The Blue & The Gray
Edward Grabowski's The Blue and The Gray is a historically accurate simulation of the Civil War. Starting in April 1861, you control either the Union or the Confederacy in this significant struggle and make the strategic decisions that will shape the course of the conflict. The Blue and The Gray lets you create your own armies, name your units, recruit additional manpower if necessary and even train your soldiers.
The game is part of Impressions’ Miniature Series of wargames and its scope is pretty comprehensive. It can recreate all famous campaigns and battles on a map stretching from the Mid-West to the East Coast, from Florida up to New York.
The game begins in July 1861. Not surprisingly, there is a a four year time limit to resolve the conflict. However, the real beauty of the game is that the direction the conflict takes is entirely up to your strategic prowess. Game play occurs on two levels: first, you move your divisions across a map of America in a turn based game at the campaign level: then when two forces meet, a Micro Miniatures battle takes place with the result having its affect on the campaign level.
During the game you can strategically deploy your armies by road, sea, rail or cross-country within an area that extends for the Midwest to the East Coast, and from Florida up to New York. Plan carefully how to divide your forces and where to assign them. To allow armchair generals the freedom to turn the tide of war you make the calls as to which sites are worth defending, and from where, and in what manner, your offensives should be launched. Of course that also means the consequences are yours to bear. Can you, for example, risk leaving a small hostile force alone while your armies fight elsewhere?
This game gives you the chance to rewrite history, by choosing the course that the war will take. The computer uses histroical data in allocating personnel and materiel availability throughout the course of the war. The starting points are therefore true to history. From that point, however, whether you win or lose depends on how you use them.
The game lets you tailor your involvement in the tide -- from exercising broad strategy at the army level, to micro-management at the individual troop level, or anywhere in between. If necessary, areas can be fortified during battles for extra protection. The Blue and The Gray can support armies up to several hundred thousand men, and battles ranging from small skirmishes to the largest conflicts of the war. You can stop fighting at any time to give new orders, regroup, or look at reports to monitor the status of your forces. When a battle is over, lead your remaining soldiers on to new grounds and prepare to fight again.
The Blue and The Gray considerably upgrades the Micro Miniatures wargame engine. Each battle can now contain up to 200 separate animated figures (which in turn can represent thousands of troops), along with a refined development of its point-and-click interface. Terrain and fortifications are also more varied than any previous release. The Blue and the Gray is the finest wargame ever produced by Impressions.
I find The Blue and the Gray to be best suited for an experienced wargamer. Its control interface is simple enough to manipulate, being a series of windows and icons, but the sheer amount of strategic savvy required to appreciate the game may prove too daunting for a casual player. I must admit that the first few times I tried to conquer the South I managed to neatly rewrite history by allowing the Confederate Army to decimate New York City. My forces, dispirited and scattered, were no match for the South and fell quickly. On the other hand, the game can be used by those less experienced because of the excellent nifty tutorial that is included.
Fortunately, the documentation is an immense help, as the game includes a general Micro Miniatures game system reference manual, a technical supplement/tutorial, and a campaign manual.
All things considered, The Blue and The Gray is absolutely top-notch strategic simulation fare. While its control system is not quite as intuitive as the designers claimed it will allow an active wargamer to follow in the tactically deft steps of Ulysses S. Grant or, in my particular case, the daft steps of Ambrose Burnside!