Charge of the Light Brigade logo

The Charge of the Light Brigade is set in 1853 and pits the British against the Russians. It uses the same control and presentation system as its predecessors Rorke's Drift and Cohort), one which completely dispenses with flashing squares, movement phases and lists of numbers in favour of little animated characters who march around the map beating each other up and generally looking very warlike. Call it gimmicky, but the effect this achieves is superb, and shows most other wargames up to be the archaic crap they really are.

The action can be interrupted at any time, allowing you to assess the situation and give orders to your troops. Unfortunately, this is the point at which Light Brigade loses most of the marks it gains for presentation.

Most of your orders will be concerned with moving troops, and over long distances this can only be achieved by giving the general direction (from eight possibilities) you want them to move in, hoping they pass somewhere near their intended destination and remembering to stop them when they reach it.
There is an alternative method which works by pinpointing a specific destination, but this can only be done over very short distances, which isn't much use.

The other main snag crops up when the two armies clash. As soon as the first unit in a group meets the enemy, it starts fighting while the rest either mill around looking confused or just stand there dumbfounded. You're expected to tell each individual unit exactly what you want it to do, a pretty time consuming task when you've got about 200 of the blighters to play with. Surely some form of artificial intelligence could take over when opposing units got within a certain distance of each other?

On top of all this there are numerous minor irritations, such as an erratic response to mouse clicks, and the hopeless method for scrolling around the map.

It's a shame, because the frustration these problems cause just about ruins an otherwise innovative and entertaining game. It's great fun to play around with and watch, but attempting to put serious battle plans into action sadly isn't really feasible. This is definitely the way Amiga war games ought to be heading, and if the delightful presentation can be mixed with a more convincing style of gameplay, the old days of substandard wargames, could be coming to an end.

Charge of the Light Brigade logo

From great military disasters, great patriotic propaganda is made. And so an appalling blunder which resulted in British cavalry charging a Russian gun battery led Alfred, Lord Tennyson to mythologizing the incident in poetry.
Of the 270 men of the Light Brigade who started out to ride the one-and-a-quarter miles to the guns, just 50 made it. The bravery was of the highest calibre. The carnage was appalling.

The setting is the Battle for Balaclava in 1854, part of the Crimean War, where 25,000 Russian troops attempted to take control of the area from an out-numbered Allied force of British, French and Turkish forces.

The basic aim of the game, depending on which side you take, is for the Russians to take control of the area and for the Allies to repulse the Russian advance and retain control of Balaclava and the Causeway Heights.

The four main parts of the battle are covered: The Thin Red Line, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Charge of the Heavy Brigade and The Battle of the Redoubts. The battlefield covers an area of six by three miles over which you can control the destiny of more than 40,000 men, 14 allied troop types and four Russian. Each type has five attributes - attack and defence strength, missile power, morale and number of men in unit.

Troops are displayed by animated graphics. Impressions call them 'exquisite'. I wouldn't go that far, but they add to the atmosphere of battle. Players can also access tactical and strategic maps to plot and chart the course of the battle.

I have never much patience with war games in the past, but Impressions have made a very accessible strategy game. Utilising the same game system as used on the highly acclaimed Rorke's Drift, Charge of the Light Brigade isn't instantly satisfying. You get out what you put in. And that may take some time.