Universal Military Simulator 1 logo

Price: £19.99

Universal Military Simulator (as it is known in the trade) takes a giant leap away from the traditional boardgame style wargames, and adds a third dimension to the proceedings giving a new feeling of depth and realism to the simulation.

The map can be viewed from any of eight different compass directions. These are there to help you view the battle from a clear viewpoint. After all, you would not want to miss all the action because it happens between two mountains.

The map is fully landscaped with mountains, hills, valleys and trees, as well as cities towns and landmarks. The different forms of terrain affect how the battle goes greatly. A unit of footsoldiers is going to move a lot more slowly going up a hill than they are when travelling across a plain. The same goes for forests.

The game is controlled via a menu bar at the top of the screen and a pointer. From the menu you can choose your viewpoint, zoom range (normal for a full overview of the war, zoom for a medium close-up of an area, and extreme zoom for an exact picture of individual battles), give orders to your units, select ranged attack, swap sides, and even alter screen colours. Almost anything, in fact.

As well as a selection of pre-designed scenarios that come with the game, you can design your own scenarios. The game designer is held on a separate disk, and it is a good idea to make a backup of the original, as you have to do a lot of saving out.

To create a scenario, you have to do three things, most important of which is creating a map. To do this, you highlight an area on the map you want to alter, and then select what you want to put in it. You have a wide choice from small hills to large mountains and forests. You can even put in a town or two. Once you have the map you want, you save it out and then put together your army.

You are presented with a large group of tiles, each depicting a different type of unit, and you must first select which type of unit you want. You can then enter all the relevant details, such as title of group, speed, strength and overall efficiency.

UMS is a highly comprehensive package, with a lot in it to be implemented. That said, it is still remarkably easy to pick up, and in not time at all, you will be creeping through the jungles of Vietnam, the barren wastes of Bognor Regis, or merely trying to get into the office and come up with a feasible excuse as to why you have not done your work.

Rainbird promise faithfully that, believe it or not, a C64 version will appear sometime next year, so all you 8-bit owners, don't despair.