Jefferson Davis looked me straight in the eyes as he said plainly with his unmistakable Alabama drawl, 'Mister Carnevale, I believe that it is yo' duty to this government here in Richmond to defend these Confederate states as you deem fit with all of the elements placed at your disposal.' Of course, what Davis did not know was that his armchair general had just finished playing a little Duke Nukem 3D. I was not simply going to wait in Virginia for the nefarious Yankees in their blue coats to 'come get some'. Within my first turn, a vast legions of grey-clad 'good ol' boys' and 'Rhett Butlers'from the Mississippi to the Chesapeake were on their way to fulfilling, on the largest scale possible, a massive invasion of the north. While Union Armies are pussyfooting their way into Kentucky, my Confederate forces have already seized Washington, St. Louis, and Baltimore, and my advanced cavalry spearheads (under Nathan Bedford Forrest and A.P. Hill) are approaching Chicago and Philadelphia. Meanwhile, an entire army of southern rednecks is running around somewhere in Pennsylvania and Indiana, causing damage and wreaking havoc. Detroit and New York are next on the list to be sacked by Southern troops...Ha, Ha. Hail to the king, baby!
And that, essentially, is what playing The Civil War: Master Players Edition is like. One can replace generals, mobilize troops, defend each Southern city to the last man, or launch one's own megalomaniac dream invasion of the north. Of course, if crushing rebellious Confederates is your goal, feel free to play under the Union. You will find that the advantages are quite in your favor, and as long as you move some generals around, you are almost guaranteed eventual victory.
The game can be played only on the strategic level but, if one does not want the computer to calculate battle results, the player has the option of directing the tactical sequences as well. Granted, these scenes do look a bit cheesy, and are nowhere near comparable to SSI's Steel Panthers, for example, but they work adequately for a game that is primarily a strategic, rather than a tactical, fight. Another addition is the multimedia resource on the Civil War. There are music samples, an extensive display of Matthew Brady pictures, and an on-line encyclopedia of the conflict. This part isn't done particularly well, but one must realize that most customers buy for the gaming (if you are curious about the Civil War, go to the library).
The gameplay is relatively simple on the strategic level. One simply points at the desired force and traces a straight line between the point of departure and the intended destination, be that a town, city, or railroad junction. The force then takes off at whatever speed the player determines is necessary from a cautious approach to a normal march, to a furious advance. If the force should encounter the enemy, the player is given the choice of whether to let the battle proceed unwatched, or join the confrontation on the tactical level.
At this point, if the computer fights for you, surprises can happen. An apparently vast force can be humbled or an underdog can seize Washington, which is why it is generally best to fight such smaller battles instead of allowing the computer to take the reponsibility. The only problem is that things on the tactical level are in real-time and moving quite fast. Soldiers are running all over the graphic landscape in every direction with smoke, noise, and guns adding to the confusion. Granted, for centuries confusion has been the essence of the battlefield, but for a computer game, it only serves to transform the entire scene into one speedy, unfathomable mess.
One of the main drawbacks of this game are that the graphics are nearly as dated as the Civil War itself. The sound is not great and gameplay on the tactical level is a little strange and confusing. However, it is a decent program. If you really want something good on the Civil War, you might just have to wait a while. Surprisingly, Civil War games are rarely done within the strategy genre, or at least have not been done very well so far. This particular program, while far from perfect, stacks up well against meager competition.