DRAGON Force (Drastic Response Assault Group Operations Network) is a solitaire wargame that puts you in command of a small, special operations force set in the present day, with a variety of missions throughout the world. There are 14 members in your team and for each mission you command seven of them. During the missions some may be killed, they will not be replaced, so careful man management is paramount. Others may become prisoners of war, although they can be rescued later. You are given a selection of 12 missions played as a training scenario (so casualties taken will not be real, for example) or you can commit yourself to the real thing. After the mission selection, you receive a short on-screen briefing - time allotted, background and objectives of the assignment. Missions include rescuing hostages, disrupting and destroying an enemy camp and finding a downed helicopter pilot.
Each member of your force has a range of specialities including anti-tank, close combat, demolition, machine-gunner, medic, scout and sharpshooter. They also include a number of abilities or skills - awareness (helps to spot targets), intensity (help accuracy, sight objectives such as hostages, aids wound healing, etc), guts vitality (his general well-being), strength and luck. You can change the name and nationality of any member ofthe squad.
A positive aspect of the mission design is that role-playing aspects link missions toegether, each active man increasing his personal attributes after a mission and gaining possible promotions.
A detailed weapon selection screen is offered for each member's main load (primary weapon), secondary load (backup), and extra loads such as grenades or additional ammo. Each member has a number of "load points" determining the number and type of weapons carried. Each of the 20 weapons are rated for ammo, load points, range effects, hit chance and suppression effect. Some of the ratings given in the 36-page manual for each weapon appear to be rather wayward at first glance. And technical areas are not explained properly - deteriorating accuracy due to greater range is not mentioned, for example.
However, I've a feeling that more variables have been programmed into weapon performance than is noted because no noticeable design errors appeared to support the dubious manual figures - each weapon performing roughly as expected.
You start each mission on a look-down map display with differing terrain types which has been integrated with some realistic line-of-sight calculations, your team being assembled at a drop zone. Up to five orders van be given to each man per turn. They are many and varied including a Move To command, Carry Wounded, Fire At Will (combat includes a good variety of sound effects) and Heal.
You can interrupt the play at different levels - until an event occurs or until ordered by the player. The game ends when you are killed off, taken hostage or you call for a chopper to take you out. You can do this at any time.
I thoroughly enjoyed Dragon Force, from Roger Damon, a man respected for his WW2 squad level game Field of Fire from American software house, Avalon Hill. His pedigree shines though in this Interstel release resulting in a classy (despite the appalling intro music) and challenging game that will keep you glued to your monitor. I would have liked to have seen a little more variation in mission locations and terrain. However, maybe we will see this in one of the forthcoming scenario disks. How about some inner city, street fighting missions, Interstel?