Arnhem: The Market Garden Operation

Title		Arnhem: The Market Garden Operation
Publisher	CCS (1985 original, 1991 Amiga release)
Programmer      Richard T Smith (S A Lenton - Amiga conversion)
Game Type	Strategy
Players		1-3
HD Installable	No
Compatibility	All Amigas
Submission	John Burns ( Profiled Reviewer

My first impression of this game was one of disappointment when I found
that unlike the earlier game, Ancient Battles, from the same programmer
this one doesn't install to HD nor can it be mode promoted. So, it was
time to turn on the TV and boot from floppy where after some 30 secs the
one and only disk had booted. I selected the scenario I wanted to play and
waited whilst the game was set up. This access bode badly for play but
happily I can report that the game in fact appears to pre-load before each
new scenario is started. So all things considered my earlier misgivings
were misplaced.

But first, some technical stuff:

Actually since writing the above I have found ways to get around the above
problems. Although I couldn't get the game to run from HD by copying the
executable file named ~arnm~ to my HD, I not only can start it from there
but also promote the game to run on my VGA monitor using either the
program ModePro or the DblPAL monitor setting. To achieve this you need
to run the executable from CLI or MagicMenu (using the CLI option); for
some reason it doesn't work when run from an icon. However, once started
the game will not go past the intro credit screen without the disk being
inserted in DF0. If you decide on this option you can make the disk
access quicker (10 secs) by deleting all files except the b direrctory
which contains three game files. I also changed the File System from OFS
to FFS DC and reorganised the disk using ReOrg which further helped with
access speed. Whilst this is not perfect I can live with 10 secs to boot
into a game and it does at least give you back multitasking and a better
viewing platform.

Anyway, enough of that, now on with the review.

As you will gather from the title this is a wargame in which you re-enact
the Market Garden Operation during WW2. Historically, the game appears
accurate enough and you have the option to control the entire Allied
operation or individual parts of it. It would have been nice to have had
the option to control the German forces, then maybe you could have made
all the bridges "too far" instead of just the one at Arnhem.

Graphics are minimal being comprised of a 16 colour map and the user
interface (a screenshot of which I've made available at the EAGER website.
Allied units are designated by an icon with a representation of its type
i.e. Inf, Armd, etc. whilst German units are only represented by a Cross
until you are in contact with them whereupon you find out their type. This
is fair enough since this is a way of representing your lack of
intelligence on their forces. However, why did the programmer decide on
using his own symbols for unit type when the standard designations (as
used by games such as Campaign), in line with the NATO publication, APP3,
would have sufficed. The user interface comprises of some icons, M (Move),
T (Transport), B (Bombard), etc. and some info on the active unit's
strength, morale, etc.

Having played the game a bit I found some problems using this interface
for, whilst adequate and useable, it could have been improved a bit.
Firstly, when you click on most of the action icons, the exception being
the bombard one, you are committed to that action. (As an example, when
your unit is on a road the quickest  way to travel along it is to use the
Transport icon which puts the unit into convoy mode however if you select
the Move icon instead you are forced to use it and this quite often
results in you blocking the entire Corps advance). Therefore an option to
cancel would have been nice. Not a major problem provided you are careful
but the second is more serious if not downright silly. The actual map area
covers approx 4 screen widths and each turn you have the opportunity to
issue orders to all your units. However, you are unable to scroll the map
yourself since this is done, poorly, by the game itself. An example of the
frustration this causes is when you have just issued orders to a unit on
the left of the screen and the next unit is at the right hand side, no
scrolling takes place since the unit is visible. Fair enough, but if the
action you wish to take involves this next part of the screen just out of
sight then you are scuppered. This cannot be argued as a "fog of war" type
effect since you may have units in this next screen so you know what is
there. I should point out that in general this is not a problem for moving
units so much, since there is always a square or two visible which you can
use, but with Artillery units it prevents you setting a target to shell;
instead your Artillery sits idle while the enemy units pile up in relative
safety around your poor beleaguered paras. One other option which would
have been of use would have been to merge depleted units, to restore their
numbers. Let's face it this is what happens in real life so why not here.
A unit which has been depleted to a very low state becomes useless, your
only option being to try and put it somewhere safe or suicidally attack
since it will always be wiped out without causing any appreciable damage
of its own.

Well okay you say but what is the actual game like to play?  My overall
opinion is, not bad, it certainly isn't easy to win and in my first few
attempts I never managed to get better than a draw (i.e. same as history).
Yes, you can win though I won't spoil it and tell you how. Being
historically based as opposed to randomly generated you may feel that
there is little longevity since everything will be the same every time;
well yes and no. Yes, the enemy will always come from the same general
areas but no since there is some AI which does react to your actions so
that if for instance you know that the Germans always make a counter
attack along a certain road and place a unit there in advance, they'll
still appear but maybe not with the result you expect - try it and see.

As a strategy game it's not bad, though it's difficulty lies more in the
overwhelming strength of the German forces at Arnhem than in it's AI. All
in all not a bad attempt and a game which could have been improved by some
slight modifications to the AI and user interface, and better graphics
wouldn't have gone amiss either. It won't appeal to everyone, in truth,
really only wargaming fans will probably find it of interest but given
that its legally available from Back 2 the Roots there's no excuse not to
give it a try.

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