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Note: The original review is in French at this site: Translation by machine translation with some corrections by Jim Weaver. Translation errors are expected.

Gettsyburg Scourge of War

By Benoît Vandewalle Official site: Genre: Battlefield simulation in real time Developer & Publisher: Norb Software Development



While I was afraid the engine and the mechanisms of Take Command would die at the same time as Mad Minute Games, I am glad to see the continuity of the project through another publisher, and I relish diving into the most famous Battle of the Civil War!

The battle which nearly did not occur.

Two years ago I learned with sadness that Mad Minute Games was no longer able to continue the Take Command series while its games were receiving praise inversely proportional to its commercial success. Yet all ingredients seemed to be present: a relatively unexploited time rich in its community of players, an excellent graphics engine (for this type of game!), relatively simple mechanisms to understand, all served by a rich and significant depth.

But nevertheless I think there were three major obstacles to development general public of its securities or to the elevated expectations of the publisher.

First of all battles (1 Manassas and 2) are not the most famous, especially for an audience outside the U.S. Indeed, although the first battle of Manassas (First series title) is known to history buffs to have started the conflict and to have demonstrated the inadequacies of command on both sides, it does not take on strategic importance! This is even more true for the second battle.

Then, the ambitions of Mad Minute were too high. We must know how to face reality, wargames, apart few notable exceptions such as the Europa Universalis series and Civilzation do not interest the general public and are called "niche". They are for those who are not afraid learn detailed rules and are informed about the historical period of the game. Even with the games excellent graphics it could not interest a wide audience.

Finally, and most serious in my view, was the lack of multiplayer! Thus, even in the small community of wargamers, enthusiasm has been cooled by this omission. Strategists like to compete against each other because the AI does not surpass the human qualities and defects.


Now the game's creators have learned from their errors to give us our greatest pleasure. Fortunately, an agreement with another publisher (Norbsoftdev), reduced ambitions (with little publicity) and especially the advent of multiplayer! What this game is above all else is a meeting of ambition with an audience.

It simulates the battle that took place between 1 and 3 July 1863, which has the Union general Meade confronting the famous Confederate Robert Lee and marks the real turning point of the war. The story tells us that as both armies moved towards Gettysburg it was not to defend or take an important strategic position, but to simply go and stock up on shoes! However, 165,000 soldiers fought around the city for three days.

The northerners adopted a defensive position - despite a superiority in terms of strength - and relied on the heights of Culp's Hill, Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top and Big Round Top.

July 3rd, Lee ordered the famous and massive "Pickett’s Charge" consisting 13 000 soldiers against the northern center. But the Union was firmly positioned and repelled the assault, which dashed all Southern hopes.

Although the number of losses was significantly equivalent on each side (about 23,000 injured, dead or prisoners) the South, being shorthanded could not recover.

The author of the game, Norb Timpko, is a specialist in this period and we can be confident that in his creation, all events of the battle are historically accurate with a precise map, specific units, officers, and weapons used.

The Game Mechanics

The game completely in English (no translation provided to date), and plays in real time (it is possible to accelerate or pause solo). It has a score of scenarios set around the Battle of Gettysburg (No surprise) using the historical conditions. The objective usually involves taking or holding positions within a defined timeframe. Moreover, while the player has total freedom of action to achieve their objectives, some events are scripted (to stick closely to historical realism) and these can disrupt the course of action.

The five tutorials (Regimental drill, brigade combat, artillery, division and corps) are very well done because they are both instructive and stimulating. I strongly advise the player to master the subtle chain of command. The higher the command the more indirect is the influence.

The scenarios are chronological and losses from previous battles are reflected in the following scenarios. However, it is not possible to choose one side and stick to it. One is led to play either northerners or southerners.

So I see the battles, not as a campaign but as a system where you have to play to unlock the later scenarios. It's a bit frustrating. I also advise you to go on the Official website forum and get a mod that unlocks completely all of the scenarios (Historical Scenarios Mod).

There are several levels of realism, from the simplest to the "reincarnation" of General Robert Lee! We can thus specify the level of AI, the unit strength, where can we place the camera, and how orders are carried out. We can then choose not only see through the eyes of his Commander, transmitting orders only by orders courier against the AI!

It is certainly very realistic, we saw the anxieties of the officers with a lot of uncertainty, but is it fun for all? Experience will tell me, but being the neophyte player that I am and who could only test the game for a few days, I prefer to reduce the difficulty to the "Normal" level especially for the camera.

The troops consist of infantry, cavalry and artillery and are organized from regiments through the brigades, divisions and corps.

Of course you can issue other orders such as the wheeling of the unit, run, lie, limbering or unlimbering the artillery, mounting or dismounting for cavalry, line, column, double line, skirmish etc.

Unfortunately, with most players being American, it is difficult for French players to find opponents for multiplayer during normal hours of play.

Similarly there may be several levels of command among the players, and you are therefore dependent on orders through the command hierarchy!

Also, it is not possible to accelerate multiplayer games because of the dependence on the host. If the host loses connection, the battle is in the bag!

Finally, it is possible to create your own scenarios based on four existing Gettysburg maps and one other, the Kansas map. It is possible to reconfigure everything with the only restriction being the available choice of maps.

At the heart of the action

To understand the mechanisms, I propose to explain some phases of the game. It is easiest just to take command of a regiment (between 300 and 400 men). To order movement, just double click on the desired location. The regiment can be ordered to form a line, column, skirmish mode, follow the road (In this case the AI calculates the shortest path adapted in theory) etc. Each regiment can wheel left or right, shift laterally or make a U-turn. In the Orders, we can assign behavior (Defensive, offensive, neutral) and position (held at all costs, keep, defend).

A brigade is composed of several regiments, with an officer at its head. When the player controls directly his unit, he can perform more advanced maneuvers as a double line, a line with reserve formations, march column, battle line etc.

To move a unit to a location, the commanding officer is selected and then one double clicks on the desired point. That said, at this time you must set the facing direction, even before ordering the troops to move. To do so, you simply set the direction to be adopted by a simple click. The AI does the rest.

The handling of the artillery uses the same principles, with the addition of the choice of the projectile (solid, shrapnel, shell,...). For artillery to be really effective against infantry you must be relatively close to it to use grape (formidable!) but you need ensure that it is not captured.


SOW Gettysburg is undoubtedly a great game, immersive, deep and complex. It calls for a little longer learning time than the average for other games. The Battle of Gettysburg is probably the most famous Civil War, and we find the typical atmosphere of these battles. I also invite you to view the eponymous film by Ronald F. Maxwell released in 1993 (although the DVD is available for the American Zone).

The animated 2D sprites fit perfectly on 3D maps and give an interesting cartoon effect. It reminds us of the first Total War graphics. Also the interface is pretty smart, failing only to have the ability to configure the keyboard / mouse input.

I regret the thin sound and sloppy textures of buildings. These are certainly not the most important, but a minimum of work would have provided greater immersion.

The highest difficulty setting is really tough, and calls for high involvement. But I reassure all players, intermediate levels are sufficient to spend a few hours as a Yankee or a Rebel officer.

The addition of multiplayer ensures a long life to the game because it involves the implementation of more elaborate tactics.

Conversely, I wonder about the system of activation and deactivation that requires the internet to function. If I install the game on a PC and a laptop, you must deactivate one to play on the other. This means that we must have the equipment on hand, access Internet and keep safe the registration key. If I had not started the test during my vacation on my laptop and then to finish on my PC at home, I would have perhaps not noticed, but in this case, use is painful!

At the end of the day, except for some annoying aspects (activation, atmosphere sound, texture of buildings), Scourge Gettysburg of War is a real success for history lovers and for wargamers. The game is as historical and rigorous as it is fun to play with difficulty changes that are welcome.

The game engine could well be used on other battlefields as Fredericksburg, Antietam, Shiloh or Chancellorville.

Last minute note: We learned that an upcoming patch (perhaps already available when you read this) allows the modification of keyboard commands. Similarly, it is currently possible to change the configuration via the file "... / work / keyboard.csv" by application of a little courage.


The Verdict: 8,5/10

Qualities: • Multiplayer. • Realism: very thorough. • Solid AI. • Interface to give the orders.

Defects: • No true campaign mode. • The calculation of the AI movement (Pathfinding). • Reconfiguring the keyboard and mouse is not possible. • Ambient sounds.

Configuration: • Windows XP, Vista or 7 • Intel Core2 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. GHz CPU • 2 GB RAM • 2 GB Disk Space • 256 MB graphics card DirectX 9.0c +

Picture Captions

During the game, it is possible to get a location map. Confusing and not zoomable, it is useful but not very readable.

The choice of location is paramount. Here a rebel regiment is opposing two Yankee regiments. It is noted in the upper left, highlighted in orange, the distance from the enemy unit. This is very important depending on the quality of the weapons.

When the powder is not enough, a charge can take a position. Attention: fatigue and morale affect these acts of heroism.

The interface for giving orders. Early orders the artillery to fire immediately to support the attack.

Above: The obstinate Colonel Avery refuses or does not understand my orders to advance to the Southeast. He then has 1200 fresh soldiers, and I have a golden opportunity to make an enveloping movement. He will not obey!

Below: I changed my tactics and order him to attack the Northern troops located on my left side, and there he moves smartly and with exemplary results.

The atmosphere of the game is very immersive including with powder and smoke surrounding the units. We can have fun placing the camera to have the prettiest views once the orders are given.

At the end of the battle the front page of the newspaper announces the results. Here, a major victory with 1550 points (Screen 3). One can also see comprehensive and detailed statistics. In my game, General Hays was exceptional, while General Smith was not up to par. Colonel Avery scored very well.