By Eric T. Baker

The American Conquest series, from publisher CDV, follows the birth and evolution of the United States. The latest game is American Conquest: Divided Nation, which takes the story into the tumultuous 19th century. The game covers not just the Civil War, but also the Mexican War, and even includes the pirates that contributed to the conflicts of the era. The game contains all the famous units from the time as well as the generals who commanded them.

There are 25 maps in AC: DN which allow the game to simulate over 50 battles that are divided into nine different campaigns. Players can take any side, which allows those campaigns to be played through more than once. The more than 100 units are carefully rendered and animated in historically accurate detail. The action includes both cavalry battles, lines of infantry advancing and retreating, and even early trench warfare. Unlike so many games that focus on only the Civil War itself, this game gives players a feel for the full range of conflict in this troubled age.

Avalanche Press continues its award winning Second World War at Sea series with Leyte Gulf. This huge board game covers the great naval battles that took place in the Pacific Theater during the summer and fall of 1944. Not just a simulation of Leyte Gulf itself, the game lets players fight five different tactical map based battles scenarios and 17 strategic scenarios on the three operational maps.

The 2000 game pieces, which thankfully are not used all at once, allow players to fight not just the battles that were, but also the battles that might have been. For example, there are counters for the Japanese battleship Yamato’s sister ships and for the American Montana class battleships, none of which were actually completed during the war, but which are fun to bring into the fight, just to see what might have been.

Another series serving up a new installment is Age of Empires, which is now on its third installment. Like AC: DN, Age of Empires III is set in North and Central America, but takes place about two centuries earlier. While AC: DN is more of a straight up wargame, AoEIII is a real time strategy game where players not only command battles, but also must manage troops, supplies, and settlements. The single-player campaign puts the player in the role of Morgan Black and his descendants. Over 24 scenarios, the player fights and/or befriends Aztecs, French, British, and Simon Bolivar. Multiplayer will let players challenge one another over the internet and allow for community and discussion both before and after matches.

Two points of emphasis in the AoEIII experience are the graphics and the use of “home cities.” For the graphics, the designers wanted the game played in a world that was “real” both in the way it looked and the way it moved. No where is this more apparent than the occasions when a cannon ball strikes a building, causing a part of the building to fly through the air and land in the water with an accompanying splash. Home cities are analogous to characters in a role-playing game. Players get the chance to improve their home city every time they sit down to AoEIII, whether it is for a single or multi-player game. The improved city gives the player advantages is whatever game they play, but it also gives the player a place in the game to explore and manage.

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