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Game #37 : The Battle of Zeighty (1982)

It looks like JMG Software International is more proud of its name than of its game.

Commander-in-Chief ? But I am only a Lieutenant !

Easy to solve. I appoint you General !

But why ?

Well, all our other generals deserted or were executed. You are our last hope !

For a second there I got excited thinking this was RuPaul wishing me “Condragulations” on Drag Race. But this reality show took a sinister turn pretty quickly.

The Battle of Zeighty was released in October 1982 by the Canadian developer George Geczy, published by the company he founded: JMG Software International. JMG Software only released four other games titles, all for TRS-80 :

  • Exterminate (1982), a shoot’em up,
  • Nukliex (1984), another shoot’em up,
  • More famously, Supreme Ruler (1982) and Supreme Ruler Plus (1983), a licence that was revived with success 20 years later by Geczy with Supreme Ruler 2010 (2005) and then continued with 6 other titles until 2017.

After 1984, JMG Software stopped making games and specialized in distribution (JMG CompuShoppe) and utility programs.

So back to the Battle of Zeighty, starting with the intro screen. “We’ve had one, yes. But what about second intro screen ?

The proportions are more reasonable

I start the game by building my force :

I allocate my force between four unit types :

  • Infantry : Very short range, not very powerful, but resists very well to enemy artillery and mines
  • Tanks : Long range (4 tiles), powerful but vulnerable against artillery and mines
  • Mine deployers : Short range, weak but deploy mines
  • Artillery : Infinite range, but inaccurate. They can also fight at very short range at the same time as they bombard, but they are weak in that role.

In addition to those units, I will receive a last one : the HQ. It has a long-range attack (5 tiles) AND an artillery attack of infinite range.

I am on the attack, so I don’t take mine deployers. I find infantry lacklustre but using only tanks would be a bit of an exploit, so I just take 4 of them, for 3 infantry.

And with that, the battle starts :

I annotated the units [I]nfantry, [T]anks and [A]rtillery so you don’t have to memorize the numerical code.

My objective in the Battle of Zeighty is to destroy the enemy HQ before losing mine. The enemy has the same kind of force as I do, and obeys the same rules, except one : it is in defense and as such knows where all my troops are, while I know nothing of the location of his. The game uses simultaneous turn resolution.

I move toward the probable position of the enemy (top-right corner) and I immediately fall victim to THE crippling issue of this game, which is the combination of these 3 rules :

  • You win the game by destroying the enemy HQ,
  • The AI sees all your units at all time,
  • Artillery has infinite range,

Because of this, the AI will focus every turn ALL its artillery (including its HQ artillery) on my HQ, slowly wearing it down. Meanwhile, I have no idea where THEIR HQ is,

At least I spotted some enemy tanks, so my artillery will have something to shoot at. I try to aim in front of them with my artillery (artillery attack is resolved after troop movement). I anticipate enemy movements correctly and get some direct hits, but the game does not tell me how much damage I cause.

As I am running against the clock, I cannot spend any time organizing my forces or doing smart tactical approaches, I have to move everything toward the North-West.

A couple of turns later, and after a few more shells were received by my HQ, the enemy tanks are in range of my own tanks and it is not only an artillery battle anymore.

Meanwhile, my HQ is still under fire. All units start the game at 1000 hp, and my HQ is down to 780 HP already.

By turn 4, my units and the AI units are on top of one another. I use this opportunity to describe how a turn is resolved.

First, there is the movement :

Note the enemy units appearing and disappearing as they move. A is infantry, D is artillery.

Then the artillery phase (accelerated 2,5 times for your convenience) :

Four direct hits on my HQ !

And finally, the agonisingly slow non-artillery attacks – also accelerated at 250% :

Two turns later, I finally destroy one of the enemy tank units. The rest are surrounded and badly battered, but they survive, and will do so until the end of the game…

… because turn 7 I finally locate the enemy HQ, so all my artillery is focused on that target.

My own HQ (“Division 10”) is down to 445 HP so I can assume I have around 7-8 turns left. Everything I have is heading straight to their HQ to shoot at it, and die if needed.

Turn 10 I am still slowly heading toward the enemy HQ while pummelling it from afar – as much as my own HQ is being pummelled. The bad news is that my tanks were in the back, so they are still not in range. The good news is that the enemy HQ is surrounded by artillery, so whenever I miss the HQ I hit one of these.

Still, the situation is bad : roughly 250 HP left on my HQ.

And ultimately, turn 15, I lose the race to HQ destruction :

My HQ has not been once been hit by enemy tanks. In fact, enemy tanks did not go in my HQ direction nor did they prioritize my artillery at any point. Even though one of my artillery units was always in range of their tanks, it was only attacked when all my tanks or infantry were out of range.

This is the final situation – I was quite far away from winning.

There was an AI mining unit ? I never saw any.

As for my fate…

Well maybe if you had hid our HQ better I would have had a chance !

Review & Rating

November 1982 ad in 80 Microcomputing

The Battle of Zeighty by George Geczy and JMG Software International, Canada
First release : TRS-80 in October 1982
Tested on : TRS-80 emulator
Total Hours Tested : 2 hours
Average duration of a battle : 45 minutes
Complexity : Easy (1/5)
Would recommend to a modern player : No
Would recommend to a designer : No
Final Rating: Totally obsolete

The Battle of Zeighty is a low profile game, mostly notable for being (with Supreme Ruler, released at the same time) the first wargame published by a non-US company (the first non-US wargame developer was of course the Australian Roger Keating).

A. Immersion

The game has no graphics, and only a one page matter-of-fact introduction explaining why this battle is so strategic :

Before you ask, I have no idea what the “Zeighty Pass” is supposed to reference.

Rating : Terrible

B. UI , Clarity of rules and outcomes

The UI is clear, but the game is slow, in turn resolution but also quite simply in the flow. For instance, it asks you every turn if you want to attack a target, whether there are targets in range or not. If there are no targets in range, why ask? If there are targets in range, the game should directly ask you which one you want to attack, as there is no reason NOT to attack.

The rules are not that well explained : I am still not sure whether damaged units deal less damage than full-health ones, and I wish I had some general idea of the strength of enemy units – but no, there is no way to know whether the enemy has 1000 or 67 HP left.

Rating : Very bad

C. Systems

The game has a simple movement system (speed : one tile/turn for everyone) but a fairly complex system of sighting (which takes into account whether the AI moved, shot, and includes random detections), and an even more complex system of counters in combat resolution . On the latter, the manual has a table that would not be out of place in a Roger Keating game :

The problem is that Infantry and Minelayers are actually useless :

  • for minelayers the enemy will quite simply not come to you,
  • for infantry, their attack range of 1 is crippling. It is not compensated by their protection against artillery (useless when the enemy artillery is going to be pointed at your HQ anyway), or against mines (you won’t receive much damage… to a unit useless anyway).

Range is king in this game, so you are going to take only tanks and artillery, and if you want to optimize probably only as many tanks as you need to spot the enemy HQ : 3 or 4. After that, it is artillery attack after artillery attack, until the final victory.

Before you ask, there is no multiplayer, so there is absolutely no circumstance in which you would want a minelaying unit.

Rating : Terrible

D. Scenario design & Balancing

Whatever randomisation the game has, all battles play the same : a mad dash to the top-right corner to find the enemy HQ as soon as possible and obliterate it with artillery. Any other strategy is a losing strategy against the enemy artillery’s intense love affair with your HQ.

Rating : Terrible

E. Did I make interesting decisions ?

No

F. Final rating

Totally obsolete. But eh, definitely a wargame !

Contemporary review :

I could not find any review for the game. Actually, I could not find any mention of the game except in advertisements or price list : the Battle of Zeighty is another game forgotten as soon as it was released, but I will come back to George Geczy with the more impactful Supreme Ruler.

5 Comments

  1. Harland Harland

    These old wargames are fascinating. I’ve never heard of 98% of them. This blog is doing God’s work. They all started with such good ideas, and so many of them fall down with the execution. In fairness, people bought games back then expecting to replay them over and over again. They expected to go for months before winning, and learned the games in and out. They just weren’t that good at them, and that went for most games.

    Infantry should be vulnerable to artillery and tanks nearly immune. This game has got it the other way around.

    My objective in the Battle of Zeighty is to destroy the enemy HQ before losing mine.

    Sounds like someone played Ogre! They had an army vs. army version called G.E.V. Ogre without the Ogre.

    Before you ask, I have no idea what the “Zeighty Pass” is supposed to reference.

    Does it have to? Can’t names just be something original?

  2. I wager it references Z80, the microprocessor that powered the TRS-80.

    • So I exchanged a few messages with the designer George Geczy and :
      – He confirmed the name came from Z80, so good catch
      – He told me the game did not sell much,
      – He also told me he really liked his intros !

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