Brigade Combat Team
By Michael K. Robel
Brigade Combat Team (BCT), by PROSIM, is one of those products that come along from time to time as a result of the developer fooling around in his garage. In this case the developer is US Army Captain Patrick Proctor who has come up with a dynamite product that portrays modern land combat in a fashion worthy of the most expensive Department of the Army simulations. To play BCT is to have an understanding of what Army units go through while playing JANUS and other Army simulations. Like TACOPS, it is a game of battalion and brigade combat modeled at the section level, but it has some definite differences.
BCT is a solitaire or two-player game that runs on Windows 3.1, 95, or 98 without any problems, requires at least a Pentium 133, and is nearly bug-free. The player can play either US or OPFOR forces or one and one with another player in scenarios ranging from home station training at Fort Hood, to battles at the National Training Center, to deployments in hot spots of the world today such as Bosnia, Cuba, or Iraq or even Kansas. Historical engagements from Desert Storm and various training exercises are also included.
Fig. 1. Zooming on in Bosnia and displaying the database entry for the AH-64 helicopter. BCT uses Multiple Integration Laser Engagement System (Miles) values for probability of kill instead of munitions penetration ability versus armor thickness.
The games Artificial Intelligence is extremely challenging and can be counted on to give a solitaire gamer a varied look, so the game has a lot of replay value. In fact, just because you win a scenario one time, does not mean you will win it the next time you play it. Network play is stable and can make for a thoroughly enjoyable (and possibly humiliating) experience.
Units in the game include the 1st Cavalry, 25th, 82nd, and 101st Divisions, all three of the army's active duty cavalry regiments, and various OPFOR units. Vehicles in the game include the M1A2, HMMWV (armed and unarmed), HEMMTS (some with the Volcano Minelayer), M109A6, the OH-58D, AH-64D, FIST-V's capable of lasing for precision guided munitions, counter-battery radar, T-72, T-90, BMP-3, SU-25, MI-24, logistics vehicles, and many others.
The game takes place on realistic detailed contour maps of the area, that place a premium on map reading and the players ability to see the battlefield. Some upgraded scenarios also include forest, urban areas, roads, and water obstacles. This is a recent upgrade to the game and really jacks up the difficulty level on those scenarios where it has been implemented. Color maps are also available through a free downloadable patch that I strongly recommend; it makes the game much easier on the eyes, at the cost of running the game a little slower. The map supports three zoom levels, the first is about 1:250.000, the second (and most used) is 1:100,000, and the third is at about the 1:25,000 level, which is most useful for infantry actions or negotiating obstacles. A preview map is also provided to support quickly moving around the battlefield.
Fig. 2. Moving across the line of departure, looking for bad guys…"Give me a victim."
Icons are the traditional friendly blue icons and enemy red icons. As an added twist, units that are spotted, but not identified, are yellow. As such, they can have artillery fired at them, but not direct fire. This feature is a little frustrating, because you know darn well that those yellow icons are enemy. Once spotted, units automatically engage in direct fire, unless they are placed in a "hold fire" status, which is most useful in defensive scenarios where it lets you deliver a massive volley when ready. (Remember to use the pause button to freeze time so you can place your units in fire status.) I would like to see the ability to develop a fire plan for firing artillery preparations and storing targets for quick use as well as direct fire Target Reference Points. I would also like to have the ability to right click on an enemy unit and then be able to directly call for fire on them without going through all the above steps.
Various size icons are supported, but this is less useful as the larger sizes mostly tend to obscure the map. If you are a member of the bifocal brigade, it is better to just change your screen resolution. Vehicle icons are tiny silhouettes of the vehicles they represent, as can be seen from the screen shots. I would like to see NATO icons, but this sadly is not an option. A small library of sounds completes the battlefield environment.
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