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Star General

Entry updated 8 May 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1996). Catware. Designed by Bill Fawcett. Platforms: DOS, Win.

Star General is a turn-based strategic war game dealing with conflicts on an interstellar scale (see Computer Wargames), much influenced by board and counter Wargames. The design is an expanded version of Panzer General (1994 Strategic Simulations Inc, DOS; 1995 3DO; 1996 Mac, PS1, Win), a well received World War Two era Computer Wargame which adopted many of the conventions of the tabletop form, including a two-dimensional map display laid out on a hexagonal grid. Star General is composed of two largely independent components dealing respectively with space and planetary operations; both systems include the production of resources and material such as food and spacecraft as well as actual combat. The scale is large, with gameplay revolving around galaxy wide wars with an extensive range of options available for diplomacy, technological improvements, and production. The overall feel somewhat resembles that of the strategic version of Starfire (1976), but with more emphasis on ground combat and far less on research and economics. While the visual displays are somewhat limited, the battle simulations are detailed and precise, borrowing many mechanics from board and counter Wargames but hiding the esoteric calculations required behind a reasonably intuitive interface. The credibility of the simulated space warfare is questionable, however; it resembles naval operations in an archipelago rather more than it does three-dimensional combat in interstellar space.

The game is set in the Military SF milieu of The Fleet, the venue for a series of Shared-World anthologies edited by David A Drake and the game's lead designer, Bill Fawcett. This background, however, adds little; the various opposing factions are not particularly distinctive, and their military units seem to owe more to the ground vehicles and naval vessels of twentieth-century warfare than they do to the science-fictional imagination. Compared to other sf war games such as Starforce: Alpha Centauri (1974) or Dawn of War (2004) (see Warhammer 40,000), Star General's fiction lacks novelty. Nevertheless, it is a well crafted game which makes excellent use of its tabletop Wargame heritage, and perhaps the most interesting large scale strategic Videogame dealing with interstellar conflict. [NT]

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