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Review by: Pete Hines
Published: July 23, 1997
Following in the footsteps of his father, Phillip, Alexander III was a great and masterful military strategist. In the thirteen years he reigned as ruler of Macedonia, he extended his reach far and wide and created an expansive empire. In Great Battles of Alexander (GBoA), you have the opportunity to assume the role of this great military leader, or attempt to dethrone him by playing as one of the commanders of an opposing army. The game features a campaign mode, which allows you to attempt to duplicate Alexander’s conquests, or a battle mode, which enables you to play as Alexander or one of his nemeses in one of ten historic battles.
The quickest way to learn how this game plays is through the quick start option. However, to really understand all of the important components of GBoA, you will have to read the manual. This game is a true military strategy game, and not like many of the turn-based strategy games that have been put out lately (i.e., Emperor of the Fading Suns, Fallen Haven). There is an awful lot of information to digest, and it is not as simple as knowing one unit is stronger than another. This is due in large part to the very nature of the combat of this era, which was much slower and more methodical than modern day warfare.
In every battle, each side will have a number of leaders. These leaders are responsible for a given number of units, and have a range of control in which these units must stay in order for the respective leaders to control and lead them. If you move a unit outside of this command range, he will be unable to give it orders until he moves closer to the unit. This area is different for each leader and depends on the skills and abilities of the leader. For example, Alexander the Great has a much wider range and larger number of troops to command because of his prowess. In addition, each leader will have an initiative rating which will also determine how many troops he can move in a turn. Some leaders may only be able to move three units while others may move eight or nine.
Combat is based on a number of different variables, which I won’t attempt to cover here. But the type and strength of the attacking unit and defending unit, direction of the attack (i.e., you do more damage attacking from a flank or the rear), terrain, cohesion, and other variables all come into play. Cohesion is a very important factor and can be affected by a number of things, including combat and moving across different types of terrain (e.g., rivers). In addition to moving troops and ordering them to engage in combat, you can also perform some other functions. If your troops get routed in combat, you can attempt to rally them and get them back to a combat-ready mode. You can also attempt to remove cohesion points that have accumulated because of combat or other influences. Too many cohesion hits cause a troop to rout, which essentially means an unintentional, uncontrolled retreat. If a unit is not successfully rallied then they will terminally rout, which means they drop their weapons and run for the back lines as fast as they can and are no longer a factor in that battle.
Movement is based on a hexagonal grid which overlays the battlefield. Movement is handled in turns, where the leader gives orders to his troops. Once you have given your orders and moved your men, that leader’s turn is finished. If you have ordered any combat to take place during this leader’s turn, it will be played out at this point. Based on the initiative rating of the leader, the computer will determine if he gets to move a second time during this turn. If you do get a second turn with the same leader, you can continue to move his troops and engage in combat. After the second turn is complete, you will have an opportunity, although the odds are much less, to get a third turn with the same leader. The computer determines the order in which all commanders, both yours and the enemy’s, will go. For most of the battles, you have a limited number of turns in which to defeat the enemy, either by killing their leader or routing enough enemy troops.
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