Totally Accurate Battle Simulator—A battle game that’s maybe not so totally accurate*
*This was originally published on Geektime at https://www.geektime.com/2017/03/12/shardbound-a-tactical-collectible-card-game/ on April 7th, 2017. Geektime migrated their site and lost articles published before 2019. As a result, only my own copies of these previously published articles can be made available. Original links are included but broken.
When Landfall Games set out to create Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, or TABS, they clearly wanted to find a middle ground between encouraging thoughtful, puzzle-solving strategies and collapsing into all-out fits of laughter, and it seems like struck that balance pretty expertly.
Landfall calls TABS a “wacky, physics-based tactics game,” and wacky doesn’t even begin to cover it. It starts out innocuously enough, though. Players begin by omnisciently overlooking a battlefield, the right side of which is already filled with enemy troops. The player’s next steps are to employ units for her own army that can (hopefully) defeat the enemy. There are a few catches, though. First, units cost money, and there is a monetary limit to each level. Second, friendly fire is very much in play. Setting your archers up on the back line might seem like a good idea, but they won’t hesitate to put arrows in their own allies’ backs if they have a straight shot to an enemy on the other side. Finally, your units don’t always move to attack the group or unit that you had expected them to—or even the one that makes the most sense. Much like the leader of a real battle, once you’ve given your units their orders, you just have to hope they do what you think they should, and watch helplessly when they don’t.
After choosing and positioning units, the player then begins the battle and watches all units immediately jump into action. Let me paint you a picture:
My soldiers, dressed in pink from head to toe rush forward to meet their foes, blue from top to bottom, on the battlefield. Enemies are loading boulders into their catapults. My spear throwers cock back their arms in anticipation of a clear shot. The weight of their axes propels my axmen forward as they prepare to clash with the enemy shield bearers, leaning back slightly under their own heavy burdens. You can almost hear the roar of the warcries you can imagine are issuing from their battle-hungry mouths as all units rush to engage their enemies. Once they meet, you can only sit back and watch during this time when you hope your soldiers will exhibit cunning, strength, dexterity, and quick thinking on the battlefield.
Image Credit: Landfall Games
That is not what happens. The ensuing clash is worthy of a Benny Hill theme song montage. My axmen fling themselves—not their axes, but their whole bodies with the axes remaining held up squarely in front of their faces– forward with all their might, tumbling end-over-end into a dogpile of flopping soldiers, fighting simply for the chance to get up and fling themselves right back into the mess. Meanwhile, catapults are being fired indiscriminately and hit the various dogpiles around the battlefield with explosions of bodies both pink and blue flying out into the air on impact. My spear throwers are no better, running forward and launching their spears in the enemies’ general direction but often taking out their own allies or missing completely until a melee unit runs right up to them and simply knocks them down. And I haven’t even gotten to the Chicken Man yet.
You have your choice of units that were active through the ages, as the TABS site explains, “from medieval peasants to modern-day weaponry,” including Vikings, crusaders, Greek, Asian, and Napoleonic units, as well as perhaps the most exciting category: miscellaneous. The latter includes barbarians and farmers, but also the infamous Chicken Man, a unit that continuously deposits attack-chickens onto the battlefield, each of which is apparently trained to go for the throat of Chicken Man’s enemies.
Image Credit: Landfall Games
The game has a campaign mode, currently with 20 levels offering unique challenges and limitations, as well as a sandbox mode where you’re free to build both ally and enemy armies with no restrictions at all (and even with a few bonus units). The game lets you change the viewing distance, ranging from right on the battlefield standing next to your army to a birds-eye-view of the entire map, and there’s even a slow motion option in case you want to watch the hilarious ways in which the game physics will create death and destruction for your units.
A perhaps tongue-in-cheek explanation of the game given by the Landfall crew is that “TABS uses state of the art physics-based simulation to provide you with never-before-seen insight to our greatest battles of history.” I call it a puzzle strategy game that makes you laugh as you witness the anticipated fruits of your intricate strategizing fly right out the window more often than not. The game has been in development since July of 2016 and its open alpha, which is still running, began in November of the same year and can be joined simply by signing up for the game.
If you like solving puzzles and strategizing battles, but you feel like laughter has always been an important missing element from that engaging and at times complicated process, then Totally Accurate Battle Simulator might just be the perfect game for you.