John Tiller is one of those classic names to conjure with in the turn-based computer wargames software niche. He got his start with Talonsoft in 1995, and from 1995 to 1999 was pretty much the go-to guy for design in that company, creating the classic “Tiller Interface” for his Battleground, Campaign, and Age of Sail games (menu bar of icons up top, hex map in the center, specific units highlighted in a bar either to the left of or below the hex map action). For about six years this was the standard for a Talonsoft turn-based wargame in the Windows arena; when Talonsoft pitched tents he went to HPS simulations and recreated his success over there, expanding on the basic game engine he created for Talonsoft, adding campaign elements to the basic Civil War engine that he had created, and expanding the engine to other eras not covered by Talonsoft. When Talonsoft cashed in its chips it also sold its designs off to Matrix Games, which has released Tiller’s old campaigns as updated collections on one CD. At some point, John Tiller set up shop for himself and created Tiller Software, which continues to develop games using the turn-based engine that has done a decent job since 1995.
Out of the blue, Tiller Software recently jumped into the mobile device marketplace with very little fanfare. Indeed, in the rush and excitement of the release of DRIVE ON MOSCOW by Shenandoah Studios recently, I had no idea that Tiller was now dabbling in providing games for mobile devices. So it was a bit of a shocker to see not just one, but FIVE turn based, hex wargames that are direct ports from his older HPS Simulations titles. I assume the rights have reverted to him. So far, Tiller Software has release five wargames for both the Android and IoS platforms, three of which are absolutely free!
CWB: Battles is Tiller’s Civil War Battles game engine, which is essentially the same engine that created Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg Shiloh and Chickamauga for Talonsoft. No campaign interface that I’ve seen, and this (free!) game is mostly a bunch of non-historical teaching scenarios to get the user boned up on the CWB interface.
MAP: Modern is a port of John Tiller Software game of the same name. The two commercial HPS titles are Air War: Middle East and Air War: Vietnam. The Ipad/Android release appears to be a generic trainer app to introduce the MAP system and provide learning scenarios. It’s also free.
PzC: Tunisia43 is a game in the Panzer Campaigns series, an operational level wargame engine for many titles. For more on the base game, click here. Note that this game DOES have historical scenarios, roughly in line with the commercial Windows product of the same name– though not as many are included. It also costs money, 2.99.
PzC: Bulge44 is the port of this Windows game from Tiller Software, and it roughly aligns itself to that title in terms of scenarios. It’s a pretty detailed game of the Battle of the Bulge with tons of units and lots of scenarios (although not as much as the Windows game); I’m enjoying playing Kampfgruppe Peiper even as we speak. It also costs 2.99.
PzC is basically the engine of the Panzer Campaigns and was released as a sort of intro to the series (for free!). It has several scenarios of varying complexity, designed to teach the PzC system to the player in segments.
The business plan for mobile apps appears to be to release the basic game engine with some training scenarios for free (PzC, MAP, CWB) and then follow up with specific historical games (e.g., Tunisia, Bulge) for about 2.99 each. I love this idea. The Windows games were about 30 dollars at their cheapest and often much more than that. Granted, the games are ports of MS Windows resolution games with MS Windows inspired interface; very little has been done to take advantage of or adhere to IoS or Android capabilities with these ports. So there’s a little bit of a learning curve figuring out the specific menu bar icons, and how to move or fire. That wasn’t all that easy in Windows, in IoS it can be a chore. However, once you figure out the basics of one game you can play ALL games, no matter what the era. You’ll have to figure out the nuances between menu bars, as the icons do change. Fortunately, the documentation is very functional:
The really important elements to learn are the menu buttons and how to move and fire. Everything else is secondary.
Graphics are not at the level of Shennandoah Studios, this is a port of a Windows game that originated in the 90s, and it has that 90s look and feel. With that said, the game play is tremendous and the ROI for 2.99 is very good– each commercial game has several scenarios and loads of replay value. Even the freebie introductory games (PzC, MOB, CWB) have about ten scenarios each which is respectable.
All of these game apps are available right now in the Itunes App store and Google Play. Search for John Tiller or CWB and then click on the designer’s name and you’ll find all of them easily. Or try this link. I’m pretty excited about this development– these are real, serious no-fooling wargames for the Ipad, NOT arcade games, and they will definitely appeal to the wargame fan with an Ipad or Android tablet. I don’t advise trying to play any of the Android or IoS ports on a small screen, the resolution is just too small to be useful. Tablets only! I have played them with an Ipad Air and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the port is virtually identical across platforms, which is a plus.
Have fun with these! I know I did.