Publisher: Matrix Games
Minimum Requirements: 1.6 GHz CPU; 512 MB RAM; Windows XP/Vista/7; 256 MB of hard disk space; graphics card that supports OpenGL 1.1 at a resolution of 1024×600 or higher
Genre: Action/3rd-person Shooter
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Release Date: Available now
Two thousand years ago, the fate of kingdoms did not change at the whim of mythical gods on the slopes of Mount Olympus. Empires rose and fell on the shoulders of real men spilling blood on dusty fields from Britain to Persia. The flow of combat was often the same. In the distance, fierce bands of half-naked barbarian swordsmen waived their iron blades, taunting their clean-shaven Roman foes. The Romans would respond with fleet-footed light infantry, the velites, tossing their javelins into the heart of the enemy formation. Meanwhile, the core of the Roman legions, their short gladius swords gripped tightly behind long shields, moved with precision to flank the enemy shield wall. The Romans only had one lesson for the barbarians: courage may make a warrior, but it is discipline that makes a soldier.
Swords & Scimitars is the fourth installment (out of at least eight planned) in the Field of Glory series of add-ons, available for both PC and Mac platforms. For those who have never played the series, Field of Glory is based on the popular tabletop wargaming system (also by Slitherine) that takes care of all the calculations and measurements. The base game covers the rise of Rome from Zama in North Africa to the battles of Boudicca’s revolt in Britain. Swords & Scimitars covers the armies fighting for and against the Crusades in Outremer in the 11th to 13th centuries AD. The expansion adds 40 more armies, 11 new historical battles, 10 new maps for the Digital Army Generator (DAG) featuring a new terrain type (soft sand), and 218 new historical figures and battle group formations.
Starting a challenge has never been easier. You can play one of the provided historical battles, or a custom battle that you have created with the scenario editor. As for opponents, you can either battle against a computer opponent or against another human player in hot-seat style, or you can play against other gamers anywhere in the world via one of the slickest PBEM interfaces I’ve ever seen. All you have to do to issue a challenge is to select a map and a side and wait for someone to accept. To accept a challenge, you just scan the list of available games and click on Accept Challenge. Field of Glory handles all the e-mailing of data to your opponent behind the scenes; when your opponent completes his turn, a new email will be sent via your Slitherine account updating the game’s status. This also provides a layer of privacy, because your real email addresses are known only by Slitherine. It’s all very streamlined and easy to use. Another method of play, the Digital Army Generator (DAG), is only available if you have Swords & Scimitars or one of the other expansions installed, and allows you to build an army using a point-build system, and then test it against either the computer or a human opponent.
Field of Glory is not an exact clone of the tabletop version. Combat has been streamlined so you can fight unit-on-unit instead of having a ranged combat phase, an impact combat phase, and a melee phase. The battle itself takes place on a top-down hex map which can be as small as 10×10 or as large as 50×50. Each figure on the map represents an entire unit of 500 to 2000 troops. When you attack an enemy unit, many factors are taken into account automatically to determine the number of casualties, including troop experience, troop type, weapon types, armor, morale, terrain, and more. Every figure on your side gets to move and/or attack, and then you click on End Turn. There is an Undo button, but the interface is so easy to use that I’ve never issued an order that I didn’t intend to give.
Gameplay is easy to learn, but hard to master. Regardless of skill, even a beginner will be able to jump right in without even reading the on-line documentation. The game moves quickly thanks to the streamlining, and you can fight a mid-sized battle in just an hour or two. There are a few things that bugged me, though. Even the installation procedure was a little off-putting, because I had to install Field of Glory, enter the serial number, install the patch to version 1.40 (and enter the serial number again), let the auto-patch upgrade to version 1.44, and only then could I install Swords & Scimitars, which required another serial number. There also seems to be a page or two missing from the documentation; I never was able to find out just what “protected” means because the armor pages were missing. There’s also no way to change, or even tell, what resolution the game is using. The fact that the game has such low system requirements reduces this to a minor niggle, but I’m the kind of person that would like to at least know what resolution a game is running at. My biggest complaint, though, is that the Historical Battles are sorted only by alphabetical order, with no regard to time period (such as First Punic War, Second Punic War, etc.) or number of units involved.
Overall, this is a great game for anyone who enjoys tabletop wargames, but doesn’t have the money to spend on a lot of pewter figurines and painting supplies; or someone with an older computer looking for a new game to play. Even my 10-year-old backup computer would run this game. The interface is easy to use, the way the it has been streamlined makes it possible to play a few turns before walking the dog, the PBEM is absolutely seamless… the best I’ve EVER seen… and Swords & Scimitars adds even more to a game that already has an impressive amount of content, with more expansions on the way. Best of all, you don’t need to buy all the expansions; all you need is the core game, and the expansion(s) for whatever time period(s) you’re interested in.