The third Civil War title in the popular Battleground series, Battleground 5: Antietam puts players in control of Lee's Confederate army or McClellan's Union army in one of the war's most decisive battles. In addition to the historical scenarios recreating the battle, several "what-if" battles can be waged to see how history might have played out had certain factors changed. The bloodiest battle in American history, Battleground 5: Antietam will test the tactical skills of even the most seasoned generals. As is typical for the Battleground series, the battlefield is divided into a series of hexes and play proceeds in a turn-based manner. Each player has a round to move his or her miniature troops and units and perform desired actions. Numerous video and sound clips improve the game's atmosphere, and multiplayer support lets two armchair generals go at it head to head.
The third game in series of American Civil War. It includes eight scenario modules totalling some 25 scenarios. In the case of Antietam this means the game focuses on individual areas of the battle, including the pre-battle South Mountain delaying action, or you can fight the whole Antietam scrap between McClellan and Lee on September 17th 1862.
When it comes to wargaming, every grognard has his (or her) own favorite period in history which they'll game time and time again to the exclusion of all else. Unfortunately, my regular opponents don't share my excitement when a new American Civil War (ACW) game arrives; before I could say, "Wow, it has Play by E-mail," I was rapidly set upon by a horde of irate gamers, locked in the computer room (sans modem) and abruptly told to "get it out of my system pronto!" Settling down with a warm beer and some stale pretzels, I set eagerly to work.
Battleground: Antietam simulates the set-piece battle between General George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac and General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, around the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17, 1862. The designers have also featured a bonus battle, South Mountain, which occurred several days prior to this engagement.
Regular players will be happy to know that the designers have eschewed the temptation of tampering with the basic system; those of you competent with its predecessor, Shiloh, will have no trouble tackling Antietam. Unfortunately, the same also extends to the computer AI; while some improvements have been made, the computer opponent still comes up with some incredibly quirky and erratic maneuvers from time to time. The inclusion of head-to-head play via modem, email or hot-seat partially lifts the burden of guilt from TalonSoft's shoulders, but they still lose a half star for this faux pas and several other inconsistencies. Luckily, this is the only true negative I could come up with after some pretty intense gaming.
The game looks and sounds just as impressive as its predecessors do. The BattleviewTM map provides the player with one of the best isometric renditions of a battlefield ever seen in a PC game, and the period music, sound effects and multimedia re-enactments all add to the feeling that you're truly there. I do suggest you turn off the multimedia clips after the first few turns, though; they lengthen the turn resolution process considerably and, like Gilligan's Island re-runs, tend to become rather monotonous and repetitive.
As an avid student of this battle, what really impresses me with this system is the accuracy with which it simulates this engagement and ACW conflict in general. Read the extensive bibliography provided (if you're so inclined) and compare the eye-witness accounts, after-action reports and historical analyses with the inherent gameplay and you'll find this game simulates most of these observations with uncanny exactitude. The ranged fire and melee rules carry enough chrome to display the strengths and weaknesses of each weapon type and simulate the deadliness of melees to a vicious degree (most melees consisted of volley fire between opposing lines at point-blank range-30 yards or less!-rather than the implied hand-to-hand combat, with the side that broke first becoming the loser!). The fatigue and disruption rules handle the ebb and flow of battle neatly; disruption limits the number of times your units can melee the opposition, while overly fatigued units will suffer a marked reduction in their ranged combat strength. Try to hang on too long and you'll watch most of your line "skedaddling" to the rear quicker than you can say "Here come the rebs!"
On the technical side of things, make sure you do a typical install (all 85Mb of it) if you plan to play one of the larger scenarios; the lag time when loading the map from the CD is considerable, even with a 6x speed CD-ROM, and the compact install just won't cut it. The other little problem concerns the PBEM file format. As the disruption/rout results aren't hard-coded into the file, they actually change each time you open the file, as I accidentally discovered during a recent game. If you're patient you can open the file repeatedly until you're happy with the results before continuing with the game. As most grognards are honest souls, this probably won't be irksome to the average gamer, but it is an oversight that should probably be corrected in future games.
Overall, Antietam adds yet another feather to the cap ...er, wing of that steely eyed eagle in the TalonSoft logo. Whoever said, "when you're on a good thing, stick to it" certainly knew what he was talking about ... and this latest foray is certainly a worthy addition to the Battleground series. Whether you're an ACW die-hard or a gamer looking for a change of pace, this game comes highly recommended!
People who downloaded Battleground 5: Antietam have also downloaded:
Battleground 4: Shiloh, Battleground 7: Bull Run, Battleground 2: Gettysburg, Battleground 3: Waterloo , Battleground 6: Napoleon in Russia, Battleground 8: Prelude to Waterloo, Battleground: Ardennes, Civil War Generals 2
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