by M. Evan Brooks


Issue 31

Jan/Feb 88

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A major survey of almost every wargame available for the 8-bit Atari conducted by M. Evan Brooks

Computer wargaming in the United States is a dedicated market; there are c.15-20,000 dedicated computer wargamers, and this points out a problem inherent in the market. While wargame products are assured of a certain sales target, it is quite difficult for sales to reach the broader market. Only Microprose has been able to expand its sales into the gold or platinum levels (100,000/ 250,000 sales respectively), thus, as companies grow larger, they tend to produce less wargames and target the more mainstream efforts.

In the United States, computer trends went from arcade to adventure to simulations. In Britain, the trend went from arcade to simulations, but with the emphasis on cassette products in Britain, products tend to have a relatively short shelf-life and an inexpensive price. This has tended to prevent the more detailed simulations from gaining access to the overseas markets. Hopefully, this is in the process of change.

This reviewer has been engaged in simulation gaming since 1966, and has been involved in computer simulation gaming since 1982. My background includes service in the United States Army (currently, I hold a Reserve commission as an Infantry major).


M. Evan Brooks is well qualified to comment on Wargame simulations being a graduate of the United States Army Command & General Staff College and being currently enrolled in the Naval War College. He has obtained qualifications in various branches of the Services including Infantry, Armor and Military Intelligence. His full time occupation is an Attorney with the Federal Government (IRS ) and he is a Major in The United States Army Reserve currently serving as Operations and Planning Officer for a Military Police Battalion.



This article will attempt to rate every wargame for the 8-bit Atari with which the author is familiar. Many of these game will be converted to the ST. In deciding upon the aspects of a computer wargame, there are certain selections that one must make. Usually, levels of difficulty range from introductory to intermediate to advanced, with gradations between these parameters. In addition, the primary medium must be considered: land, sea and/or air and finally, the level of the simulation – tactical (man-to-man up to company-level), operational (battalion-level to division-level) and strategic (corps-level to theatre army or higher). This review will delineate the games available by levels of difficulty. Within each level, the subject game will be characterised by its medium, simulation level and overall recommendation. Overall recommendations are noted by star ratings following the game title:

0 =  avoid
* =  minimally adequate, at best
** =  buy ONLY if interested in this period
*** =  recommended
**** =  highly recommended
***** =  a MUST HAVE
+=  a rating midway between any of the above

These ratings are the author's own, and reflect a personal opinion as to the 'success' or lack thereof of the product. Additionally, it must be noted that price does bear a relation to rating, i.e. the 'bang for the buck' theory holds true, and often an inexpensive game can achieve a higher rating than a (marginally) better but more expensive product. Following each Level are the Moribund Products – no longer available for sale, but often found in close-outs and sales.


SSI have an agreement with U.S. Gold in this country and most, but not all, of their titles are easily available from any Atari dealer or from many Mail Order dealers. Microprose now have a U.K. subsidiary and their games are, or will, be available at U.K. prices. Most of the other games, providing they are currently available in the United States, can be obtained from specialist dealers such as Strategic Plus, P.O. Box 8, Hampton, Middx TW12 3XA (Tel. 01 979 2987) and Computer Adventure World, lA Charing Cross, Birkenhead L41 6EJ (Tel. 051 666 1132). Other retailers who specialise in import American titles may be able to help such as Ladbroke Computing, 3, Ormskirk Road, Preston, Lancs PRI 2QP (Tel. 0772 21474). Where products are released in the U.K. you will find the price in sterling alongside, otherwise the price in US$, where known, is shown.









This is where you should begin if you have little previous wargaming experience. Jumping in at too high a level might put you off wargaming forever. Get a few of these, learn the ropes and you will soon be at intermediate level.


A tactical contemporary portrayal of armored warfare. With built-in as well as design-your-own scenarios, the game offers a myriad of options. Easy to play, its utility is damaged by its ahistorical lessons learned. LAND


This simulation offers outdated graphics, poor game play, and little value. Since it is a recent release, many Atari owners may be considering its acquisition due to the dearth of new products, but beware – this is not a viable commercial simulation, it resembles public domain material available elsewhere. SEA/AIR

BROADSIDES ***** SSI, £24.99

A tactical simulation of ship-to-ship combat during the Napoleonic Wars. With both an arcade and tactical option, one may add layers of difficulty at his own pace. Quick play times and ease of operation make this a necessity in any wargamer's library. Highest recommendation. SEA


A strategic/economic simulation of the Age of Imperialism. The manual is more difficult to comprehend than the game is to play. Multiple-player interaction is strongly recommended. A cross between the board games of Risk and Diplomacy. LAND/SEA/ECONOMIC

FIELD OF FIRE ** + SSI, £14.99

A tactical simulation of squad-level operations on the Western Front during World War II. Scenarios are varied and enjoyable however, this reviewer is not overly enthused about the historical accuracy and lessons learned from this simulation. Nevertheless, it is a good introduction to computer wargaming. LAND


A tactical recreation of the bomber offensive against Germany during World War II. Realistic but dull, with little room for player abilities. AIR

LORDS OF CONQUEST **** Electronic Arts, $34.95

A strategic/economic game of conquest. Relatively primitive graphics are coupled with a map maker and map options to make a very interesting multi-player game. As a solitaire effort, it is not quite as interesting, but still retains some appeal. Playability is a definite plus here. LAND/SEA

NAM ** SSI, $39.95

An operational simulation of battles in Vietnam, its easy play is marred by its complete ahistoricity vis-a-vis airmobile assault and gunship employment. Enjoyable as a `shoot-ern-up', but laughable as a conflict simulation. LAND/AIR

NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO *** + Krenteck, AT/C, $34.95

An operational simulation of the most famous battle in history, this game has the potential to be great, however, execution leaves something to be desired; historical accuracy and valid lessons learned are a definite minus. LAND

OGRE ** + Origin, £19.95

A faithful recreation of the boardgame, this faithfulness can prove negative. The boardgame at $2.95 was a bargain; the computer game at $39.95 is not. Still, a good introduction to computer wargaming. LAND


A tactical simulation of armored warfare on the Eastern Front during World War II, its lessons learned are not overly accurate. Reconnaissance by fire is overemphasised, and opportunity fire is hit-and-miss. Overall, a solid game, but lacking panache. LAND

SARATOGA * Antic, $19.95

An Eastern Front clone, this operational/strategic simulation of the American Revolution in 1777 is destroyed by marketing technique. With documentation available on the disk flip side, the lack of a hard-copy map (specifically referred to in the documentation) makes the game almost unplayable. LAND


A tactical man-to-man simulation covering famous Old West scenarios (both historical and Hollywood). Primitive graphics detract from this simulation, but it is quick and easy. Historically inaccurate, its quick playing time and enjoyment somewhat make up for its defects. LAND


An operational simulation of the Battle of the Bulge, its primitive graphics and play mechanics have been superseded by more recent efforts and limit its appeal. LAND

TOP GUNNER *** MicroProse, $24.95

Three arcade games in a package; Hellcat Ace (World War II Pacific tactical air) and Mig Alley Ace (Korean War tactical air) offer an enjoyable interlude from true wargaming. Superseded by more recent products, the repackaging at the lower price still makes this an interesting offering. (Note: these games are available separately in the U.K. at £9.95 on cassette and £14.95 on disk) AIR


The source code from Roger Damon's previous designs (Operation Whirlwind/ Field of Fire/ Panzer Grenadier), the game's potential to design-your-own scenarios in history is limited by the failings of the system's mechanics. Still, a novice may well find its flexibility interesting. LAND



Seek them out or not

AFTER PEARL *** + Super Ware, $19.95

A strategic simulation of the War in the Pacific (1941-1945), this game bears little resemblance to history, however, it is fun and quick to play (c. 45 minutes for the campaign). Reminiscent of Avalon Hill's board game Victory in the Pacific, this is recommended for the novice SEA/AIR


Thankfully no loner available, this game of tactical armored warfare is guaranteed to deter the most dedicated player. LAND


A tactical simulation of armored warfare (squad/platoon) over the last 40 years. With built-in as well as design-your-own scenarios, the game offers a myriad of options. Graphics are quite primitive, but the scenarios are quick. Battalion Commander, by the same designer, is the more recent design (with better graphics). Joining SSI's 'Classic' line, it will be discontinued shortly. LAND

EAGLES *** SSI, $14.95

A tactical simulation of World War I aerial combat. The ability to design-your-own scenarios as well as those already extant offer hours of enjoyment, however realism is very low and the slow pace of the game will deter the only mildly-interested. Nevertheless, the only simulation covering this period. AIR

EASTERN FRONT ***** APX, $2.98

An operational/strategic simulation of the German invasion of Russia during World War II. The cartridge version offers both beginner and advanced scenarios. Obsolete by contemporary programming standards, it is still fun to play and a bargain at the price (assuming that one can still find it!!). LAND

FLYING TIGER 0 Discovery, $?

A tactical air-to-air simulation of World War II (Pacific Theatre). The graphics, realism and play value are sufficient to deter anyone from further play. AIR

JAGDSTAFFEL 0 Discovery, $?

A tactical game similar to Flying Tigers, only occurring in the European Theatre of Operations. Just as bad as Flying Tigers. AIR

LEGIONNAIRE *+ Avalon Hill, $19.95

A tactical(?) simulation of warfare by the Roman legions against various barbarian tribes. Quickly learned and playable in a single sitting, it bears obvious resemblance to its more successful ancestor Eastern Front. A good introduction to computer wargaming, as it combines aspects of arcade play and wargame play. LAND

OPERATION WHIRLWIND ** + Broderbund, $?

The ancestor of Field of Fire/PanzerGrenadier/Wargame Construction Set, this tactical simulation offers an urban assault during World War II. In many ways, it is more interesting than its descendants, but it is difficult to find. LAND

SHILOH ** SSI, $ 14.95

This operational recreation of the Civil War battle has been superseded by the computer wargame 'state of the art'. Easy to learn and play, it is not so much a historical study as a 'beer and pretzels' game. Fun for the novice even with its primitive graphics. LAND

WORLD WAR III 0 Crystal, $?

An operational simulation of conflict in the Middle East involving American and Soviet forces. Primitive, obsolete and inadequate, it is no longer available for sale. LAND


Now that you have got into wargaming it's time to seek out more challenges. Some of these will tax you to the full but if you find them too easy, there is always the Advanced Level to come!

BORODINO ***+ Krentek, $59.95

Napoleon's tactical victory but strategic defeat in Russia, 1812. A set-piece battle, the simulation is historically accurate and enjoyable. Premiering on the 8-bit Atari in August 1987, this is one of the few 8-bit releases in recent memory. LAND


A strategic simulation of war in Europe during World War II (both Eastern and Western Fronts). Primitive graphics and poor user interface coupled with extremely poor documentation will deter most players. Yet, the sheer scope of the simulation offers some playability and enjoyment. LAND/AIR

CONFLICT IN VIETNAM **** MicroProse, £14.95 (C), £19.95 (D)

An operational simulation of battles in Vietnam 1954-75. Historically accurate, it teaches more than one would expect; its basic problem is that operational warfare in Vietnam was rarely decisive, and for the gamer looking for clear-cut resolutions, this simulation may raise more questions than it answers. Recommended for those wishing to learn as opposed to those looking for sheer 'playing' fun. LAND/AIR


Space opera, Cosmic Balance I is a tactical simulation of space combat a la Star Trek. Input is via keyboard, and graphics are primitive. Somewhat dated by later efforts, cf. Star Fleet I. SPACE

CRUSADE IN EUROPE **** + MicroProse, £14.95 (C), £19.95 (D)

An operational/strategic simulation of the Western Front during World War II, the scenarios offer more value for the money than most other games. The campaign suffers from a certain lack due to the artificial intelligence, but for the intermediate player, its mechanics and play give this game a high recommendation. LAND/AIR

DAM BUSTERS ** Accolade, $34.95

An arcade recreation of the bombing of the Ruhr dams a la '633 Squadron', this product's graphics and 'feel' make it too much of a game and not enough of a simulation. AIR

DECISION IN THE DESERT **** + MicroProse, £14.95(C), £19.95 (D)

An operational study of the Desert Campaign in World War II, it offers a fascinating study which will teach the intermediate player true aspects of armor desert warfare. While more accurate than Crusade in Europe, its scope is much less broad, thereby delivering less 'bang for the buck'. Still highly recommended. LAND/AIR

F-15 STRIKE EAGLE **** + MicroProse, £9.95 (C), £14.95 ( D )

Is it an arcade game or a wargame? No matter what the decision, it has gone platinum (over 250,000 unit copies sold). Quick to play, multi-scenarioed and user-friendly; recommended. AIR

GREAT WAR 1914 * + DKG, $39.95

An operational simulation of the opening months of World War I (both Eastern and Western Fronts). It suffers from the same flaws as CLASH OF WILLS and does not have as much depth as its predecessor. LAND


An operational simulation of Rommel's Desert Campaigns in North Africa during World War II, it was the first SSI product to offer multiple stacking in the same hex. The concept was a failure; slow and ponderous, its recreation of the African Campaign does not deliver its potential. LAND


An operational simulation of the Normandy invasion, this game is moderately easy to learn (although the documentation covering the actual landings leaves much to be desired). A real player, it suffers somewhat from lack of joystick input. But overall, a solid intermediate level game. LAND/AIR

NATO COMMANDER *** MicroProse, £9.95 (C), £14.95 (D)

An operational/strategic simulation of the next war in Europe, this reviewer is more fond of the game than the designers currently are. While the mechanics are relatively easy to learn, playability in the larger scenarios is limited. Still recommended overall. LAND/AIR

ROME AND THE BARBARIANS *** Krenteck, $34.95

A strategic simulation of the Fall of Rome. Easy game mechanics coupled with difficult strategic decisions make this a real player. Still, the game system itself appears too tactical for such an ambitious strategic simulation. Recommended for the aficionado. LAND

SILENT SERVICE ***** MicroProse, £9.95 (C), £14.95 (D)

A tactical simulation of submarine warfare in the South Pacific during World War II. Superb graphics coupled with detailed rules, historical accuracy and layers of complexity make this simulation a necessity in every gamer's library. Why wait? If you don't have it, you should! SEA

STAR FLEET I **** Cygnus, $49.95

This tactical space simulation is a worthy descendant of the early mainframe StarTrek games. The multitude of options and ease of play make this an enjoyable product, although it can prove repetitious. Despite some reviewers considering this a rip-off from public domain products, this reviewer still recommends it. SPACE


The World War II Southern Offensive in the East carried on DKG's inimitable format, i.e. primitive graphics, inadequate user interface and overall slowness of execution. LAND

One to seek out – forget the rest

CLEAR FOR ACTION + Avalon Hill, $34.95

A ship-to-ship simulation a la BROADSIDES. However, this simulation is broader in scope and allows for multiple ship actions. With potential for greatness, its execution dooms it; primitive graphics coupled with horrendous user interface make this simulation barely marginal. SEA


Cosmic Balance II offers a strategic expansion of the Cosmic Universe through emphasis on economic expansion. Somewhat dated by later efforts, cf. Imperium Galactum and Reach for the Stars. SPACE


A strategic simulation of Arthur's attempt to forge a kingdom out of the British Isles. While introductory in play mechanics, the sheer scope of the game raises its complexity level to that of intermediate. This is not intended as a criticism; the game is a wargame by default –economic ramifications are the heart of this fine simulation. Rarely available for sale, it remains a fine game and a worthy addition to one's library. LAND/ECONOMIC

MIDWAY *+ Avalon Hill, $?

An operational/strategic simulation of the Midway Campaign, this game has been superseded by improvements in computer simulations. Graphics are extremely primitive. SEA/AIR

PANZER JAGD * Avalon Hill, $?

A tactical simulation of armored warfare during World War II, it is obviously dated by newer efforts. LAND

PARIS IN DANGER 0+ Avalon Hill, $?

An early game superseded by newer efforts, this operational/strategic simulation of Napoleon's 1814 Campaign suffers from poor graphics and lack of solitaire playability. LAND

T.A.C.* Avalon Hill, $?

A tactical simulation of armored warfare during World War II. Similar to PANZER JAGD, it suffers from development obsolescence. LAND


This is where it all leads! You need to be experienced, dedicated or masochistic to try out some of these. You also need to have more money, for now you are hooked, the prices seem to go up considerably!


An operational simulation of the bloodiest day in American history, this simulation is historically accurate, although not as interesting as GETTYSBURG. Layers of complexity from basic to advanced offer many options. The basic problem with the simulation is the battle itself – the North outnumbered the South almost 3-2, and since the player is aware of this, a World War I-type bloodbath occurs. In the solitaire option, the player as the Confederate would prove more interesting. LAND

BATTLE CRUISER *** + SSI, $59.95

A simulation covering surface naval actions in both World Wars, this is a clone of the earlier released Warship. No new ground is broken, although this is the better bargain given its more extensive coverage. SEA


A tactical/operational simulation of the major Pacific carrier battles of World War II, this game is extremely slow in execution and its historical accuracy may be questioned in some areas. Despite these flaws, it covers its subject in an interesting way and is worth the effort for anyone desirous of learning about the period. SEA/AIR

CHICAMAUGA * + GDW, $49.95

A tactical/operational study of the Battle of Chicamauga, this game offers a plethora of detail, however, its graphics are so primitive that they doom the game before it gets started. One has come to expect more in graphics than this game can begin to deliver! LAND


A tactical man-to-man simulation of patrolling in World War II. The graphics are primitive, but the details make up for this deficiency to a large extent. LAND


Similar to ANTIETAM, this tactical/operational simulation of the most famous battle in American history is more successful. Tense and complex, it is a fascinating game and a worthy addition to any gamer with the least interest in the American Civil War. Players should choose to begin on the second day for a more familiar simulation; the campaign scenario will generally result in positions other than historical, but it is interesting to see the might-have-beens. Highly recommended. LAND

GULF STRIKE * + Avalon Hill, $29.95

An operational simulation of contemporary combat in southwest Asia (CENTCOM). Detail and historical complexities plus orders of battle abound. But the graphics are enough to deter all but the most determined. The map, in shades of orange and black, resembles a Big Mac run amok or a sick Princetonian. An unworthy conversion of a fine Mark Herman boardgame. LAND/SEA/AIR


A strategic space empire-building game, this is a successor to COSMIC BALANCE II. More detailed, and potentially more interesting. SPACE

KAMPFGRUPPE ***** SSI, £29.99

A tactical simulation of warfare on the Eastern Front during World War II, this game was Computer Gaming World's Game of the Year (1985). Multiple options abound; the only defect is the lack of joystick input. Still, an essential addition to any wargamer's library. LAND


Five additional scenarios for KAMPFGRUPPE; they are not really necessary. Historical accuracy is subject to question in some of the scenarios, and the basic game itself can recreate any options the player wishes. LAND

MECH BRIGADE *** SSI, £29.99

KAMPFGRUPPE in modern warfare on the Central Front. While the game bears an obvious resemblance to its predecessor, the effects of ATGMs and hull-defilade firing positions raise questions as to its accuracy. A welcome addition is the inclusion of smoke as an obscuring force. LAND/AIR


A tactical/operational simulation of the World War II airborne operation ('Monty's Folly'), this game suffers from poor graphics; determining the road network is a lesson in frustration. Also, moves may not be adjusted in mid-play, and overall, the clumsy and unforgiving user interface dooms this simulation. LAND

RAILS WEST *** + SSI, $39.95

A strategic simulation of railroad expansion in the United States during the 19th Century, this is not a wargame per se, however, its economic 'warfare' and educational value make it a fascinating product. ECONOMIC/LAND


A very playable simulation of the Civil War Battle of Chickamauga, this product brings out the difficulties of the confused conflict in the densely wooded terrain. LAND


Similar to CHICAMAUGA, this tactical/operational simulation of World War II desert battles suffers from the same defects. Detailed and complex, the graphics and slow execution doom it as a playable simulation. The supply and air rules are the most complex yet seen in a computer simulation, but sheer unplayability and ennui will deter most players. LAND/AIR

U.S.A.A.F. **** + SSI, £29.99

An operational/strategic simulation of the Bomber Offensive over Germany (1943-1945) on a daily basis. Scenarios range from one month to two years. With German production and industrial devastation the key, it is a fascinating product. Highly recommended. AIR

WAR IN RUSSIA ***** SSI, £29.99

An operational/strategic simulation of the entire Eastern Front (1941-1945), this game is easily learned and played. Sheer size presents the difficulty; despite its size and problems with the artificial intelligence in the later stages of the war, this is an essential addition to the serious wargamer's library. Several other companies are planning Eastern Front detailed simulations, and they may well detract from War in Russia's appeal, however, it is currently the only Atari product with such depth. LAND

WARSHIP *** SSI, £29.99

A tactical simulation of Pacific surface naval engagements (World War II). The play and documentation seem to gloss over much-needed details as to what is (or should be) happening, and therefore the game's main appeal is to true naval aficionados and not to those with a marginal interest. SEA

The final three


An operational simulation of the Battle of the Bulge, this game suffers from poor graphics; determining the road network is a lesson in frustration. Also, moves may not be adjusted in mid-play, and overall, the clumsy user interface dooms this simulation. LAND


A tactical/operational simulation of the largest tank battle in history. Extremely detailed, although user input is via keyboard and somewhat tedious. Overall, somewhat bland as a result of the game system utilized. LAND

REFORGER '88 ** + SSI, $59.95

A tactical/operational simulation of the next war in Europe. More complex than NATO COMMANDER, but suffering from the same defects as OBJECTIVE: KURSK!. Both games utilize the same game system and seem to lack a game 'soul', although this game is somewhat the more successful. LAND/AIR


That's it. One of the most comprehensive surveys of wargames for the Atari ever published. There are certainly a few missed out, particularly those released by British companies. We would be glad to hear from any dedicated wargaming reader with an update in similar style which includes all U.K. games for publication in a future issue.