Blue and gray, brother against brother, father against son; this was what the Civil War entailed. However you call it, the Union versus the Confederacy was a devastating conflict that tore families apart. As a war game, it brings history to the forefront and creates the "what if" factor.
Matrix Games, publisher of Forge of Freedom brings all the breadth and depth of that era right to your computer. Since I had a smattering of interest during my school days reading about the history of the war between the states, I was eager to try out this game and see for myself how realistic it was.
Forge of Freedom brings you economic, command and control, development and battles. The three settings go from easy to detailed, which adds more decisions that affect the armies under your control. Economy will affect how you handle money, labor, troop builds and development in each city you control. Command and control affects the morale of your brigades, depending on the generals that influence them. Development controls what buildings can be produced, which influences the economic end. Last are the actual battles, which can be run simple and quick, to very detailed lengthy battles in which you control the actual brigades.
You can adjust the level of action. Do you want fog of war? Click a box. More or fewer generals? How about fewer or more buildings to develop? Just click a box to tailor your gaming style. The playing area is one where all the major states are portrayed. Each state is broken into regions that are controlled by opposing sides. Important cities — those that can also be controlled by one or the other side — are also shown. Your starting armies and individual brigades are positioned as garrisons, divisions or corps. Naval fleets are represented as anchors with individual ships making up those fleets.
One thing I found hard on the eyes is that brigades lumped together are represented by very small green squares. Eye strain can easily occur if you play for long periods of time. Brigades are formed in cities, and this depends on how many citizens are available. They can only be created if you have enough labor, money and other factors that control what type of brigade you want. Mainly, infantry, calvary and artillery with ship building if you want more detail. You can assign generals to any part of your army, and they influence moral, experience and leadership abilities. Depending on how simple or complex you want your game, additional factors will apply to the quality of the troops you are fighting.
Economy is dependent on how well-developed your cities are. Do they have factories, horse farms, housing or one of many different buildings that help your labor and costs? Do you intend to build cavalry, artillery or create divisions? Starting in 1861, builds are slow, since you must decide what city will produce what. If you want more money, what will you sacrifice? Will it be labor, horses, construction or other things?
Command and control mainly controls the regions or conquers unfriendly cities. Depending on the city type, points are awarded that affect which side will win. The same goes with major battles. Speaking of battles, you can have a simple fast battle, to symbols representing the actual troops to detailed representations of actual infantry that move across the field of battle. I liked this portion of the game, because your decision-making is varied so that you can flank, attack from the rear, entrench or control small forts. Although, these battles can get quite lengthy if entire divisions are involved.
Each brigade is made up of roughly 3,000 men, give or take a few hundred depending on losses. Divisions are made up mainly of three brigades, and corps are made up of mainly of three or more divisions. This is just a general give or take and not a strict rule of thumb. I've had divisions with two or four brigades. What I forgot to do when constructing a division is to assign brigades to it, since it is only a symbol without actual troops. The same goes for creating a corp, you need to assign divisions to the symbol.
I can go on and on about what the individual icons and symbols can do, but you might as well as read the manual, because it gives a complete, detailed idea of what makes up this game. What I can say is that this is a lengthy game, and you'll want to save often, since you can't play this in one sitting, especially if you go into the detailed combat. In my case, one battle alone took over and hour to complete. This involved 12 divisions from both sides dueling away. What I found nice was the eye candy as the longer a brigade was fighting, it would become obscured with smoke, making identification harder. This had the effect of reducing visibility, which affected factors on what causalities were inflicted.
I was dismayed that economy was very slow to build. The problem was not so much money or labor, but trying to construct additional troops. In most cases, I could only build one brigade per turn. You have to remember that if you're building a factory, you may not have enough to build anything else that turn. Progress is very slow in Forge of Freedom and can drag, since turns are monthly and points are awarded dependent on a number of factors, including cities captured.
I wasn't much of a fan on the quick combat, either, as there is only minimal control on what you can do, and even if you have the greater number of troops, you still can end up losing because of moral problems, or not having a general, or a lousy brigade commander. On the whole, I was pleased with playing the game as it encompassed more then just a single battle but the whole aspect of the war in general. If you are a Civil War fan, giving this game a try may be your cup of tea, but I don't recommend this for the player who wants to finish quick.
My knowledge of the industry mostly evolves around beta testing games, such as Earth & Beyond from EA, Saga of Ryzom, and companies like MSN and Acolade. Self taught web design is another interest I have. Family life is entertaining at times. It also can get weird as well, after you have been married 31 years.