By Cases Computer Simulations
Spectrum 48K

Published in Computer & Video Games #70


Yankee is a grand tactical game for one player set in the American Civil War and offering two options - the player may either take the Union side at Gettysburg or the Confederates' at Chickamauga.

This is the fourth game produced on essentially the same system by Ken Wright, who has previously used it for his Waterloo, Austerlitz and Napoleon At War. Overall, Yankee is the best of these four games. Sadly, it is still not very good.

The thinking behind the games-playing program is in itself a sensible one. The author argues that an Army commander should have little direct control over formations below him in 19th Century warfare.

Instead, he issues generalised directions to his Corps commanders. The computer makes these commanders "intelligent" so that they will query their orders, offer suggestions which from a better viewpoint they consider more likely to succeed, and can even be given full control of their forces when in the presence of the enemy, to act as they think fit.

All this sounds marvellous. Unfortunately, the program is in no respect powerful or sophisticated enough to make this system work. In a single testing game I saw the following all happen: a Corps ordered to attack an enemy of its own strength send forward a single division (a third of its strength) to be massacred while the rest just shuffled around; a Corps commander ordered to hold requesting permission to retreat, and when this was granted attacked with half his force while the rest moved sideways; a Corps ordered to attack query its orders and say that instead it wanted to attack (?!); and a Corps ordered to advance north-east promptly set off south-west.

The combat mechanism also remains very crude - units simply hack chunks off each other in units of 500 men, with no attempt to advance, retreat or respond to what is happening to them.

The very large random factors which made the earlier games so confused have been reduced, making it at least possible to judge an attack properly. But the combat mechanism still favours the attack very much over the defence, particularly as, if attacked, the computer opponent tends to draw into a defensive huddle which is easily outflanked or by-passed.

All this makes Gettysburgh, particularly at the hardest of the three levels of difficulty ordered, virtually unwinnable, and Chickamauga virtually unloseable.