Age of Rifles: 1846-1905
Where we examine the rifle and its deadly reign on the battlefield, wargame style.
Age of Rifles, a hex-based wargame, covers ground combat from roughly the Mexican-American War up through the very earliest part of the 20th century. Over sixty scenarios and eight campaigns (three from the U.S. Civil War) encompass an impressive variety of conflicts, ranging from the well-known (Gettysburg) to the obscure (Kangwha Forts, U.S. forces against Korean troops in 1871). While the variety is extensive, and obviously quite a bit of research went into pulling the selections together, there are some historical inaccuracies with the collection, but few in number.
With Age of Rifles’ campaign system there is no carry-over from one scenario to the next; dead leaders and destroyed units are resurrected and positions change; this is particularly jarring when the battles are close together and you’d expect continuity between them, especially the multi-day battles. While some smaller battles are multi-day in one scenario, some of the major ones (like Gettysburg) can only be fought in daily chunks (chunks that, out of the Civil War campaigns, aren’t linked).
Once you get into the actual battles, the mechanics of the game do a decent job of covering the general feel of combat during this period. Units can assume an impressive variety of formations (depending on their level), some can send out skirmishers, and you can set the “reactions” of units to certain variables. Many of these rules are optional – gamers can tailor Age of Rifles to let them handle only what they want to deal with. The AI performance is good, if quite generic and objective-focused. It is impressively aggressive, something many computer opponents have trouble achieving.
Overall, my two main complaints with Age of Rifles are that it feels too generic and not completely polished. Everything is reduced to a database of numbers, so that the Civil War feels something like the Franco-Prussian War with less effective forces. Are you playing Zulus or Apaches or green, over-tired Confederates? Obviously, a system that covers it all can’t be expected to cover it all in specific detail, so it will really be up to the individual gamer to decide.
System Requirements: 80486DXv 66MHz, 8 MB RAM, 35 MB HDD, MSDOS