ONLY a few occasions in the history of mankind have the massed armies of two nations met head to head in pitched battle, most of them in the last century. One such occasion was the battle for Kiev in 1943.
With the defeat of the German army at Kursk during the summer offensive of 1943, the Soviet forces pressed home the advantage and pursued their enemy all the way to the Dneiper river.
Here the Germans hoped to regroup and re-equip their troops before the inevitable bombardment by the Soviets during the coming winter. Stavka, the Russian high command, had other ideas.
So the scene is set for one of the most desperate and potentially decisive engagements of World War II. Can the ruthless and famed German 42nd Korps, nicknamed Fire-Brigade, turn the tide of the Russian offensive?
Three scenarios are provided, picking up the historical action on progressive dates throughout the winter, effectively deciding how long the game will last. Each turn is a day in game time. Orders are given to your troops via a complicated system of icons along the bottom of the screen, the sort you have to look up in the manual every now and then to make sure you know what they mean.
Orders are given to the korp commanders, who will then organise their troops in the way they think best to achieve their objectives. This means that a great deal of your overall strategy depends on your front line commanders, which might not be such a bad thing - after all, most of them are veterans of several years of campaigns.
On the other hand, some of them are useless. Remember, you can transfer units to other korps, so if you find a really bad commander just leave him with a couple of Baldricks and move the good troops elsewhere.
When you have finished your turn the computer will go into the 24 hour game turn. That's 24 hours in game time, not in real, lunch or Greenwich Mean time, though you may be forgiven your mistake because there doesn't seem to be much difference.
If you decide to go away and make a cup of coffee in this game, you can afford yourself the luxury of grinding the beans, percolating it, savouring every last drop and then have another two or three cups before it's your turn to go up to bat again. There is an option for occasional battle noise to let you know that things are still happening.
Actually the reason it takes so long is because it insists on animating the map window, with all the units matching about and flashing and blowing up. This would not be so bad but for the fact that the window updates are so slow, a condition which seems prevalent on games originally written for the Mac. Balance of Power immediately springs to mind.
This incredibly slow response time becomes unacceptable when it comes to giving orders. Changing the standing order for a unit? Click on its icon, wait up to five seconds while the map is redrawn with the selected unit inverted, then select your target. The scroll bars for seeing the rest of the map are just as annoying. Where can all this wasted time be going? Perhaps this is why the Germans lost.
Fire Brigade needs 1 meg to run but doesn't seem to be doing much wit it because in several areas it is less than strategy games running on vanilla Amiga.
High on realism, excellent documentation, but low on playability.