Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Vulcan'

Rating:5 User: Matt_B

Vulcan was the fourth wargame from R. T. Smith. It concentrates on the latter half of the North Africa campaign, after the events of the earlier game Desert Rats and the allied landings in Morocco and Algiera of Operation Torch. The allied armies now have the Axis forces bottled up in Tunisia, although there's still much fighting to be done. As with previous games there are numerous scenarios varying from short introductory ones to lengthy set pieces.

The most interesting scenario is the battle of Kasserine. Historically, the Axis forces under Rommell gave the, still inexperienced, US first armoured division something of a mauling. However, in the game, it's a fast moving battle with plenty of opportunities for both sides. Other scenarios include the race for Tunis, where the Allies had a brief opportunity to cut off the Axis forces entirely, and the decisive Operation Vulcan, after which the game is named.

There are a number of minor improvements over the interface in Desert Rats, such as the ability to pass over a unit until later in the turn - allowing you to assess the strength and supply of all our forces first - although mostly they share the same features. Additionally though weather and air support become more of a factor. Hidden movement makes it more difficult to plan a strategy and caution is essential for you not to bump into strong enemy units by accident. The computer AI works much better than in Desert Rats as the random factors of the weather stop it being too predictable and the hidden movement serves to mask the worst of its strategic failings.

Overall, Vulcan remains the pinnacle of strategic war-gaming on the Spectrum and, graphics aside, is still the equal of the better PC strategy games today. An exciting recent development was the production of some additional scenarios by hacking the database for the program. These can be downloaded from WoS and include Operation Torch, and the invasion and liberation of Crete.