6 February 2004 | Audie-T
This series taught me one important thing
This series taught me one important thing: always take the initiative.
The set up of this real-time wargames-programme seems rather silly: non-military contestants with little experience playing wargames must fight out a historic, ancient battle with the computer-controlled enemy. To carry out this mission they have full access to 'a 21st century warcontrol centre,' to top this they even have a real-time *sattelite-view* of the battlefield!
Don't be fooled though. Most of the fun comes not from the actual fighting on screen, but from the interaction between the human playerteam. There are four teammembers, two are generals who must delegate their decisions to their lieutenants. The thing is, both generals have the overall view of the battle, but the lieutenants are better suited for the actual man-to-man fighting. The real fun comes from the amount of cooperation and coordination between the players.
For example: one game, played by history students, one of the generals was very dominant and the other general was left with little to do but look on. This happens quite a lot during shows; it's extremely satisfying to watch a bully-general bark orders at his lieutenants, focusing on tiny bits of the fighting, caught up in *micro-management*, leaving his lieutenants with little to do but obey orders 'to move left, engage the enemy, no get back, defend...' Chaos, utter chaos! If things get really hot, players will start arguing with each other during the battle, or frustrated lieutenants will simply ignore orders and fight their own battle as best they can.
This means that most battles turn into chaotic scenes, which of course to the viewer at home is incredible fun, watching lifelong friendships put to the test. That's not to say there aren't actually good battles. The two best shows I saw were:
1) an all-female team of friends (and colleguaes); once again, one general completely dominated the HQ command table. Fortunately, this female general was actually quite good, taking the initiative and giving agressive attacking orders. Her lieutenants were also good, with one in particular who was ordered 'not to engage' with her elite troops. As most amateurs (myself included) are convinced elite troops should be kept in reserve till the moment they are really needed. This however was, as one of the military expert-commentators explained, a common made error. Elite troops should engage the enemy from the start if possible. If not, a commander runs the risk of losing the battle and then even elite troops cannot turn the tide.
Fortunately for the team, the lieutenant chose to ignore orders ('keep elite in reserve') and she acted on her own initiative and had the elite troops engage the enemy anyhow. The battle was won decisively by the team. Impressive, this was also the verdict of the two military expert commentators.
2) The other show that featured a decisive victory for the team was Alexander The Great's final showdown with Persian king Darius II (I think). This team of male life-long friends had the distinct advantage that its generals had had in fact quite some experience playing wargames. Needless to say, they won a decisive victory, although there was one little snag: Alexander The Great, used to command from the front, was killed in action! LOL.
Really hope there will be a new season of this great show, Time Commanders!