HANNIBAL by MicroLeague

Reviewed by Kurt Staiger

A Grand Strategy level game set in the 2nd Punic War. You control up to 10 Carthagian armies that travel the Mediteranean basin in search of recruits, plunder and allies. The overall goal is to conquer Rome (with or without elephants) as Hannibal was never able to do.

As a suspense-filled, cling-to-the-edge-of-your-seat, this one does not cut it. However, it can provide some moments of dread as you see a massive Roman Legion set sail from Ostia towards your undefended Hibernian territories and realize that even with it taking weeks of travel you will not be able to reposition your armies quick enough. It does reenact this era's combat - weeks of travel, long sieges, desertion fairly accurately. The question is -- is this fun? The combat generator asks a few questions about the formation and posture of your forces and then you watch two counters (one for you and one for your opponent's army) count down forces. You can escape and retreat but the computer never does. Combat is sheer attrition of forces. Sieges are similar but much slower and the besieged city will eventually run out of food if the attacking army is not killed first. A clearly outclassed city will capitulate.

The travel map(s) are very fine. There are hundreds of places to visit and recruit the problem is you have to visit each one. There is no "go from Rome to Benevenutum" your army can only be told to go to the next place on the road/sea route. When you are fooling around with 10 armies this can be very time consuming. You have an overall map showing places and routes, a zoom option to enlarge a section of the overall map, and a political overview map showing the entire world's political leanings toward you or Rome. The maps can be scrolled and there is a city finder (if you can remember the correct Latin spelling)

There is an economy section where you can set various levels of taxes, move funds between the general treasury, army and economy and support local cities. I only needed to use the transfer from general to army the rest was really extraneous as far as I could tell.

One very nice feature of the game is that it saves the data as it goes so if quit the game when you restart Hannibal you choose "previous game" and come back right where you left off. This is exceptionally handy since my copy is continously getting memory errors and dying. This feature plus its relatively quick reload kept me from returning it immediately.

In a nutshell, the game has memory problems, the AI is not real bright, travel is tedious and long (but essential without traveling you get no men), combat is minimal action, the music is very repetitious and it takes forever to play. So why buy it? Well first it wasn't very expensive, $25 at CompUSA. The graphics are good, the maps are very well done, I think the still pictures are very good. The user interface is OK the major exception being the need for a goto function beyond the next town. The game makes you concentrate on logistics: the need for supplies and men. You move a 30, 000 man army to Carthago Nova on the Spanish Coast darn no boats! guess it will take the overland route did I buy enough food? Hmmm revolt in Sardinia should I stamp that out first or resupply the army besieging Genua? If that sort of minutia appeals to you (and it does to me) this game has something going for it. You have to plan in advance to keep a constant stream of supplies coming and it is that thinking that is "fun" the getting it there is pure slogging.

This review is Copyright (C) 1994 by Kurt Staiger for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights reserved.