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Posted on Aug 19, 2004 in Electronic Games

Dragoon: The Prussian War Machine – Game Review (PC)

By Danny Bouchard

Dragoon: The Prussian War Machine is a war game in every sense of the word. It has very good replay value and depth for strategy and realism. Boku Strategy Games and Shrapnel Games have produced a solid wargame, based on a seldom seen era of warfare.

Documentation and Technical:

The game is one CD with a nice image of Frederick the Great. The game is published by Shrapnel Games and is a web-based company/retailer based in North Carolina, USA. The installation is fairly simple and is a typical Windows installation screen and process. The loading up of the game is standard and done fairly quickly, depending on the speed and memory of your machine of course. The system requirements are Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, a Pentium II 300, 128MB RAM, 350MB HD space, 3D Accelerated Graphics card with 32MB of RAM (capable of 1024 x 768 resolution with 32 bit colour) and a Windows compatible sound card. The CD is not required to be in the drive to play the game.

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There is a 52 page game manual that ships with the CD. The manual is well written and makes use of good grammar and describes the gameplay basics as well as an in depth description of what the game does. This game has a slight to medium learning curve, therefore for first time players; I suggest reading through the manual at least once then start a game with the manual besides you. The manual has no images but includes a good sequence of play section.

Interface:

The game has a learning curve, no doubt about it. It is not a typical Windows drop down menu system but has it’s own point and click interface. The left mouse button is used extensively and is fairly easy to remember. The left mouse selects a unit, is also used to issue orders like bombard, attack and move. The right mouse button gives information about the leader or the unit selected.

Graphics:

This game is not a 3D game. It is based on units depicted as infantry, cavalry and artillery. The unit sprites are below average quality but you can’t fault the game for that, as the game is built on strategy much more than on the looks. A nice feature of the graphics is in the combat phases. You actually see infantrymen fire their muskets and artillery fired and the gun crews walk around the gun to simulate the reloading.

Audio:

The sound effects are that of combat, mainly of musket, cavalry and artillery fire, which are adequate for such a game. The game’s background music concentrates on classical Overtures, and includes 4 tracks of chamber music of Frederick the Great.

Gameplay:

Dragoon is a war game in every sense of the word. It has no resource gathering and it concentrates on combat and strategy. When the game is started, the player finds himself on the main screen where he gets to view the main menu. The player then gets to make a choice be it a new battle, to load a battle, to play a PBEM battle or an online battle. He also has access to an options menu to configure the game as he wishes.

Clicking on the new battle brings the player to the battle selection screen where he chooses amongst five battles in which Frederick the Great fought against the Austrians (Saxons). After a choice of battle, this brings the player into a sub-selection of smaller battles. Selecting one of those battles and the game starts.

It is turn based and divided into phases: A turn starts with a Bombardment phase, then goes into a Command Turn phase (only on turns 1, 5, 9, 13, etc…), Command phase, Activation phase, Action phase, 1st Fire phase, Movement phase, Defensive Fire phase, 2nd Fire phase, Assault phase, End of Action phase and a Withdrawal phase. The player selects a unit, assigns orders, then clicks on the end of phase button and watches the action unfold. Each unit represents a regiment of infantry ranging in numbers, a regiment of cavalry and a battery of guns, complete with crew. The game engine makes use of terrain and unit formations modifiers and the tables are available in the game manual. Once the shooting starts, regiments take casualties in men and suffer morale and disruption effects as well.

The closer infantry and cavalry get to artillery, the greater the damage, therefore this writer learned early to outflank artillery and not march right up to it as grapeshot inflicts horrendous casualties. The game comes with historical leader units as well, which affects morale, rally, and command. The scenarios are fairly smaller ones, with each turn representing about 15 minutes of time. After each turn, the player gets to read how well (or bad) he is doing as there is an end of turn report which is displayed. One annoyance found was that it is easy to misdirect units. Once a unit is selected, it gets some getting used to the interface to unselect it or the unit will find itself being moved to a location which the player did not intend for it to be moved. The game also comes with a scenario editor which let’s players create their own scenarios.

A.I.:

The AI was found to be adequate. In one scenario, I played as the Prussians, and the Austrians (AI controlled) were on the defensive. The AI played well, keeping his units behind entrenchment, but at times failed to move up reserves to plug gaps in the Austrian lines even though these units had been activated.

Historical Context:

The game has a solid historical base. It has 21 scenarios divided into 5 battles which took place during the First Silesian War (1740-1742) opposing Prussia and Austria, Second Silesian War (1744-1745) opposing Prussia and Austria/Saxony, 7 Years War (1756-1763) opposing Prussia and Austria. In this day and age, 21 scenarios for a wargame falls somewhat short of the norm. A scenario pack is already in the works and is due for release soon. It is unknown as of this writing what the cost to purchase these scenarios will be. Hopefully it will be minimal in view that there was only 21 scenarios with the original game.

This game has very good replay value and has depth for strategy and realism. This writer must point out though, that the graphics are below average, if not mediocre when compared to similar game systems. But this doesn’t diminish the quality of the game. Boku Strategy Games and Shrapnel Games produced a solid wargame, based on a seldom seen era of warfare. A further plus is that Shrapnel Games ships games in a DVD case with a printed, pocket-size manual.

Armchair General Score: 82%

53/60 — Gameplay
14/20 — Graphics
06/10 — Sound
10/10 — Documentation and Technical

Dragoon: The Prussian War Machine @ Shrapnel Games

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