given orders while the player concentrates on more pressing matters and situations elsewhere on the battlefield. The forces are organized into the type of units of the day, including infantry, cavalry and artillery, and appear on the map as regiments. Regiments are grouped together as brigades and are led by a brigade commander. After a couple of quick games, it becomes quite apparent why a chain of command is needed. To aid the player, as overall leader of the battle or engagement, commander units oversee their own forces providing support and helping keep up morale.
In addition to controlling and ordering individual units, the player can give an order to a commander unit who in turn directs his forces. Like the real battle, some commanders are obviously better than others, and shouldn't be expected to take too much initiative. Players should also make sure to keep the commanders near their own regiments, as a commander without men to lead quickly becomes just another soldier on horseback getting in the way.
Unlike a turn-based game, the player needs to make some quick decisions and has to react. Orders are given, units move and then it's on to the next situation. By zooming in and out of the map, players can monitor small engagements between brigades or get a whole view of the battlefield and determine where to move forces. It must be noted, however, that only enemy units in a clear line of sight are visible, so players shouldn't rely too much on the full map except as to use it as guide to their own forces ("Hey, I don't see any Yankees, I must have won!"). These two elements, the quick decisions and the fact that the opponent's forces may be hidden, make Sid Meier's Gettysburg! quite challenging. Players don't have time to seriously think about the direction of each unit, and that makes the game quicker and in many ways easier to play while also making it more realistic. After all, battles like Gettysburg are won and lost in split-second decisions.
The advances in this game are that it should make war gaming accessible to those who don't have the understanding or patience for movement points, advancing fire, line of sight and all the other things that make turned-based games more realistic than the average real-time strategy game. The bottom line is that Sid Meier's Gettysburg! is simple, it looks great and it's fun!
Graphics: One of the best overhead views of a battlefield on the computer screen.
Sound: Excellent sound effects.
Enjoyment: Enjoyable and easy but fairly realistic.
Replay Value: There's no reason not to play it over and over.
People who downloaded Sid Meier's Gettysburg! have also downloaded:
Sid Meier's Antietam!, Civil War Generals 2, Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Battle, American Civil War: Take Command - Second Manassas, Sid Meier's Pirates!, Panzer General 2, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Sid Meier's Railroads!
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