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Posted on Mar 5, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Crown of Glory – Game Review (PC)

By Robert Mackey

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When I was a young and foolish lad, I spent many days playing that classic Avalon Hill War and Peace. Crown of Glory (COG) by Matrix Games and Western Civilization Software is the newest attempt to recapture the Napoleonic Wars at the operational and strategic levels, and does an excellent job of providing a functional and innovative game that is well worth its purchase price. But be warned, the game’s AI is tough and the game, like many of Matrix Games’ products, has a learning curve.

Installation was easy, and the newest patch (1.10) is a necessity. You can quickly jump into raising armies, making and breaking alliances, and generally enjoying yourself immensely whether holding off the Allied hordes in 1792 or trying to recapture the Empire in 1815. Players can be any one of the major powers of the time (France, Britain, Russia, Prussia, Austria, Spain, Sweden or Ottoman Turkey) and are unlimited in the alliances they can make or break. All of the scenarios in the game are basically just ‘starting points’ based on the situation in that year. For example, 1792 finds France holding off the Allies attempting to crush the Revolution. Even the scenarios themselves allow for some variance, as the length of the campaign can go up to 23 years (in monthly turns).

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Gameplay (45/60): Gameplay in COG is fairly direct. Monthly turns are filled with activity as the player allocates production, trains new divisions (or ships, et al), builds infrastructure, conducts diplomacy, and plots unit movement. Once a turn is ended, all moves are executed, making it very possible that major battles occur in regions where you did not plan to fight – a sort of 19th century ‘meeting engagement’ as two armies clash along their routes of march.

The Army organization screen. Assigning leaders, moving units into Corps and Armies is extremely simple and effective. The Tactical Combat Screen. In this battle, the French are holding a fortress against the Austrian Army near Linz, in clear weather. Day and night turns break up the tactical battles, which effectively are mini-wargames in their own right.

COG, as an operational game, does exactly what it advertises – it places the player in the shoes of the ‘grand operational’ commander to move divisions, corps and armies to the tactical fight. And it is in this tactical combat mode the game really shines. The ability to raise, train, and field your own Napoleonic army, then take it to battle in a turn-based environment reminiscent of a good miniatures game is by far the strongest aspect of COG. In addition, the tactical AI is very competent, able to take advantage of weakened or isolated units, as well as your vulnerable supply trains or artillery. In my own test campaign, I found myself bested by the ‘unfortunate General Mack’ on several occasions in the wilds of western Austria, as fast moving AI-controlled cavalry sped around my glorious lines of infantry to smash my supply wagons.

It is at the strategic level that the game tends to be its weakest. Naval warfare is not given the attention land warfare is given. The naval combat mode, for example, is much like the ‘quick’ combat mode on land-a series of boxes in which ships are allocated ("attack," "defend," etc.). I found that very dissatisfying and would have enjoyed the ability to play a ‘detailed’ battle with ships as well, something like the old AH Wooden Ships and Iron Men would have made this the greatest war sim of the Napoleonic Era.

The Naval Combat Screen. Sadly, naval combat is not covered in the same detail as the tactical battles. In this screen, the small French flotilla is about to be smashed by England’s "wooden walls." The few survivors ran back to France as fast as possible. Economics plays a major role in the game. You have to have a viable economic system to support your armies. Note the detail, down to individual numbers, for potential draftees available to France. You can even increase the draft age to get all those 50 year old slackers back to the colors!

Diplomacy, spying, and trade while an important part of the game, felt shallow when compared to the overall combat model. The AI, while excellent in fighting wars, tended to be a bit stupid when it came to ending conflicts, making alliances, or defending against spies.

Graphics (15/20): The graphics in COG are of good quality and are functional. At the tactical level, units stand out like small miniatures, with Lancers looking like Lancers, Rifles looking like Rifles, etc. No serious glitches noted and the graphics did nothing to slow down the game. The weak point in graphics is the main screen interface; it takes a bit to learn which hot button does what.

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Diplomacy is key to victory. Or, as France, a tool to weaken those alliances that seemingly never stop coming at you. In this screen, only the Spanish are friendly to France. All the rest are in various stages of hatred toward the Emperor. Well, nothing that La Grande Armee cannot solve!

Sound (7/10): The sound effects and music are non-obtrusive and add to the experience of the game. During the tactical battles, the roar of cannon, thunder of musketry, and clash of sabers brings a nice touch to what would otherwise be a replicated boardgame.

Documentation and Technical (9/10): The documentation in the test version was in PDF format and included a tutorial/walkthrough. It was complete, of high quality, and answered nearly any question a player might have. All in all, a good, solid set of documentation.

Armchair General Score: 76%

Pros: Excellent tactical wargame; ability of players to create their own ‘dream’ Napoleonic army and then take it to the campaigns.

Cons: Simplistic naval game doesn’t match with detailed land game; strategic production is difficult to understand at first glance and the game has a steep learning curve.

Bottom Line: Crown of Glory is well worth the price for anyone with an interest in the era. While it has a few weaknesses, these do not overshadow what is a solid and fine game.

Discuss this game on Armchair General’s forums.

Crown of Glory at Matrix Games.

Author’s Information

Lieutenant Colonel Bob Mackey, Ph.D., is a US Army combat veteran of Panama, Desert Storm and OIF, currently assigned as a strategic plans officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is the author of The UnCivil War: Irregular Warfare in the Upper South, 1861-1865, and is an avid wargamer.

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