Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I ordered Campaign: Shiloh because I'm a sucker, and far too conservative in my entertainment choices. It arrived yesterday, and I spent yet another uncomfortable summer evening playing with it. It's OK, I suppose.

The designer has a peculiar inclination towards hyper-confident units. Both regiments and batteries average "B" and "C" ratings, whereas the unit average in Campaign Gettysburg was more like a "C", and Campaign Peninsula a "D". I can't figure out whether this is an ideological bias - "western regiments on both sides were better soldiers and fighters than easterners", or a design disagreement - the average unit ought to be presumed to be semi-competent.

I don't think I like what they've done with the amphibious movement innovation in the engine. Since there's so much cross-river movement in many of the incidents of the early 1862 three rivers campaign - Mississippi/Tennessee/Cumberland - the designer and his programmer had realized that they needed some way to get units from one side of a river to the other. They chose to make it a characteristic of individual units - companies/regiments/artillery sections/supply trains.

This special characteristic is displayed by a "B" next to the individual unit's movement counter. Basically, it means that the unit is able to walk on water as if it were an uphill slope. The units can change formation from column to line, and advance or assault across rivers. In fact, this is exactly what happened in my first fight, after I wiped out the Confederate outpost at Belmont, and Pillow's Division counterattacked across the Mississippi, grinding forward against my concentrated artillery and rifle fire, leaving a stream of little grey corpses floating still in the swiftly flowing middle of the Mississippi. It's essentially ludicrous.

Units which cross fords or bridges in the old engine couldn't change formation, being forced to stay in either column or routed formation. It's a significant if limited handicap for the units affected, which is what makes these crossings at all perilous. The failure of the designer and programmers of Shiloh to use this paradigm - column-only amphibious limitation - results in a distinctly non-realistic sort of play. It just doesn't feel right to take Fort Henry by storm...

Oh, well. At least I haven't caught the AI marching through swamp bottomland yet. Although I suppose I ought to give it time...

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