Birth of America 2 – PC Game Review
Birth of America 2: Wars In America 1750 – 1815. PC Game. Developed by AGEOD. Distributed by Matrix Games. $59.95.
Passed Inspection: Vast playing area, fog of war, variety of units.
Failed Basic: Very slow on older computers, easy to lose track of units.
Birth of America 2 engages the player thoroughly, requiring strict attention to what is happening each turn.
In the 40+ years I have been gaming, game manufacturers have mostly ignored the American Colonial period except for the Revolution. That omission has been addressed with the release of Birth of America 2: Wars in America by Athena Game Entertainment Online Distribution (AGEOD), an expansion of their first BoA release. Although the subtitle says 1750 – 1815, this strategic-level game actually covers the years 1636 through 1815, the Pequot War through the War of 1812.
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Scenarios range from a four-turn tutorial up to two 104-turn grand campaigns covering the French and Indian Wars and the Revolution. Both wars are also covered in shorter scenarios highlighting particular campaigns. Playing these brings to mind some of the strategic games from SPI many years ago, only without the confusing legalese rules. The map is especially attractive and covers a broad area, including the often ignored region of eastern Kentucky and what is now East Tennessee.
The tutorial scenario gives the player enough of the basics to play. These include creating and breaking up armies, movement and combat resolution. Units include regular troops, provincials, militia, settlers, ships, artillery and natives. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages which the player will learn as the game progresses.
Each turn is one month. Movement is drag-and-drop, and as you move the unit into each area a pop-up window tells you the number of days the move will take. This means if players move units from several areas to an enemy-controlled area, they may not all arrive at the same time.
The map is reminiscent of some of the more attractive paper maps from SPI and Avalon Hill in the Eighties. It covers the North American East Coast, west to the Mississippi Valley, north to the Northwest Territories and south to Spanish Florida and the Caribbean. Terrain is well denoted, including rivers. Pop-up boxes give necessary information about each area. Depending on the scenario, some areas cannot be entered. Fog of war comes into effect too, meaning the player may be in for some unpleasant surprises if he moves too hastily. Using the mouse wheel the player can zoom in for a tight view or zoom out to see a larger area. Moving the curser to any edge of the screen will move the map in that direction.
The game hangs on National Morale Points. These are gained or lost due to the outcome of battles or gaining and losing territories. A battle may be won, but too many casualties can result in the loss of points. Lose too many points and the game is lost.
Units available to the player include commanders, infantry, cavalry, artillery, supply, colonial troops, militia, settlers, Indian allies and ships. Ports are noted on the coast and navigable rivers. To create an army the player clicks on a commander and chooses which units to assign to the leader. The leader tile may then be moved, moving the entire force. It is also possible to break up an army and reassign units. The information box at the bottom of the screen shows the leader’s rating and the units attached to that leader. All is clearly explained in the tutorial scenario.
In all, Birth of America 2 is a good simulation of a neglected period. The longer campaign can become a bit confusing since the player is unable to view the entire board at one time. It is easy to lose track of units spread across the eastern seaboard, not to mention the lands to the west. There is no “action” to speak of; the only animation shows the units moving. There is the added bonus of period music supplied by the U.S. Infantry’s Third Regiment Fife and Drum Corps. There is also some suitably dramatic “soundtrack” music at times. The biggest negative I have found is the game moves very slowly on older computers, reminding me of the days spent gaming on my old Commodore 64. It should prove no problem to dual processors on newer machines.
Birth of America 2 engages the player thoroughly, requiring strict attention to what is happening each turn. It may not appeal to the tactical gamer, but for the player interested in strategy this is a good choice.