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Posted on Dec 22, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Histwar: Les Grognards – Recon (PC)

By Larry Levandowski

The Napoleonic Wars have long been a wargaming staple, and for good reason. For nearly twenty years, Napoleon, the little corporal, made the crown heads of Europe tremble at his every move. The period saw hundreds of battles, from small skirmishes, to major history changing clashes like Waterloo and Austerlitz. But for computer game designers, the period has always presented a challenge. On one hand, Napoleonic enthusiasts are the original wargame grognards, demanding high levels of historical accuracy. At the same time, the Napoleonic Wars are unmatched for sweep, pageantry and color; these require a game to have great graphics and attention to detail. Then there are the needs of computer gamers who look for replayability, great scenario editors, and multi-player functionality. For the developer then, there is a steep slope to charge up if the game tries to take all of these redoubts. But despite the challenge, HistWar: Les Grognards, to be published by Battlefront, is promising all of this functionality. The good news is that the charge is already well under way.

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The central idea of Les Grognards is to put the player in the shoes of a Napoleonic army commander. The game provides an interface to the various levels of command, from corps to regiment, making the experience as detailed, or strategic as the player wants. At the lowest level, the real eye candy is the 3D view, where up to 50,000 animated soldiers, fight in historically accurate uniforms, over beautifully depicted terrain. Combat happens in real time, or 15 min intervals if playing another person. Grognard details like weapon type, unit density, training and moral will all be meticulously modeled.

But in computer wargame land, replayability is also critical; not since Battlefront’s Combat Mission series has there been so much promised. The scenario editors to be provided in the game will give the player the tools to recreate a vast majority of the battles from the period. A full map editor will allow players to build battlefields that represent terrain of up to 30 x 22 kilometers. The order of battle tool will ship with a database of over 1100 historical Austrian, Russian, French (the British and Prussians are planned for expansions) and minor country regiments, so that realistic scenarios can quickly be organized. The game promises to support actions representing up to 500,000 men, adequately covering the needs of the period. Finally, a doctrine editor will allow the scenario designer to tweak and script how the AI will fight, allowing complex reactions to the moves of the human player.

Multiplayer capability is a critical component to any wargame release these days, and Les Grognards will provide everything that could be wanted. Full PBEM capability along with LAN/Internet play for up to six players will be built in.

Of course, the game is not out yet, and it remains to be seen how the promise will compare to the real thing. Still, there are several good signs that seem to indicate that Les Grognards will be a high quality release. The developer, Jean-Michel Mathe’ (JMM), has actively supported the game forum on Battlefront.com, and always discusses the features in specific detail. Also, the publisher and developer have wisely refused to get caught in setting a release date; stating over and over, that it will be ready when it’s ready. But if reading between the lines of JMM’s posts has any value, HistWar: Les Grognards will be out sooner rather than later, and the little corporal will once again make giants tremble.

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