By Eric T. Baker

The Battlefield series of games from Electronic Arts brings large- scale, realistic multiplayer combat to the PC. The simply named Battlefield 2 is the latest release. the bad news is that it requires a PC with at least a 1.7 GHz Pentium 4 or an Athlon XP or better, plus the PC must also have at least 512 MB of RAM and a video card with at least 128 MB of its own RAM.

Here is the good news about Battlefield 2: modern warfare, integrated battlefield information systems, realistic ballistics, combined-arms, multiple roles within vehicles, Arabic and Chinese spoken by the two “not America” factions, Vulcan defense cannons and surface-to-air missile batteries, zodiac attack boats, fast attack vehicles with browning .50 cals and 7.62 M60s, Cobra gunships, Hokums, VTOL Eurofighters, foliage, maps that scale to the number of players, and friendly fire damage enabled. For players with the necessary hardware, it simply isn’t possible to find a better action simulation of modern warfare from a first-person perspective.

The forms of war games keep evolving. Chicago’s Wizkids, best known for their collectible miniatures games, have released Pirates of the Revolution, a constructible strategy game. Wizkids sells the game in $3.00 packs containing cards for tracking personalities and events, as well as ships the player can punch out and assemble.

Set in the 18th century, Pirates uses historical ships; characters from Spain, England, France; and various nonaligned pirates, in addition to the American ships, primarily privateers, of the Revolutionary era. John Paul Jones is in the game, of course, as are ships like the five-masted United States and the four-masted schooner Saratoga.

While based on history, Pirates contains some fantasy as well. It is definitely more of a game than a straight simulation. Thus, it has rules for shipboard fires, a huge concern in an era of wooden ships, but also has events for more mysterious things, like the occasional mermaid. Each pack contains a complete set of rules, a die, a crew or treasure card, an island/terrain card, and two ships or one ship and one fort.

Another portable game/simulation is Namco’s Real Time Conflict: Shogun Empires for the handheld Nintendo DS. While not a specific simulation of any of Japan’s historic wars, the game is based on the units, equipment, tactics, and terrain of the Japanese feudal period. Players take the role of one of two brothers. In the manner of RTS games, they then capture territory and build armies. The player then pits the armies in battle to capture more territory and so on, until finally the player can take the title of Shogun. Play is against the AI or against up to seven other players using the DS’s wireless networking feature.

Built from the ground up for the Nintendo DS, Shogun takes advantage of the handheld’s two screens to display the battle on one while letting the player issue orders via the graphic interface on the touch screen below. Players can easily give orders, change formations, and select units, allowing for clean and organized battles never before possible on a handheld.

Besides the main battles, the game offers touch screen mini-games, such as castle sieges and sea battles.

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