Title The Perfect General (Second Review) Game Type Strategy Company UBI SOFT (1991) Players 1-2 Compatibility Kickstart 1.2+ 1MB RAM HD Installable Yes Features supports modem and null-modem play Submission Thomas M. Beck, tbeck@BACon.de Review The Perfect General is an award winning war strategy game based on an old US tournament series. The aim of the game is to capture the enemy's territory and cities in a given number of game turns. Each city that is held at the end of a turn grants victory points. The player who has the most points at the end wins, no matter how many units have been destroyed. The game comes with 12 game maps and 14 scenarios (two scenarios use the same map). Some of them have a tutorial character, some are fictitious and some scenarios have a World War II background. This may not sound too much but there are lots of game options and many units to try and so the game won't let you go for a long time. Most scenarios are not balanced, i.e., the attacker or the defender has advantages. Therefore, a complete game consists of two battles on the same map - one played as attacker and one played as defender. Yes, this is one of the rare games where it is sometimes unavoidable (at least when playing against a human opponent) that you lose a battle. It's just a question of how well or badly you lose, and how well you are able to compensate your defeat with a great victory in the second battle. The victory points of the two battles are added up and the one who scores more points wins the game. However, it is also possible to play a game that only consists of one battle played as attacker or defender, just as you like. Combat is mainly affected by a unit's armour, weapon range, distance to target, weapon damage, weapon accuracy, terrain (affects movement, sight and hit probability) and on some missions also weather (affects sight and movement). There are several tables in the manual that list the hit probabilities, the damage a vehicle can take/cause, the weapon range, the movement points for all vehicles and the close combat chances. The game is limited to a certain number of game turns and can be played in two ways: Standard or long game. However, if you start a standard game and later decide that it would be fun to play some more turns, you are allowed to continue, but without scoring. In most cases standard is okay, unless you have lots of time. Because each game turn consists of several phases, a battle usually lasts several hours. For example, a full game against a human opponent on the 'Caught in the Middle' scenario (where every city captured grants 10 reinforcements points every turn) can take about 10 hours. Gameplay in The Pefect General is broken down into a series of phases; each phase is divided into two parts. First the attacker gives his orders then the defender. The game starts with the 'buy and deploy units' phase. Usually, this phase takes place at the beginning of a battle, however, in some scenarios it occurs every turn or before predefined turns when certain areas have been occupied in a given timeframe. (It can also take place for one side as soon as the other side attacks a neutral area.) In this phase you have a certain amount of credits that can be used to buy units. If all credits are used, you can switch to the game map to deploy the units in the permitted reinforcement areas. Don't forget to occupy the cities that are in your area from the beginning. The game features the following units (note that not all units are available in all scenarios): Mines - cost 3 If you are the defender, mines placed at crucial points like streets through woods (it takes half the movement points of a unit to enter the woods to bypass a mine) and before bridges (it's not allowed to lay a mine on a bridge) can hamper the attacker a lot. Infantry - cost 1 - movement 1 - armour 4 Only useful for being stationed in cities to get victory points. It has a very low hit probability and causes very low damage on all other units and is therefore pretty useless if it comes to combat. Engineer - cost 5 - movement 1 - armour 4 Can lay or clear mines and can build or destroy bridges. Bazooka - cost 3 - movement 1 - armour 4 Good defensive unit, best deployed in towns or woods for ambushes on light enemy vehicles. Mobile Artillery - cost 14 - movement 4 - armour 6 The only artillery that can target, fire and move in one turn. The accuracy of its shots is low, though. It often hits up to 3 hex fields away from the point you targeted, sometimes causing losses to friendly forces. Light Artillery - cost 9 - movement none (must be transported) - armour 1 Artillery that has a longer range and a better accuracy than the mobile artillery. It can fire barrage but the barrage covers the hit hex field only. Heavy Artillery - cost 20 - movement none (must be transported) - armour 1 Very powerful unit, that has a very long range and a better accuracy than the mobile artillery. It destroys the enemy unit occupying the hit hex field at once and blocks all units on all 6 fields around. Sometimes units on the neighbouring fields are also damaged by artillery shrapnel or light units can be completely destroyed (this applies also to the other artillery types). If firing barrage, the barrage covers the hit field and all 6 fields around it for a full turn. No unit can enter the outer barrage ring without being at least stopped for this turn, maybe damaged or even destroyed. So entering a barrage is a very desperate move and should be used only to (re)gain control over a city. Barrage also hinders sight and can be used to sneak up to a city without being shot at by defensive troops. The artillery can also be used to shoot the enemy out of a city. This means, that the opponent has to withdraw one or several units from another place to recapture the fallen city, because the artillery hit destroyed the unit(s) in the city. Cities consisting of one or up to three hex fields can be almost totally blocked by a single heavy artillery unit when continuously firing barrage. Both light and heavy artillery units select their targets in one turn and fire the next. So you have to foresee your opponents next move. Apart from the first turn, light and heavy artillery units can fire every turn if not moved. Armoured Car - cost 5 - movement 9 - armour 3 Very weak but fast unit to transport infantry type troops or light and heavy artillery units. Only one unit can be loaded. The weak armoured car is pretty useless if it comes to battle. Light Tank - cost 6 - movement 6 - armour 6 This tank is best used for scouting. It's not very suitable for battle or even close combat. But if you already have taken out the major defenses of a city, it's good to capture it with a light tank. Medium Tank - cost 8 - movement 5 - armour 8 This is an all purpose tank. It has a good mix of movement range and defensive and offensive capabilities. Heavy Tank - cost 12 - movement 4 - armour 15 It takes quite some effort to stop and destroy it. The easiest way to kill it is to score a direct artillery hit on it. Unfortunately, it's a bit slow and it should keep to the roads whenever possible. Therefore, destroying the roads with artillery is also a good choice when playing as defender. Note that the given movements are doubled when a unit is on a road, so it's always best for all units to use the roads whenever possible. The next phase is the 'select targets for mobile artillery' phase. Then comes the 'indirect fire' phase. In this phase mobile, light and heavy artillery units can, but need not, fire. In the 'select target of light and heavy artillery' phase these artillery types select the targets to fire at during the next turn. After that comes the 'direct fire' phase. Every unit that has not yet fired can fire before moving. If an enemy has not fired yet, it can return fire on any target in range. Unlike a hit in the 'indirect fire' phase, an artillery hit in this phase is not always fatal. It causes damage like a heavy tank. Then the 'movement' phase takes place. Every unit that is not blocked by barrage can move. All vehicles can transport infantry and light and heavy artillery type units that have neither fired (or selected a target) nor moved this turn. Enemy units that have not fired yet are allowed to shoot at moving units. A moving unit is not allowed to return fire. Therefore, it's a good choice to shoot at moving units and try to destroy them before they stop. In some scenarios movement and sight are hindered during some turns by the weather. In the case of heavy rain, all units that don't move on a road need double the the usual movement points. In the night or in case of fog, sight is very limited. Finally at the end of a turn it's time for the 'direct fire' phase. All units that still haven't fired this turn are allowed to fire or return fire. A game turn ends with an evaluation of the conflict so far before the next turn is started. The game continues turn by turn until the chosen turn limit is reached. Then you are presented with some statistics, regarding the scored hits, achieved hit probabilities, losses and damage assessment. After the battle(s) your skill is classified. Obviously you want to become 'the perfect general' but this is very, very difficult. Finally, your scores are entered into the commander history and if you were good enough on that scenario also into the scenario history. You can play fun games (e.g., try to win a battle only with bazookas and armoured cars) or serious games with all realistic levels enabled. To make the game more or less realistic, there are lots of game options that can change your tactics massively. You can enable 'full view' instead of 'limit to LOS', so that all units on a map can be seen at once. Otherwise units stay camouflaged until they shoot, enter open terrain or are detected when an enemy moves on to an adjacent hex field. In addition you can turn 'random hit' off and switch to 'always hit' to disable any luck and force a chess type of game. You can turn 'partial kill' off and switch 'full kill' on. Then a cheap bazooka can kill a heavy tank with a single shot. When playing against a computer opponent, 3 difficulty levels can be selected. If the most difficult level is still too easy for you, you can play with a handicap. That means that you get less buying points in the 'buy and deploy units phase'. Apart from the tips already given above, the following tactics can be used in a realistic game. First of all, the game map should be searched for cities and areas that grant more victory points or even reinforcement points. These are the primary objectives. Then it's important to find the best places for your light and heavy artillery. The best place is a position where it can reach lots of targets with no need to be transported later and a position where it cannot be reached and shot at easily. If it ever comes to close combat, your artillery is most of the time lost with a 95% chance even if attacked by just an armoured car. A good position is deep in the woods or high on mountains. Keep in mind though that, if the artillery is placed in the woods, it needs another unit as its eyes. At least one of your units must have line of sight to a target so that it can be targeted by your artillery. At the beginning of the game frontline cities should not be occupied by just an infantry or a bazooka unit, but by a heavy unit that cannot simply be overrun by an attacking armoured car. Infantry units can be used to occupy cities behind the frontlines, so that you save your buying points for better units at the front. For the defender it's sometimes better to first try to destroy a bridge or street with a direct artillery hit before firing at the attacking units. If you are the attacker with lots of units and encounter a mine, it's faster and might be better to sacrifice two weak units instead of attempting to bypass the mine or waiting until an engineer, if you have one to hand, clears the mine. Two units intentionally driving on a mine clear the mine and your offensive can go on. Mines can also be cleared by artillery hits, but crossing the bomb-crater afterwards also costs lots of movement points. If you are the defender hiding a bazooka unit in a city it's not a good idea to shoot at an armoured car that stops two or more hex fields away from you. When you shoot, the bazooka will be visible at once to all other units in the area and a heavy tank, for example, might shoot you out of the city immediately. If your opponent possesses lots of artillery units it's good advice to position your units with two hex fields space between them. In that case, fewer units will be killed or blocked by an artillery hit. If you possess lots of artillery units and want to increase the chances that a crucial target is hit, target it with two or three artillery units. ... and I could go on. Some final words about playability. When played against a level 3 computer opponent, a faster Amiga (030/25MHz or above) is a good choice. If played against a human opponent a stock A500 should do. I remember doing some null-modem games from a stock A500 to an A2000 030/25MHz and it worked fine. To sum it up, this is one of the most detailed war strategy games for the Amiga and everyone that is interested in this genre should take a look at it.