Last post I mentioned how games can be historically informative, this post I shall go more in depth on the matter.
The game I indulged in last weekend was Medieval Total War 2. Medieval Total War 2 is an excellent example of a game that not only sticks to the history but also teaches some history in the process.
Firstly, there is the campaign screen where the player chooses their faction. Each faction has a description which give an excellent historical background on the faction as well as a historically accurate list of their chief advantages and disadvantages.
For example, I chose the Byzantine Empire. Within a minute of reading I am reminded that the Byzantine Empire is in decline during this period, the empire is stagnating and gradually losing territories. Furthermore, their advantages consist of good cavalry and reasonable archers while their disadvantage is that their late game technology is quite poor (again this is historically accurate).
The game play is historically accurate too. For example, spearmen are quite good against cavalry provided they do not get flanked. But their are also more subtle things like the fact that when it comes down to heavy infantry vs cavalry, the cavalry will do a lot of damage during the charge but then as the fighting drags on, the heavy infantry come out on top.
Finally, there is the pop ups for the various inventions, the plague and the Mongol and Timurid invasions which are historically accurate and historically timed.
And just like in the history books, the Mongolian hordes have a weakness; their cavalry rich composition means they are ill equipped for siege warfare.
I have not played Rome Total War for a while but it too is historically accurate for the most part. The gameplay is definitely historically accurate; the Roman infantry is the best in the game and history tells us that the Roman infantry was the best in the world (although this depends on the era). Again, the pop ups, like the Marian reforms are accurate,
My only complaint as to the historical accuracy of Rome Total War is the 3 Roman factions. While individual patricians would command Roman armies and individual patricians were made governors, patrician families did not have their own armies and provinces. And when the provincial governor died, a new governor was appointed by the senate (more specifically, the praetors and consuls).
Overall, these two games are historically accurate and I am impressed by them.
As for what they can teach us about war? Quite a substantial amount.
In Rome Total War I learnt about the power of Roman heavy infantry but how they had trouble against the eastern cavalry based armies in the field (eg Parthian cavalry).
In both games I learnt the importance of protecting one's flanks. Or about how cavalry are good at protecting the flanks and also at flanking the opponent but how they are mostly useless when it comes to siege warfare.