Who would win in a fight out of Zeus and a mammoth? Minotaurs against halflings? Snake archers against potion sellers? They're the showdowns society yearns for but history denies... no longer! Now we have Totally Accurate Battle Simulator.
It's not accurate, of course - no one describes anything as "totally" with a straight face. And TABS, as everyone calls it, doesn't have a straight face. It has a googly-eyes and lollops like a drunken marionette. It is a raspberry in the face of serious army-commanding games and I love it for it.
TABS is so simple to play. You spend points to build an army, place it, then sit back and watch the fight - you don't control anything in real-time other than the camera. What's in your army depends on how many points you have to spend. You might spend 2230 points on a mammoth, for instance, or use the same amount to buy four flying Valkyrie - they're a bloody nuisance. Or you might spend 4000 points on two Zeus-es, or 4200 on three scarecrow, which are better than they sound.
The motley roster is half the fun. There's the Stone Age faction, Farmer, Medieval, Ancient, Viking and, as of about a week ago, Dynasty (Pirate and Renaissance are on the way) and they're all a bit silly. They have units such as wheelbarrow which charge into the opposing ranks, or longships which are carried and thrown on the enemy - they don't sail at all! There's a monkey king, headbutters, haybalers and stoners(!). And those snake archers? They actually shoot snakes.
Even bards are not boring. In TABS, they behave like the Pied Piper, baiting the opposing army into following them - right off the edge of the map if needs be!
The other half of the fun comes in simply watching the carnage unfold. The physics-based ridiculousness makes for an unpredictable maelstrom every time. What's more, TABS is gorgeous to look at. It radiates cheeriness with bright colours and cartoony polygonal characters, and worlds.
TABS will grab bystanders, believe you me, and its uncomplicated nature will enthrall them. But there's hidden complexity here too - strategy under all the seemingly random flailing. A campaign of increasingly hard scenarios uncovers it, pitting challenges against you and restricting what you have to spend. Often, it's an uneven match-up, meaning the opposing army has a higher point-value than you, so you have to be canny. There's one scenario about three-quarters in where you'll face valkyrie and brawlers, and it's an absolute bastard.
Or you can play sandbox mode and let your mind run riot. I turned my back for five minutes and my son had filled the screen with Zeus-es and mammoth and minotaurs in an epic battle which eventually crashed my machine. But not before I took a few pics.
TABS is a ray of sunshine. Funny, welcoming, and reminding us all not not to take ourselves too seriously. It's Ł11.40, and I can't think of any reason you wouldn't want it on your PC, but bear in mind it's still in Early Access and there's a roadmap of content to come.