The military is often painted in terms of precision. Orders are expected to be followed exactly. But what happens when those giving the orders are blind? Blindness is a fact of life for commanders, who have to wait for their men to call in with information. This game puts the player in the shoes of a Corps commander - a man responsible for several divisions - for the lives of thousands of men. The player will command some of the most famous battles in U.S. history, and will have to deal with the same lack of face-to-face contact that plagues every higher-level military leader.
In this game the player replays historical battles in the wars with Mexico, World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
Think for a moment about war from the perspective of the Marine. Out in the field, their duty is to carry out orders to the best of their ability. They must try to cope with the unexpected that interferes with their progress - weather, enemies, terrain, fatigue, lack of supplies... Unfortunately, it is a fact that there is a disconnect between soldiers in the field and the commanders in the command centers. Commanders don't have a personal connection to each person under them. They rely on those underneath them to report in...
This game gives some insight to the problems of command. There are hundreds of units to keep track of, and the player needs a way to keep them organized. The units become symbols on a map-board. Contact with the units is limited to the reports that they send back and the orders that the player sends out. Once the orders are given, the situation is really out of your control. Will they be able or willing to follow orders exactly? What happens if they are interrupted by the enemy, by weather, by terrain. Is the information on enemy movements accurate, or did the player just send a division (thousands of men) to their deaths?
Most soldiers and Marines have never had the opportunity to see just what goes on inside the command centers, where the orders that they must follow come from. This game recreates the command center.
Let's face it. If you're a human male, you've probably played with army men at one point in your life (hopefully when you were young). The thrill that you got as your little green guys made a daring assault on the grey German base camp, throwing marbles and making that weird peow-peow noise stays with you for a long time. For some it never really goes away, and we long for being able to experience it again. That's where Halls of Montezuma: a history of the United States Marine Corps comes in. It's just like a classic game of Army Men, on a massive scale, using cards.
The interface didn't take as long to get used to as I thought it would, being able to nut most of it out and have a full game in a short 30 minute session. The game takes place on the typical strategy game hex map, using card to display your units. X symbols or for infantry units, O's are for armor and -'s are for artillery.
After you choose your scenario, and which side you want to be (usually one side has a big advantage over the other), you can call up detailed reports of all your squads. In this screen you can see what squads are fit or tired, which ones have broken leadership, how many losses they've undertaken, even whether their supply lines have been cut off. From the reports menu, you can also check out all the objectives on the map and see who owns them, and also what squad is supposed to occupy/liberate them for more points. In the orders menu, you can send commands down to your divisions. However, they may not take the road you were expecting them to use, and if they make contact with the enemy they will try and drive them back, rather than risk being killed.
Every thing in this game revolves around your need to acquire more Victory Points. After a designated number of turns which is different for each map, the person with the most VP wins. You could be in the middle of a daring offensive, when the judge calls time and Rommel just starts laughing in your face and steals your lunch money.
Being an older game, I don't expect greatness from the graphics and sound, just functionality. Graphics worked, when you worked out what the symbols meant on the cards, it was pretty easy to picture up the armies in action. Sound was another story though. It was very minimal, which was okay, but what was there was dull. Moving units made a noise, units suffering under attrittion made a noise, and that was about it apart from some other PC-Speaker bangs and booms. Depending on where you feel Graphics and sound belong on the priority list of a game, you might want to steer clear of it, but anyone else could do worse than giving the game a try for some fun.
PRO's +Accurate simulation of sitting behind a desk directing soldiers +Pretty fast pacing +Easy to Comprehend
CON's -Graphics merely functional -Sound less than adequate -You don't have direct control over individual units
Last in the celebrated series of wargames based Battlefront, SSG' revolutionary game engine which was released on Apple II and Commodore 64 only. Like other games in the series, Halls of Montezuma features corps-level combat and proper use of the chain of command. The AI, however, is disappointingly weak, especially considering that it is usually SSG's hallmark in their games. As veteran wargame designer M. Evan Brooks points out in his synopsis, Halls of Montezuma covers '...the history of the U.S. Marine Corps, most of the scenarios herein covered the 20th century. However, the initial scenario (Mexico City) did cover the anti-climax of the Mexican War in a tactical rendition.... the game was accurate, but did not seem to have the spirit of 19th century warfare.' Regardless, the game's intuitive interface, flexible gameplay, and excellent scenario editor help make it much better than an average wargame. Not SSG's finest hour, but still very good.
People who downloaded Halls of Montezuma have also downloaded:
Gary Grigsby's Pacific War (2000), Harpoon Classic, MacArthur's War, Rommel: Battle for North Africa, Fire Brigade: The Battle for Kiev 1943, Decisive Battles of American Civil War Vol. 2, Harpoon II: Admiral's Edition, Decisive Battles of American Civil War Vol. 1
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