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Posted on May 22, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

HPS Campaign Vicksburg Review

By Mike Tomlin

Passed Inspection: Excellent "feel"; tried and tested game engine; covers previously largely ignored campaign

Failed Basic: More complex Campaign Decision Trees might be preferable; smaller number of scenarios than some previous games in series

In May and June of 1863, the American Civil War reached a dual climax. In the east, General Lee crossed the Potomac and invaded Pennsylvania in an attempt to defeat the Army of the Potomac and bring an end to the war. Meanwhile, out west, General Grant, after a long stalemate before Vicksburg, had crossed the Mississippi in a bold attempt to attack the city from the east, and open up the mighty river down to the Gulf. Lee’s date with destiny ended in failure on July 3 on a small ridge just out of the town of Gettysburg, whereas Grant was successful in capturing Vicksburg on July 4. Arguably, it was the latter event that sounded the death knell for the Confederacy, although the war was to drag on for nearly two more years. HPS Campaign Vicksburg is an attempt to replicate the Vicksburg Campaign, covering the period from Grant’s river crossing, at the end of April until the fateful early days of July 1863.

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Action takes place at regimental level, in turns representing 20 minutes for daytime and 1 hour for night. Maps vary in size, and are made up of hexes representing 125 yards each. There are 58 scenarios provided, including a simple training scenario. These include not only historically accurate engagements of the Vicksburg campaign, but also "what if" variants and some hypothetical new battles. The length of a particular scenario varies from a small 120 turn match to two mammoth battles lasting several days, possibly lasting 253 turns.

An interesting additional feature is the inclusion of two editors-a scenario editor and a campaign editor. The former permits the design and creation of new scenarios, based on existing maps and Orders of Battle, either for inclusion in the existing campaigns, or as stand alone. The campaign editor allows the creation or amendment of the "decision trees" that dictate which scenarios are selected by the computer. There is no Map Editor included.

At the start of a scenario, or the first one in a campaign, the players have a list of options to choose from that have a variety of effects on gameplay. The designers have sought to provide as accurate and historic an experience as possible, but these options allow users to have some control over these-personal preferences will play a large part here.

Unit types are standard Civil War fare-infantry and cavalry regiments, artillery batteries, supply wagons, river gunboats, and leaders. The leaders for brigades/divisions/corps/army are all present and they play a critical part the combat decisions in the game. Play is turn-based rather than real time, but there are two options for which order movement and combat phases are played in. The game has a wide variety of viewing and highlighting options available from the detailed drop down menus and icons to enhance gameplay.

Victory is assessed by the computer, based on points awarded for losses sustained/inflicted, and possession of certain objectives and can be accessed throughout the game. A scenario completes when the number of urns is reached, or by prior earlier agreement between the players.

Vicksburg provides both excellent gameplay and a historic feel. The numbers involved on each side are not as large as in such earlier games as Gettysburg and the Peninsular, but the maps are large and varied and manoeuvre is again the name of the game. The scenarios, whilst on the surface fewer in number than we have learned to expect, do offer variety and challenge, covering a wide variety of situations, including many historic and "what if, battles.

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