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Squad Leader
by James "Bismarck" Cobb

Game Title: Squad Leader
Category: Strategy
Developed by: Random Games Inc.
Published by: Hasbro Interactive
Article Date: November 9th, 2000

Although too late for our Canadian friends, Hasbro kicked off the U.S. Thanksgiving season in fine fashion. With Squad Leader, they have delivered a turkey big enough to make even the stoutest table groan. Over-the-counter drugs can cure the acute indigestion caused by playing this game so be thankful. Remember, it's the thought that counts.

Cooked Rare
Rarely has a game had a more distinguished name. Rarely has all the components for a solid product been present and rarely has execution been fumbled so badly. Squad Leader need not have been a direct port of the board game; an accurate, turn-based man-to-man depiction of World War II combat would have maintained the spirit of the original classic. Although dated, the Soldiers at War/Chaos Gate game engine would have been serviceable. The elements of the soldiers' individual traits, equipment and morale system would have worked if combined properly. The game, unfortunately, seems to consider each of these elements separately with no integration into the whole.

The basic concepts are great. Players can choose between U.S., British and German stand-alone missions or play the ten-mission campaigns of Normandy (U.S.), Arnhem (British) or the Bulge (German). Each mission has regular, believable goals and obstacles so no commando eccentricities are there; just plain missions which gamers often overlook. Squads can be chosen from a screen of forty men with sixty more replacements per side. Specialists such as leaders, engineers, medics, radio operators and snipers are doled out per mission. The mens' load-out can be customized by choosing from accurate, side arms, crewed weapons and explosives. The choice of these goodies is realistically limited for each mission. Having created a crack group that can improve in campaign games, players expect the "immersive" experience touted on the box. If only that were so.

The selection screen shows all those eager recruits.


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