The Napoleonic Era, with its pomp and splendor, has always proved fertile ground for war game designers. Of course, as the centerpiece of the period the Battle of Waterloo has received extensive coverage, but never with such masterful treatment as the grognards at Talonsoft have managed with Battleground 3: Waterloo (BGW). With the third release in their Battleground series, Talonsoft has produced a game befitting the most grandiose period in European history.
As is the case in all nine titles in the series, BGW is a turn-based, hex-grid format war game that follows many of the traditional conventions of board wargaming. The map of the battlefield segments into hexes at a scale of 100m per hex, and the basic objective of each scenario is to capture and hold certain key hexes until the conclusion of the battle. The attention to detail that Talonsoft lavishes upon BGW's historical accuracy is extraordinary. Every military feature from the battle has been recreated, from unit organization and leadership structures to formations, weaponry and even uniforms. For this reason, BGW is a fascinating educational tool, as well as a highly accurate war game.
The basis of the BGW system revolves around the use of "phases" to control your units. Each scenario consists of five phases: movement, offensive fire, defensive fire, cavalry charge and melee. Built into these phases are the numerous elements that combine to recreate the tactics of Napoleonic Era warfare. Formation and facing changes, supply rules, artillery, and cavalry must all be co-coordinated, along with countless other factors. While this appears daunting, Talonsoft constructed a highly intuitive interface that is relatively easy to learn. Newcomers to wargaming may have benefited from a tutorial system of some kind, but generally the combination of a readable players guide and some patience results in a moderate learning curve.
Whatever your level of wargaming experience, there's no denying BGW's attractive and clear presentation. In particular, the map of the battlefield itself is magnificently recreated. Talonsoft painstakingly handcrafted every hex, and the result in the 3D views is nothing short of stunning. Actual geographical features of the battle accompany lush terrain. Orchards and chateaus, rivers, roads and lakes all dot the landscape, providing important tactical challenges. In fact, with units and their accompanying bases complementing the terrain, the scene is highly reminiscent of a large tabletop war game where the miniatures were moved around by hand. There are a number of viewing options, from close-up 3D to the standard 2D overhead maps. A clean interface tops off a polished presentation standard.
BGW allows the virtual general to assume command of either the French "Grande Armee" or the Anglo-Allied and Prussian forces. The included scenarios range from a recreation of the entire battle to smaller maps covering specific events of the conflict, such as the early assault on the chateau at Hougoumont or the arrival of the Prussians. Those interested in military history will find the various hypothetical scenarios especially fascinating. By tweaking certain historical details Talonsoft produced some truly intriguing "what if" pieces. In particular, altering the arrival of Marshal Blucher to reinforce Wellington (or Grouchy to reinforce Napoleon) can lead to a different result than was historically the case. "What if" indeed.
Throughout these scenarios the game's AI is adequate, but lacking in some respects, probably BGW's only significant fault. When playing as the attacking French, the AI rarely provides a serious challenge to the Allies. Thankfully, there are multi-player capabilities that include modem, play by e-mail, and, with the latest patch, Internet support. The play by e-mail option is magnificent, and it's easy to have several games up and running at once against different opponents (it's fascinating to compare tactics during these games with an excellent replay feature). Multi-player really is the best way to experience all that BGW has to offer.
Talonsoft have achieved something very special in this third Battleground title. Taken as a complete package, Battleground 3: Waterloo exudes class from the moment you pick up the box to the ending of a mammoth re-enactment scenario of the entire battle. Strategy gamers need not hesitate before buying, and wargamers simply owe it to themselves to make BGW a part of their war game collection.
Graphics: Clean interface and intricately detailed terrain and unit graphics.
Sound: Not the most important element of a war game, but generally fine.
Enjoyment: War game heaven for history buffs and strategy gamers.
Replay Value: Hypothetical scenarios and multi-player provide great longevity.
People who downloaded Battleground 3: Waterloo have also downloaded:
Battleground 6: Napoleon in Russia, Battleground 2: Gettysburg, Battleground 4: Shiloh, Battleground 7: Bull Run, Battleground: Ardennes, Austerlitz: Napoleon's Greatest Victory, Civil War Generals 2, American Civil War: Take Command - Second Manassas
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