When we hit the beaches we knew it was just the start of a long hard slog. Peering through the gloom I could make out hazy shapes - but what were they? Were they Allied or Axis? It was no good, I would obviously have to use the colour telly...
D-Day from Games Workshop bills itself as "the only true tactical wargame for the 48K Spectrum". As a computer game it's something of a rarity, as its ancestry is the board game rather than the arcade, and although I'd dispute Games Workshop's outrageous-ish claim, there's no question that it's a serious attempt to simulate WW2 combat.
Just loading the beast is a yomp. First load a bit of it, stop the tape, press a key for the scenario you want to play (a choice of the landing, breakout, pursuit to Arnhem, and Arnhem itself!), load deployment data, stop tape, deploy, load last bits.
Fortunately, there are clear on-screen instructions, so it's relatively easy to sort out. The screen display is split into three sections, the main one being a window on the computer's "playing board".
This shows details of the terrain, which consists of beach, rough ground, road, woods, towns, etc, and scrolls over a full map 63 units square.
To the left of this is a window showing the phase you're in and below there's space for details of the unit the cursor is over. I'd say this was a mistake, as there's no useful information in it most of the time, and the main window really is a bit cramped.
The full map of the landing scenario gives a reasonable impression of the countryside around Caen, and you have two ways to populate this landscape. The slow way is for the two players to take turns distributing their forces, Allies at the top of the map, Germans at the bottom, while the fast way gets the computer to do it for you.
This latter can make for some weird results, but considering the historical precedents there's a certain amount of logic in having the opposing forces thrown into combat any old how. They consist of infantry, tanks and armoured cars with the odd extra thrown in, and the objective for both sides is to knock off two thirds of the opposition.
As a victory condition this strikes me as unsubtle - after all, wasn't the operation about establishing a beach-head in the short term, and liberating Europe in the long? The way the map's laid out, however, you tend to be sucked into a slogging match rather than being allowed to use cunning to take towns and road junctions.
I'm also not too impressed by the way combat takes place. The procedure is as follows - first you place the cursor over the firing unit, then over the target, and all being well a little blob chugs its way across the screen in Basic. This isn't particularly slick, and quite often the program decides that things that seem to be in clear sight aren't.
As an experiment I tried using a tank to fire on infantry, and to my surprise it appeared to kill off the lot. Now Games Workshop, with "a decade of wargaming experience" behind it, should know that tank shells are relatively ineffective against infantry. Simulation schimulation.
I'm also not too happy about the face that the game's written mainly in Basic. Some excellent games have been written in Basic, and tactical games of this sort don't really need the speed of machine code, but a little compression might have allowed space for the computer to play one side, and this would have broadened the game's appeal.
That said, it's not a bad try, and if you and a friend enjoy board games and fancy trying one implemented on a computer it's well worth buying.