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Posted on Apr 9, 2010 in Electronic Games

Sealion ’40 – PC Game Review

By Michael Peccolo

Sealion ’40. PC game. HPS Simulations. Designer, John Tiller. Price directly from HPS is $39.95 until May 1, 2010 when it goes up to $49.95.

Passed Inspection: Well-tested system that delivers a nice game flow and presents challenges to each side.

Failed Basic: Unit density apparently has no effect; player has no control over punitive German losses taking while crossing the Channel

John Tiller has added another title to his long-standing Panzer Campaigns series with the 17th simulation of the series, Sealion ’40. For the first time he has dealt with an aspect of WWII that is purely “what if.” The Sealion invasion never occurred; only plans existed for the invasion of England and for the British defense. Taking some liberties with history—changing the results of the Battle of Britain and giving the Germans the ability to have neutralized/defeated the Royal Navy—he has delivered a nice product that can bring out the best of the armchair general in players for either side. Author’s notes on the game’s development are in the notes section under the Help tab from the game screen.

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I found the simulation easy to load, and it launches quickly. The first time it loads it launches a tutorial, which can be easily dropped or left in the background for reference. You can launch the game and be playing in a minute. The tutorial walks you thru a turn or two for one of the short scenarios. I had never played a game from this series and found it very easy to grasp the basic mechanics and get rolling; I only referred to the tutorial two or three times to clarify a point in moving or firing units. The program easily allows you to access the Users Manual (111 pages) for more in-depth reading and explanation of the game’s functions and flow. Most play is controlled thru the mouse, but firing does require pressing the keyboard’s Control key, and pressing the Shift key will display city, town and village names on the map.

The simulation has an I go/ You go turn sequence. During your turn you can move, fire, start special tasks like mine/obstacle clearing, switch between combat and travel modes, conduct air strikes and aerial recon, and bring on reinforcements. Your opponent’s units can conduct opportunity fire if you move into range and can even call in artillery. If artillery is called in as opportunity fire, however, it will not be available during that player’s portion of the turn. Units can prep fire against enemy units, then assault the position; if they clear a hex of enemy, you can move other units into or possibly beyond it.

The map is based upon one-kilometer hexes and is a nice representation of Southeast England, from Weymouth in the southwest to Dover in the southeast, then north past Harwich and back west to northwest of Cheltenham. London is located just slightly east of the map’s center. You can use your mouse to scroll around the map or a small jump map to navigate around. The map has a traditional top-down view, but you can use a slant view to see a 3D effect. Both are pleasing to look at, but unless you select the option to show contour lines, the top-down map doesn’t readily show changes in elevation. Clicking on any hex will give you the terrain type and display any movement penalties, the current visibility distance and the effects of any field works in the hex. Using your mouse, you can also able see what class of bridge crosses water obstacles—important information for getting armored vehicles across. It is also possible to select a unit and then highlight hexes it can see into or that are within reach in its current movement mode.

Units generally represent battalions, but some scenarios begin with many units broken down to company size to allow the British to cover all the beaches and allow the Germans to conduct their landings. It is best to combine these companies as soon as possible, but that may be easier said than done due to tactical necessity. I liked the color-coding option available from the units’ dropdown menu, which lets players quickly sort units by division and get the right troops operating in the same area to facilitate recombination.

Combat is represented thru fire and assault. Units can fire normally three times, using of one-third of their movement each time. Normally, two-thirds of a unit’s movement is required to conduct an assault. Fire can be combined from one hex and assaults from more than one hex. Always bear in mind you can have only one pending assault at a time. You can move and fire other units, but, until you resolve an assault you cannot plan another. If you try to, the game system will cancel the first assault, and units that drew opportunity fire as you prepared the now-canceled assault get fired at a second time as you attempt it again.

Artillery units have to be set up before firing, and that may take a turn or two. Artillery can only fire twice.

Units have morale and fatigue levels and may be in good order, disrupted or broken. Headquarters units can assist units to recover from disruption, low ammo and low fuel. Morale and fatigue can be recovered by getting a unit out of the line of fire.

In addition to the tutorial scenario, the simulation comes with five large scenarios and 10 smaller one, some of these come in three versions for head-to-head, Allied AI or German AI). Some of the smaller scenarios that involve beach landing for the Germans are very difficult to win due to strength lost in crossing the English Channel. The Germans lose Victory Points from troops that are lost in crossing, and I played one in which I took all of the objectives and destroyed a great deal of the British troops defending the area yet was determined to have suffered a massive defeat. Playing the longer campaigns allows the Germans to overcome this handicap.

The simulation is stable; try as I might, I could not get it to crash. The only error that occurred was an artillery-fire impact sound loop kept running once. Saving the game and then exiting and reloading corrected the problem, and it has yet to reoccur.

I found the simulation fun and challenging, especially if played with the Fog of War option turned on, and I’m looking forward to picking up some more titles from the Panzer Campaigns series by HPS. Players familiar with the series will find it a nice addition and for others who enjoy WWII and aren’t put off by "what-if" games, Sealion ’40 is a good choice for many hours of entertainment.

ACG Rating: 87%

About the Author:
Michael Peccolo is a retired Armor Major from the US Army with overseas duties, Company commands and additional assignments in recruiting and ROTC. He lives in Tennessee where he raises horses with his wife.

1 Comment

  1. Prob is with all these HPS game is that the AI is rubbish.

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