True story, Jimmy! Quite some time ago now, I watched Mel Gibson's movie The Patriot for the first time. Well, I say Mel Gibson's movie. I didn't watch his copy of the movie or anything. I mean he was in the movie, so, um, never mind! What a wacky thing the English language is, eh? Too much fun! Getting back to the point, I watched the movie and I really quite liked it. In fact, I thought it was great. Excellent, if you will. Even though I'm British, I fell for all the cheap American flag-waving nonsense in the movie and was all too happy to see Redcoats getting shot and mutilated. Plus, the guy who played Lord Cornwallis had a very big nose. So after seeing the movie, I felt like recreating the battles of the War of Independence. But I didn't want to go to any recreation site and join in hundreds of other losers seeking to relive old wars. No! I did something far less dorky! I got a crappy, dated DOS game called Revolution '76, which plays out the whole war in about seven to ten moves. Little did I realise the game would also be highly annoying, and that every attempt would usually see the world ending up with a British States of America.
See that picture? That's the game's graphical rendition of the Boston Tea Party. History lesson time begins now! We're helpfully told "In 1773, American opposition to 'taxation without representation' boiled over in the Boston Tea Party. When the British government punished Boston with the Coercive Acts, Americans reluctantly began preparing for war..." Ooh! Ominous use of dots at the end of the sentence! And I thought the tea party was just a shindig for a couple of Yankees who didn't really care for coffee's only real rival as a hot beverage. Like that joke hasn't been told before! Anyway, this game puts you in charge of the patriots, fighting to make America its own country, free from British rule. Only problem is, if they'd had me in charge, the war would clearly have been lost before it started. Because despite having about 10,000 men under my command (shut up, you perverts!), I still saw several scenes of destruction which are now ingrained on my memory like so much badness. Let me talk you through them and show you how bad I am at computer games! It will be fun! No, really! It will! Okay, it won't, but it sure beats doing anything else right now, so you're stuck with it.
That picture above is the one I saw whenever I went into battle. Without fail! Here's an example...confrontation looms in Boston. The British have 5,000 men. I have 7,000 regulars, with Nathaniel Greene, Daniel Morgan and George Washington all in the field of battle. I also have 2,000 militia willing to take their pitchforks and potatoes and kill them some Redcoats. Guess what happens? As that picture shows, the Redcoats win! And win! And don't stop winning until all American hope has been shattered! Bastards! I think I was doing something wrong in taxing patriots more than the British were charging them. Maybe that explains why, whenever I checked on the morale of both sides, that the patriots were always at "low", while the Redcoats were at "high". Stupid army! Get happy! The problem with this game is that you can't play the battles as such. You can decide how many men to send to their death, but the actual confrontation lasts the entire duration of one click of a mouse button. Of course, after the battle, if there was nowhere to run to (like New York or another location), then I would not only be treated to the scene of the British winning, but also get to watch the next one unfold, which I've caught a picture of.
Yes, if you can't fight, RUN! That picture shows my sappy army retreating like the yellow-bellied cowards they are. And no, I can't explain why my language suddenly turned into that of Yosemite Sam. From an average battle, with 5,000 patriots going at it, destined to lose, against the British, I would see about 3,000 die and the other 2,000 retreat. If there's nowhere to retreat, guess what happens? You have to surrender those remaining men. Which makes it even harder to stage a comeback. It was at this point that I started to get frustrated with the game. There are five main territories - including Canada - and at the start of the game, you control four, with the British controlling Canada. By turn five on most occasions, the game was all but over, with me staging a final fight in Yorktown with, oh, 1,000 regulars against the British army's 20,000. Guess who won? Not me! Although amusingly, as I later found out, if you get control of the Canadian territory, you can make the country an American state when you confederate! That showed them! Unfortunately, because I was so bad at this game, I didn't find that out until about five weeks after first getting it.
One of the most annoying things about this game is when, for no real reason, a little warning screen about settlers comes up. It's the one I've taken the picture above from. You get told "Tory and Indian raids are terrorizing settlers in the northwest. They demand that continental regulars be sent to protect them!" Screw the settlers and their demands! I listened to them to start with, and sent 1,000 troops, thinking that would be enough to beat up the Tories and Indians and restore peace to Happy Town, USA. Was it? Was it fuck. Those soldiers died. So I sent another 3,000. They died. I then sent 5,000, a sure bet. I put them under the command of Benedict Arnold. GRR! The asshat had to go and defect, causing me to lose those 5,000, causing me in turn to lose yet more battles, in turn leading to - have you guessed the recurring theme yet? - defeat. This game also lets you use diplomacy as a means to winning the war; either by getting French support, or by agreeing autonomy with the British government. I tried that. No deal. I even tried agreeing to end the war if pardons were allowed. The British said that would be fine. Was it? Let the next picture be your judge.
It certainly wasn't! Those clowns in Parliament decided traitors shouldn't be pardoned, and my entire army was hanged. That picture above is perhaps the most annoying in the whole game, simply because it's the one I saw most often. Whenever I lost (read: every time I played it, more or less), I ended up with this picture, which is of a patriot being led to his death by being tied to a noose. Fun! When I lost all the battles...DEATH. When I agreed a system of pardons to end the war...DEATH. When the British navy destroyed the entire fleet of American boats...DEATH. When not a single foreign country would offer support of any kind...DEATH. When I surrendered just one year into the war...DEATH. In fact, I was beginning to think death was the only conclusion to the game, and that the makers were too lazy to create a historically correct one where the Americans actually won. I believed that until, by fluke, or some other magic trick, I finally won. But did I win of my own accord? Nope! I got help! Wouldn't you have done if you were sucking quite so badly at this game? So whom did I get the decisive helping hand from? Guessed yet?
Yes! The French! It's just like you read in the history books - the French help decide the fate of the War of Independence by eventually arriving and killing some British people. Truly a success. The minute I managed to persuade the French government to send innocent people over to America to die for a country they'd have no future control over, things started to change in the game. The British army actually started to lose battles. I gained ground, even getting that elusive Canadian territory for the wacky future with an America where Canada is just another state. How did I convince the French? I had to make some promise about securing fishing rights for them to send fighters over. Did I keep the promise when - finally! - I beat the game? No! Haha! That's what you get for trusting an American! You're given a score at the end of the game, which marks things like inflation, loyalty, foreign relations, broken promises and land controlled. The score goes from minus numbers to about 20. It won't surprise you that 90 per cent of the time, I got between 2 and 5, another 5 per cent was actually worse than that, and the last five per cent was amazingly between 5 and 13. What lesson did I learn from Revolution '76? I suck at computer games! Oh, and something about America becoming its own country. I don't know, I wasn't paying attention.
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