Review: Victorian Admirals: Anthology

Totem Games is a bit of an oddity. They are:

1. One of about two companies making historical naval combat games.

2. The only company making historical naval combat games about the American Civil War.

3. Russian.

I purchased their latest product, "Victorian Admirals: Anthology", and I’m glad I did. I am happy to support anyone making naval combat games, as it’s a niche that is hanging by a thread. Victorian Admirals is actually a collection of four individual "alternate history" scenarios set around 1880. Each scenario is available individually for $10, or you get all of them in the "Anthology" for $30.

So I paid my money, and that’s fine. Victorian Admirals is such a pretty game. Here, look at this, and then click on it for a bigger view:

Naval combat games such as these tend to be very slow, stately affairs, so it’s nice that the game could double as a very beautiful screensaver while these boats inch, inch, inch their way across the endless sea.

It’s just too bad it sucks.

1. The manual is two pages, most of which is taken up by legalese. I’m one for concision in documentation, but one page for a wargame is not cutting it.

2. There are bugs. At least once in each game I’ve tried to play, at some point the boats will all stop firing until you save the game and reload it. The developer said he fixed it. I said, but it still happened. He said hmm, let me look into it. So he’s still looking into it. Or he’s given up and gone back to drinking vodka and eating pierogies and kippered herring snacks. Also in the last game, I hit one of their iron ships about fifty thousand times on each side, registering almost 100% damage on both sides of the ship, and it just kept plodding along. It was indestructible, which made the scenario unwinnable. I’m pretty sure that was a bug, unless the game is trying to say "iron ships were good because no matter how many times you hit them they wouldn’t die". Which I don’t think is true.

3. If it wasn’t such a niche product, it would be the most overpriced product on the market. Each "scenario" (for $10 each or 4 for $30) consists of just that. One scenario, featuring a max of eight boats per side, usually much less. You can play as one side or the other. And that’s it. For a game whose user interface offers you the following control over your (max 2) fleets, that’s not a lot of variety:


A.  Turn left.

B.  Turn right.

C.  Go slow, half-speed, or full speed.

So yeah. For $10 you tell two small fleets of four boats or less to turn left, right, or speed up or slow down, in a single scenario. That’s not much.

4. Everything other than the physical beauty is just messy. I’ll leave you with one more screenshot, which you will enjoy if you manage to avoid the game-killing bugs and find success: