Horse and Musket Volume 1 – Frederick the Great
Available from Slitherine/Matrix Games
Horse and Musket, volume 1- brings to the computer a re-creation of the battles of the Prussian War machine of Frederick the Great. The graphics in this game give the impression of an on-screen replay of a miniatures game. Each unit is maneuvered separately after the activation of the associated leader. The game is composed of some 47 scenarios, varying from an Introductory scenario to 12 Expert scenarios involving all types of unit and some complex tactics. The Introductory scenario is of the Battle of Pilgrimshain between the forces of Prussia and Saxony. This battle is an all Infantry fight with Artillery support. Its introductory status is to allow the player to get into the game in a situation without cavalry, or any complicated tactical situations.
The scenarios are distributed among eleven campaigns and not in order of difficulty, so that the player has to look for the scenario he wishes to play. The Introductory scenario (Pilgrimshain) is supplemented by 11 Beginner scenarios. These are slightly more complicated and contain more units for the player to maneuver. The opening screen gives to the choice of playing the game, going to the 90 page manual, the game editor or the Matrix site for game updates. Clicking on play moves you to the screen where the player chooses a new battle, loading an existing file, play e-mail turn, a choice of options and so forth. Selecting a “New Battle” brings you to a screen with a list of the campaigns on the left, below which is an overall explanation of the campaign. To the right is a layout of the battle you will select and below the panel where you select how the sides will be played.
Selecting one of the campaigns will drop to the list of scenarios for that campaign. Again the lower box gives the explanation of the battle selected, including its degree of complexity. The diagram in the upper right box shows the forces involved and the layout of the opposing positions. The lower box is for the selection of Human player, computer, e-mail opponent or online game. After selecting your scenario, you view the battlefield; you will note the position of flags behind the enemy lines, or in neutral territory. These flags are strategic objectives, which need to be captured and held during the course of the game. The Victory conditions are highly dependent on the acquisition of these objectives.
The sequence of play for each game is first the Bombardment Phase. This phase allows any artillery unit with the line-of-sight and range to fire on a unit of the enemy force. After the exchange of artillery fire, the phasing player gets to activate one of his leaders and the units under the direct command of that leader. Activation is not a foregone conclusion, but is the subject of an off-board “die-roll”. If the activation is successful, any unit under control of that leader can be moved. If this move brings the unit within range of an enemy unit an exchange of fire and close combat will result. This sequence begins with the unit approached firing defensively. The next phase is the offensive fire from the moved unit. Close combat than occurs with both units. Multiple units may attack the same enemy unit.
When sufficient casualties are caused to a unit it will retreat. The retreating unit will move in the direction of the friendly baseline. On the next activation of that leader a rally attempt can be tried as long as that unit is in command range of said leader. Should a rally attempt not be feasible, the unit will continue its precipitous retreat off the board. To complete the Victory in any scenario there are certain strategic points which must be captured and held by the winning side. These points are designated by flags shown on the field of play. When your side takes over possession of the disputed hex, the flag changes color. This is only a thumbnail sketch of this amazing game. I leave the full exploration of this game to the purchaser.
There is also a scenario editor in this package, which allows the player to create his own scenarios, or to modify the existing scenarios. I recommend this game to any and all gamers who are interested in 18th century warfare and especially in the campaigns of Prussia and Frederick the Great. The 47 scenarios included cover the most important of the battles fought by Prussia, but with the scenario editor, many lesser battles and skirmishes can be re-fought. This system is applicable to other wars during this period up to and including the Napoleonic Wars and I would like to see them in the future. I cannot stress my recommendation of this game and hope you will feel the same way. Happy Gaming.