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Posted on Jun 10, 2008 in Electronic Games

The Mexican American War – PC Game Review

By Jim Cobb

The Mexican American War, PC game. HPS Simulations.
Designed by John Tiller. $49.95.

Passed Inspection:
Great accuracy, wide range of scenarios and campaigns, fine terrain graphics

Failed Inspection: Poor building graphics, indifferent AI

Usually outnumbered, the Americans superior weaponry can demoralize the Mexicans enough to initiate a thrust.

The Mexican-American War, 1846–48, has been slighted by our hobby’s World War Two/American Civil War/Napoleon fixation. This oversight is quite unfortunate because the conflict has so many fascinating aspects: rifled muskets, “flying” batteries, high-risk/high-yield strategies on both sides and a veritable Who’s Who of significant actors in the American Civil War. The general impression among some historians is that the all-mighty United States ran rough-shod over helpless Mexico. Mexico did have its share of problems but so did the U.S. More than one battle was whisker close, with tough Mexican soldiers giving gringos all they could handle. Thankfully, HPS Simulations and John Tiller’s merry band of enthusiasts have rectified this lapse with their latest addition to the Early American War series, The Mexican American War. The game also includes the 1836 War for Texas Independence.


The Vista is Fairly Buena

Terrain graphics in this game are superb. Both the 3D and 2D views show the dry, rugged, ravine-crossed battlefield in excellent details. For once, even veteran gamers may want to play exclusively in 3D, as the 3D counters fit into the terrain well. Unfortunately, depictions of buildings don’t come up to the same standard. Famous buildings such as the Alamo and Chapultepec are seen as outlines of stone with some standard structures in them—accurate and playable but disappointing.

The interface is the usual movement with right clicks or left clicks and drags. Double clicking on stacks and using column movement speeds dealing with large numbers of units. Movement works well with the 125-foot-per-hex and five-minute-turn scales. True micromanagers can opt to play in phases instead of turns. Either the tool bar or a menu can be used to highlight unit status and to handle formation changes, terrain enhancement and organization colors. Sound effects are good but nothing spectacular. A very nice addition is the lively background music by Daniel Lee.

The documentation is printable, on-screen PDFs. Parameter data for each scenario is essential. The “Getting Started” tutorial not only covers the basic mechanics well but gives extremely helpful tactical tips, as does the user manual. The designer notes give good insight into this under-studied war.

Brown Bess Again?

As with all Early American War games, Mexican American War has company/artillery section units. Yet, these units are even smaller than usual. Both sides had many militia units whose numbers fluctuated wildly and artillery was often deployed one gun at a time. The unit information bar rates them for quality, morale, fatigue and weapons. United States troops are usually of “C” quality, Mexicans average “D.”

The difference is that, even though many Americans were unruly militia, the Mexicans were underfed and often forced marched through cruel lands. A good leavening of U.S. Regulars gives the Americans an edge in many battles while the Mexicans only have a few elite units such as the San Patricio Brigade, which was comprised of Irishmen who had deserted from the American force.

The Mexicans were also handicapped by being armed with the smooth-bore Brown Bess and having lousy powder to boot. They compensated by overloading, but the resulting recoil made soldiers prefer standing in back of an ill-tempered mule rather than use rapid fire. Many Americans, on the other hand, had the more accurate and longer-ranged Hall rifled musket. Well-handled firefights were lopsided. Equally important is the fact that American junior officers were better educated and motivated than their counterparts, reflected in superior rallying abilities. Combat results include loss of men and guns, disruption or rout, and fatigue.

Mexican American War has 71 different battles, 42 of which are hypothetical. Battles can be played separately or as part of a campaign. Size of battles run from hundreds of turns with hundreds of troops to twelve turns and a handful of counters. The average battle lasts around 36 turns, so casual players needn’t feel overwhelmed.

Most engagements have the Americans as attackers, with their opponents dug in; however, enough maneuver room exists to allow flanking tactics. With cover, even the worse troops must be softened up by fire before the decisive melee should be attempted. Usually outnumbered, the Americans superior weaponry can demoralize the Mexicans enough to initiate a thrust that usually leads to a rout. The high mobility of the U.S. artillery aids in executing these thrusts.

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