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Posted on Mar 14, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Ancient Warfare: Punic Wars – Game Review (PC)

By Mike Tomlin

Each nationality has its own version of the various types of unit, and weapons and shields are carefully modelled. Some units are armed with missiles, such as bows, slings or javelins, which can be very effective, but are controlled by the computer – i.e. missile units will fire at any enemy target in range if they have sufficient action points available. Different nationalities and different unit types fight in very different and unique ways – the Greek phalanx for instance moves and fights in a distinct compact and massed formation. This brings considerable flavor to the game and means that fighting a known scenario from the opposite side is much more different than is usual in a wargame.

The game is controlled by means of simple drop down menus and icons, which allow for a variety of actions and information to be displayed, but is simple to learn and very well supported with both a quick guide and a very comprehensive manual. Although this is from a new designer, Paul Bruffell, and many commands and actions are unique to this new series, anybody familiar with other HPS series, from the John Tiller stable, will recognise a similar look and feel and should soon be at home with it.


Basic unit commands are given by left clicking on a hex, which may contain up to 3 units, and then selecting a unit. A simple panel is displayed for each unit, giving comprehensive information such as type of unit, experience, action points, strength, formation, facing, type, weaponry, shield or not, fatigue, status, and a picture of the unit. When selected an orders panel comes up that allows a selection of orders including, move, charge, forced march, etc… An interesting innovation here is that each unit may have four different orders provided to each, which the computer will attempt to carry out in sequence. The overall restriction is the amount of action points available, and actions such as charge precluding all other. It is possible to give a sequence of orders, including a pause or two, so that movements can be timed.

Another interesting, and valuable feature, is that unit organisations are carefully replicated here, and it is frequently necessary to move a whole unit, in battle line or column, as one. This is simplified by selecting the group command option on any unit command panel before issuing the orders. All orders will then be applied, where possible, to every unit in that group. This saves considerable time, particularly in the larger battles. With most units, once the group option is selected or not, that choice is applied to the next organisational unit the player selects. This necessitates the player being careful to ensure that he knows whether he is in group or single mode when giving orders to any unit. I personally ran foul of this many times due to carelessness. But the designers thoughtfully provided icons allowing orders for any single unit or group selected to be reversed and re-input. This means the player can give a single set of orders for a whole group, then countermand them for a single stray unit that can be given different orders. The order process is simple but requires considerable concentration as it is very easy to go astray through inattention.

Units are combined in groups in differing ways in different scenarios. Often, lightly armed skirmishers were combined with units of heavy infantry who would line up behind them and support them. However, although the skirmishers job is to deflect enemy skirmishers, light cavalry and even elephants, they should be getting out of the way when the enemy main battle line closes. This becomes difficult when they are grouped with the heavier infantry and can necessitate lots of individual unit orders. However, the designers have included a very useful feature whereby new groups can be created by the player, allowing for differing tactical play. I would heartily recommend that as a player develops a tactical skill and style, he should consider spending some time near the start of the larger scenarios reorganising his forces into groupings that he thinks will be more suitable to his style at a later time. Regroupings can occur at any time, and without limit during the game. Also, individual units can be broken into two or combined, subject to numerical restrictions thereon.

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