For their first Battleground title set during the American Civil War, Talonsoft decided to follow a trend and use the Battle of Gettysburg as their subject material. Much like the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, Gettysburg is probably the most over-simulated pre-twentieth-century battle in the genre. Thankfully, for both Talonsoft and the war game community, no conflict ever becomes stale when recreated with the sort of respect and reverence exhibited by Battleground 2: Gettysburg (BGG).
In a nutshell, BGG is a tactical war game using a turn-based, hex-grid system to recreate nineteenth-century warfare at the regimental level. With a scale of 125 yards per hex, each turn represents 20 minutes of "real time" (or an hour during night turns). Built upon this basic framework is a complex yet quite transparent interface and gameplay style. Turns consist of four individual sections (known as phases): movement, defensive fire, offensive fire, and melee, so while the active player has the opportunity to move and attack (through fire or melee), the inactive player can counter during the defensive fire phase. As an attempt to cover for the inherent lack of realism in a turn-based model, this defensive fire style works exceptionally well and mimics the "opportunity fire" aspect of other war games. In fact, the way that Talonsoft have managed to integrate the numerous elements of Civil War conflict into the BGG interface is highly admirable. Factors such as leadership, supply, formations, fatigue and the handling of disrupted units are very elegant indeed. With drop-down menus and an on-screen "toolbox," unit information is easily accessible, which makes the game a treat to play.
Civil War aficionados will be equally impressed by the scenario variety and choice included in the BGG package. From small skirmishes of less than ten turns to the massive one hundred forty-nine turn re-enactment of the entire sprawling Gettysburg conflict, every major event of the three days of the battle is simulated. In fact, many scenarios offer the option of playing against a computer opponent who can perform either with historical AI, a choice that puts you up against an AI that will attempt to follow the actual course of the battle, or an alternative AI option that gives the computer a free rein in tactical decision-making. Unfortunately, either choice leads to BGG's biggest weakness -- a lack of challenge in single player scenarios where the AI doesn't seem to have the ability to construct an overall strategy and implement it effectively, seeming especially shy and hesitant in offensive situations. The AI weaknesses mean that after gaining some experience with the interface and gameplay it's generally worthwhile locating a fellow wargamer for multi-player gaming. BGG has play by e-mail, modem and Internet support, and all are highly recommended. Personally, I found play by e-mail to be the most rewarding option, since many scenarios are hefty in length and make modem or Internet play somewhat of an ordeal.
Whichever way you play it, BGG has high presentation values throughout. Menu screens are clean and clear, as is the in-game interface and screens. Most impressive though is the manner in which Talonsoft represented the terrain of the battlefield and the units. 2D views are good, but in 3D close-up mode, every little landscape nuance is visible, including elevation changes. Hexes worked into the terrain become virtually invisible, except for the snaking of roads and rivers along the hex sides. A terrific visual effect seems an especially fitting touch to complement the extreme attention to detail in every facet of the game.
Overall, Battleground 2: Gettysburg is a high quality war game deserving attention from fans of the genre. The AI is hardly a challenge for experienced gamers, and a few hypothetical "what if" scenarios would've been nice, but these complaints don't detract from such an appealing title. This is the type of game that makes you wonder how history teachers managed to make their subject matter seem so dull. If only they could pass on a copy of BGG, their students would quickly realize why the Battle of Gettysburg is such a fascinating topic.
Graphics: Beautifully detailed 3D views and clean, crisp menu screens.
Sound: Nice period music and sound effects.
Enjoyment: The highly accurate, richly detailed war game is a delight to play.
Replay Value: Some hypothetical scenarios would've helped here, but generally very good with multi-player.
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Battleground 4: Shiloh, Battleground 3: Waterloo , Battleground 7: Bull Run, Battleground 6: Napoleon in Russia, Battleground: Ardennes, Civil War Generals 2, American Civil War: Take Command - Second Manassas, Austerlitz: Napoleon's Greatest Victory
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