Classic Game Review: Guns of Fort Defiance

In GUNS OF FORT DEFIANCE the player commands a gun crew which protects a partially unfinished American stockade from the onslaughts of those imperialistic “lobster- bellies” in the War of 1812. The player may be faced with artillery, cavalry, or infantry in making his courageous (defiant?) stand. The game is simple in game mechanics, but has some wicked facets to master. There are several interesting 7.62×39 ammo for sale variables which keep this from being just another arcade game. First, there is a handicap. This number, ranging from the simplest (1) to the most difficult (63 on the Apple, 64 on others) determines how difficult the scenario will be in terms of ammunition available (type and amount) and casualties needed to inflict for a route.

When the player routs the enemy, the handicap is increased and, of course, when the player’s crew runs away, the reverse is true. Although I haven’t gotten beyond 53 yet, the computer does seem to figure in how quickly and efficiently one deals with a given situation as it revises the handicap after the conclusion of each scenario. This is a feature to keep the game challenging, long after the basics are down pat. Second, one of the most important decisions for a gun commander to make is selecting which type of rounds to fire. The basic ammunition is ball and canister. The program also has allowances for double canister.

Beyond these basic ammo types, the player may opt for spherical case or shell ammunition. These last two types add another variable -fuse length. One can choose the right ammo and range and the wrong fuse length will still produce negligible results. The player can use these ammo types in conjunction with one another to a good strategic advantage. For example, the player may fire the more readily available ball ammunition until he finds the range and then switch to the more effective, but less plentiful, spherical case ammunition. Further, experience soon teaches one that ball ammo is not very effective in counter artillery fire and that it is foolish to wait for cavalry to reach double canister range. Finally, the gun commander must determine range and deflection (i.e. aim). As the handicap increases, this seems to be more and more important.

The cavalry, especially, have a tendency to be able to close range faster than my befuddled fingers can type orders. Hence, one often has to think ahead in terms of range estimation. The “Apple” version has some interesting differences with the basic game version. One of the most valuable is with the infantry attack. When your fire is effective enough to endanger the morale of the infantry, they halt, dress ranks and fire off a volley. This develops a smoke screen which disrupts your aim for two to three shots. Then, when you do successfully rout the infantry, the figures run away, leaving muskets and packs behind them. The smokescreens enhance the play of the game and the graphics enhance the joy of winning. Another interesting “Apple” graphic is the ability to adjust the tint so that the player may fight either British (redcoats) or American (blue coats) troops (Anglophiles take heart!) Graphics aside, the Apple enables players to take turns and keep their handicaps up-to-date by repeating the briefing prior to each game. Also, the audible beep when a shot effectively hits the enemy howitzer is most helpful.

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