Prussia’s Glory – Game Review (PC)
Frederick the Great, in any given battle, could be impetuous, sage, obstinate, and insightful in stages or all at once. His greatest talent, brilliant use of interior lines on an operational level, is overshadowed by his famous "oblique approach", a tactic first used be the Thracian general Epaminondas at his defeat of the Spartans at Leuctra in 371 B.C. Frederick was also very lucky, not only because his father left him a well-trained army with a core of good officers but also in that the opposing generals represented a low tide in Austrian and French generalship. To fully understand Frederick’s generalship, the evolution of his skills must be examined in the manner of Robert Cintino in The German Way of War. Boku Games and Shrapnel Games do the examination on a tactical level with the second installment of the Horse & Musket 2 series, Prussia’s Glory. Since the game includes Frederick’s masterpiece at Leuthen, we can see how glorious the system is.
Plus le Change, Ne Plus le Meme Chose
Designer David Erickson has made no major changes to the basic engine from the first installment, Dragoon – The Prussian War Machine, and just patched a few minor bugs; a good thing given that the engine does all that’s necessary to model 18th-century tactical warfare. The 55-page manual is quite good in its composition and clarity. Commands are explained as what they are, how they are implemented, and what special exceptions are made. All these explanations are presented in context. Charts and algorithms at the back de-mystify what is going on during action. A welcome addition, though, would be an illustrated overview of the action panel with its icons and sub-icons.
Improvements in the game come from graphics guru Magnus Petterson. The terrain in Prussia’s Glory is sharper than that of its predecessor and the uniforms and flags of regiments on the zoomable battle maps are more animated and detailed; gunners appear to re-load their pieces, drummers beat, and commanders’ horses rear up. Players can get even better graphics by putting WindowedMode=1 in the HorseNMusket2.ini file and setting their monitor’s resolution higher than 1280×1024. The most impressive change, though, is in the area of unit and commander portraits. The older games had these in sepia; the new ones are in bright colors, picking out details of weaponry and accouterments. Players only used the portraits in the previous game to see unit status; now these images are brought up to enjoy. This game’s graphics may not be as jazzy as CDV’s Cossacks! series but they fit much better into actual play. Combining form with function should be the aim of graphics. The sound effects include the rattle of musketry, boom of field pieces, and the clatter of cold steel. These effects and period music help evoke the feel of the era.
The scale remains the same. Units are regiments, commanders, and batteries; turns are fifteen minutes and hexes vary from seventy-five to one hundred and fifty yards, depending on the scenario. Infantry units have factors on strength, battalion cannon, morale, formation, movement, facing, weapon range, disruption status, and action modifiers. Cavalry regiments are similar but rarely have fire ranges. Artillery has different ranges linked to long, medium, and short distances. Commanders’ ratings differ in very important ways. Each officer, whether they are the overall commander, or the corps sub-commanders, has a rating for Command Radius (the distance their subordinate units need to be within to receive orders), Command Rating (essential to when they have a chance to become activated and if they become activated), and Rally Points to buck up the lads who’ve become aquiver. Overall commanders and corps commanders also have Sub Points to be parceled out to their subordinates to increase their Command Rating. These ratings fall as regiments take casualties. Play is divided into five primary phases: bombardment, command (every fourth move), leader activation, action and withdrawal. These phases are not necessarily straight line. First fire and movement of a leader’s troops immediately follow his activation with enemy defensive fire and assault after that. As we shall see, many choices pop up during all these phases.
Reconstructing a Masterpiece
Prussia’s Glory has five battle groups: Hochkirch, Lobositz, Soor, Torgau, and Leuthen. Each battle group has at least two scenarios, the full battle and smaller crucial points during the battle. The CD also has two scenarios, Bukersdorf and Krezeczchorz, for owners of Dragoon. With the exception of Soor, all the battles took place during the Seven Years War. A detailed explanation of the game’s interface and mechanics can be best appreciated by showing them in action at Leuthen.
The full battle scenario of Leuthen starts after the famous Prussian flank march behind hills to appear on the Austrian southern flank. The Prussian right is loaded to roll up the Austrian left flank. The game starts with the Prussian command phase as no artillery can bombard. General Driesen, commanding a cavalry corps on the left flank, is first up. Selecting him shows that he has six (shown in green) command points to give to his brigade commanders, Bredow Meir, and Krelow, all with in his command radius of eight as shown by a yellow hex outline. Since none of the three is more important than the others, each gets two more Command Rating points to increase their activation chances. When Driesen’s sub-points reach zero, he’s deselected and "Find Next Unit" clicked in the action panel on the lower right corner of the screen until Frederick with his eight points shows up. These points are given to corps commanders on the right to pass on to their brigade commanders. Every commander on the right was brought up to a command rating of six or more to insure the best possible chance of early activation. The Austrian flank must be smashed quickly!
Leader activation comes next. Braunschweig, with a modified rating of eight rolls less or equal to eight against a cyber D10. Had all of his troops been in column or at least 75% of his units in an enemy zone of control (ZOC), his activation would have been automatic. He commands infantry and artillery in the middle of the troops poised against the Austrian flank. No first fire is possible as all infantry is out of range and the artillery limbered. Movement phase comes up with movable units marked with blue hexes. A decision must be made here. Should the artillery be unlimbered in place or moved to the small hills to the front? We decide to move since we plan to also move the infantry up and they would block the guns’ line of fire. Moving the guns is a good idea but means that they can only bombard on turn three due to the fact that unlimbering costs three movement points and the snowy field uses most of the movement points. Trusting in Austrian lethargy, we move the batteries forward to the highlighted hex containing a "0". Braunschweig’s infantry is also pushes forward but the terrain causes disruption. The amount of this is shown by clicking on the "Report" icon in the action panel and selecting the "Disruption" report from the eight options. Units’ disruption points are shown on the map. If it has movement points left, a unit has a chance to recover by clicking on "Recover disruption" from the menu brought up by right-clicking a selected unit or by using the "D" hotkey. This menu is also used to turn the unit, change formation, choose charge or cold steel assault options, fall back or about face.
General Wedel fails his activation. Hopefully, Frederick can give orders to Wedel’s corps later. Hard-charging cavalry commander Ziethen activates next. His position is on the extreme right flank. His corps should hit the Austrians hard so a unit is selected and all units of the corps are selected with a left click. All units move, keeping position relating to each other, further to the right so that the tip of the Austrian position is not only hit but flanked in the rear. Disruption occurs and some of it is lessened. Steady Driesen up north activates and moves his corps forward as a whole to pin the Austrians opposite him.
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