This article originally appeared in Pyramid #4
V FOR VICTORY:
MARKET GARDENDesigned by Atomic Games
Published by Three-Sixty Pacific, Inc.
Retail Price: $69.95
Market Garden is the third game in Three-Sixty's award-winning V For Victory series, the game which has set the current standard for strategic historical simulation gaming.
Make no mistake about it, this is a real wargame. Each unit is represented by a little square icon virtually identical to the little cardboard counters used in paper strategic wargames. You push these little counters around on a hex grid to attack the enemy-occupied territory. No fancy-schmancy graphics or animation here, just units, terrain and objectives. If you want cartoons, go watch Tiny Toon Adventures -- V For Victory's appeal is entirely cerebral.
Now, as a general rule I'm not a serious strategic gamer, so I came to this game with a completely open mind and a genuine curiosity about its capabilities. I can't speak authoritatively about V For Victory's historical accuracy or strategic capabilities, but I can say that I personally found nearly everything about the game extremely impressive.
The game is set on the Western Front in 1944, between the Meuse-L'Escaut Canal and the city of Arnheim. You can play either the Allies or the Axis, against either the computer or another player. (A card in my review copy says that the designers are working on play-by-modem capability, and anyone who's interested can get a free copy of the communications diskette as soon as it's ready by calling a toll-free number. This is something more companies should do.)
Although the setting is fixed, the game is highly modifiable. Not only can you play either side, but you also get a wide selection of variants for each scenario, including which side has air superiority, historical or random weather patterns, and whether intelligence is full or limited. There's even a "Fog of War" option that means that you might have faulty information about your own units.
The most impressive thing about V For Victory to me was the AI. Not only is the computer opponent smart, but the game also provides you with a "computer staff" that will, if you enable the correct options, literally fight the battle for you. Of course, you'll want to make some decisions for yourself. But the "computer staff" is extremely handy, particularly if you want to, say, concentrate on offensive strategy without worrying about lines of supply - you just turn supply decisions over to your staff. On the other hand, if you want to do it all yourself, just disable all the staff options and the whole thing is completely in your hands.
Market Garden offers about half a dozen scenarios. The first two are extremely basic introductory battles, the next few are more advanced, and the final scenario ties all the previous ones together to allow you to play out the whole campaign.
Personally, I managed to cope with the first three scenarios. I won the two introductory battles easily, but victory always eluded me in the third. I think this was mostly due to ambiguous victory conditions. Several times I thought I'd achieved all my objectives, only to find that the computer declared the enemy the winner. Apparently I never found the magic hex that would have allowed me to win the scenario. I often wished for a chart somewhere in the documentation that would break down the scenarios according to how long (in game days) each one takes, exactly what units are (supposedly) available to each side, and precisely what each side's objectives and victory conditions are.
Other documentation for the game is extensive. There's a 32-page Operations Manual, designed to get you up and playing, and there's also a big, fat 128-page Reference Manual chock-full of play and strategy hints. It isn't particularly sparkling prose, and it takes some fortitude to get through it, but making the effort will definitely pay off in terms of mastering the game.
The game requires at least a 386SX with 3 megs of free RAM, which is reasonable given its capabilities, but gamers with older computers should be warned. The game ran just fine on my 386SX with 4 megs of RAM - which was a somewhat refreshing surprise, since these days "minimum system requirements" for computer games are often a joke.
Quibbles: This game won't even talk to your computer unless you have a VESA driver installed, and VESA drivers require an SVGA monitor and card. (If you have an SVGA card, but no VESA drivers installed, the game comes with an impressive number included.) I find it rather annoying that a game this graphically modest would require SVGA. I also found some of the text and icons very hard to read on my 14" monitor, due to their small size.
Although the game is very information-rich, one feature that I would love to see is some kind of symbol that appears in the planning phase above a unit or stack that has already received orders for that turn. It's very easy, as the game now stands, to forget about an important unit for a turn or two, particularly if it's isolated. In fact, it would be a helpful feature if you had the option of telling the game to take you to each individual unit during the planning phase and ask you if you have orders for it that turn.
This review has talked a lot about the few, minor things that the game can't do, and probably not enough about the many amazing things that the game can do. This is because V For Victory's sophistication is not easy to summarize in a nutshell. This game does so many things so effortlessly that it's impossible to list all its surprising capabilities in a review this size. My advice, if you have any interest at all in strategic computer games, is simply to check out V For Victory: Market Garden for yourself. I doubt you'll be disappointed.
-- Chris W. McCubbin
Article publication date: December 1, 1993
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