Back in 1588, life was a good deal simpler. It was also a lot harder for most people and, to top it all, most nations seemed to be permanently at war with each other. Back in 1588 England was no different and thanks to a whole series of events that gradually led to poor relations between England and Spain, things were just about ready to erupt again.
Catholic King Phillip II of Spain had just about had enough of the protestant Queen Elizabeth and so assembled an armada of some 130 ships at Lisbon with the intention of sailing to England, then escorting an invading army over from Flanders. The rest, as they say, is history.
Duke Medina Sidonia, the commander of the Spanish, did, however, have secondary orders which he was unable to fulfil. The King (so many observers believe) had told the Duke that if things got a bit tricky then to invade the Isle of Wight which would get right up the Queen's nose and put pressure on her to concede to some other Spanish demands.
This one or two player wargame based on the great event dviates from history and starts just as the Duke has decided to invade either the Isle of Wight or a prominent sea port located on the English mainland.
There are two main games: the cut-down version of the game allows the player to fight with fewer ships and for only two days, whereas the full-blown game is played over five days with many more ships on both sides.
Whichever you decide to play, the game system is the same. You take on the role of either Lord Howard or Medina Sidonia and issue orders to the rest of your fleet based on what you can see in the four compass directions from your position on the flagship. To get the hang of the game it is wise to select the option that allows you to view things from other commander's positions or landmarks.
Orders are issued every half hour of game time (approx five minutes real time) by simply typing them in on the keyboard. The orders are then received by either the squadron commanders (Drake or Hawkins) or a particular ship (Victory or Lion) depending on who they were sent to. The distance the message target ship is away from the flagship has a distinct effect on the amount of time it takes for the ship to receive and act on the orders (ordering a ship that is out of your line of sight, for example, is tricky).
The sort of orders available are usually basic - attack, patrol or disengage - but also very crucial. Should Drake's squad go after an enemy squadron using long-range or short-range tactics? The option picked could be crucial to the whole battle. Once you are happy with the orders sent, the game then moves the squadrons, resolves any combat and updates the screen before the whole process starts again.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
No sound (excepth the Plymouth one!) The graphics are very basic too, though the ships are recognisable as ships. Graphics have never been a major consideration in a wargame, as it is better to have functional ones than merely pretty ones, but these are fine (although the update is not the fastest seen).
There is only the one scenario, which limits things, but that said, the gameplay is complex and will take you a long time to play, and even longer to master. The two player option really does add even more lasting interest.
Unless you spend a lot of time with this game, you are not going get the best from it. Work needs to be put in during the game and unless you are a real wargame fan you are better off looking for something else. If you are a wargamer though, you will enjoy the chance to fight a decent sea battle and it is well worth taking a look at for that reason. It is not as good as the earlier game Borodino, but it is a nice change and certainly no disappointment.