Thank you for reviewing my game, Just Imagine... in the February edition of CRASH: it makes a very interesting change reading somebody else’s review of your own game rather than your own review of somebody else’s game! On the whole, I think that your review was very fair, however, I was surprised to find that you seemed to have missed out on one very crucial point: the game is a strategy game.
You say that it is rather hard to get beyond the first month and that mainly for this reason, the game has little lasting appeal. If this were true, I would be the last one to play the game, let alone try and sell it. There is a certain strategy, broadly speaking, that you have to discover (in fact it is pure business sense) and if you use this, you should do rather more than simply pass the first month. Most of the game’s features only come out at later stages in the game, specifically to give the player something to aim towards. So (if you do get past the first month) I feel the game does have lasting interest — having reviewed goodness knows how many games myself. This was one of my main aims for Just Imagine... since many games are five-minute wonders. The accompanying manual gives what I hope are fairly clear ideas on how to make progress without ‘giving the game away.’
Your point about knowing you are bankrupt and having to go through several screens before you can restart is also a fair one — except that there is a quit option once a month. Failing that, trying to break out of the game at any stage returns you to the title screen and you can recommence playing from there, without wasting any time.
Those two moans aside, the review was more than fair, but I felt these ought
to be pointed out because, if you were right, there would be little point in
buying the game, which would be a shame — not least because I feel it would be
an enjoyable experience, especially as you progress and see the full extent of
the parody of our hilarious industry.
The reason why I moaned about the relative difficulty in getting beyond the hurdle of the first month’s business is simply because it is not accurate. No matter what the financial state of a small company is, unless it was set up in March (a particularly bad move), it’s unlikely to be declared bankrupt before a six to twelve month period has elapsed simply because of the speed at which the business world operates. All small companies have debts when they start out, and any competent businessman will be able to temper the bank’s concern about these for a while. I was aware that the game was both a strategy and a parody but felt that this point affected the suspension of disbelief so necessary to this kind of game.
On the point about being able to restart and quit, I admit to having been
unaware of the options available. That would indeed make the game less
tiresome if difficulties were encountered. Thanks for pointing them out.
As the author of Waterloo and Austerlitz, I was intrigued to find that in your review of Waterloo I was coming in for some criticism with regard to the commanders named in the game. The changes, such as Marshall Ney being reduced to the level of a corps commander are in fact, forced upon me by the structure of the program and none of them are pure mistakes.
For an example of genuine inaccuracy, a letter from a Mr Howie of Manchester sent to me via Lothlorien pointed out that Lobau commanded the 6th corps at Waterloo, which is indeed true. He then stated, ‘I do not know who Mouton, your 6th corps commander is.’
I refrained from informing Mr Howie that General Mouton is, or rather was,
the Count of Lobau. Why is it that the most vociferous criticism seems to come
from those with the least knowledge?
To be fair, I think the points being made by the people who
criticised the review and the game were really based upon more important
details than commanders’ names. Several people criticised the lack of
artillery, for example. However, many of the critics felt that once a weak
point could be found in a game, it gave them carte blanche to proceed to
annihilate the rest of the game. Apart from the fact that this is a
shortsighted and harmful approach, there is always the danger of falling down
on your own ignorance.
I am delighted to see that you have started a FRONTLINE FORUM but why stop here? I think it would also be an excellent idea to start a FRONTLINE Hints & Tips (or should I say Strategy and Tactics) section, as at present CRASH does not cater for clues on strategy and wargames at all. To start off, I have offered some strategic advice for Arnhem which I think is the best wargame for the Spectrum at present (although I haven’t seen Waterloo or Austerlitz yet). I’ve completed the game on all levels without the loss of a single unit.
These tips are for scenario Three (though they usually work on Five as well) — apart from scenario Four, Three is the most interesting. The most obvious way to play is to land all the American paras left at Nijmegen and the British paras around Arnhem. Unfortunately, the British paras are not strong enough to hold Arnhem on their own and have usually been pushed back over the Rhine by the time the British armour arrives. The key to this game is that no German unit can cross a major river other than by bridge. Therefore I land all the British units around Arnhem as usual but also land most of the American units at the points where the German units usually enter the map so they can be destroyed before they gather in strength. The remaining two or three units should be dropped on the right side of Nijmegen. This strategy is equally effective against computer and human opponents as long as the allies hold the point between the two main rivers.
Finally, I have included some points which I think should be made part of
all wargames. First, there should either be different levels of play, or else
the player should be able to change the victory conditions, as a computer
opponent can become too easy to beat. Secondly, terrain should have different
effects on movement and fighting values for differing types of units. Some
areas on the map should be virtually impassable to help players best decide on
how to position their troops. This will allow infantry to become particularly
useful in certain types of terrain. Thirdly, units should possess a number of
factors that combine to make the overall fighting value. Finally, every game
should have a non real-time order phase to give players time to think and a
real-time movement phase in which both players move their units simultaneously
to add realism. It would be impractical for firing phases to be realtime
Thanks for the Arnhem tips. Let’s have some more from
other FRONTLINE readers. Some of your suggestions about necessary elements of
wargames include those which every wargamer would like to see. However, the
idea of simultaneous, realtime movement poses several problems, not least of
which is the sheer inconvenience when two human players are participating and
the possible limitations caused by the size of the map compared to that of the
screen. Does anybody else have views on this?
That’s all we have space for this month, but keep your letters, and indeed tips, coming to FRONTLINE FORUM, CRASH. Who knows, if the response is good enough, I might even be able to persuade Graeme to let me give away some software for the best letter or tip each month...