Totally Accurate Battle Simulator [Landfall Games] plays out skirmishes between bands of fighters with a state-of-the-art physics engine. This engine is the "totally accurate" part, but if you know anything about physics in games, you'll know that its wobbly ragdoll fingers are crossed firmly behind its back. Instead of gravity and momentum being kept under tight slow cheaty control, as in Total War games, here everything flops wildly free: berserkers leap into the fray, trees block whirling broadswords, mammoths crush all underfoot, cannonballs neatly enfilade rows of infantry.
The cartoon madness of its physics is embraced in its attitude: bulging ragdoll eyes, lurching Foddyesque advances, and dozens of bizarre units to command and place in whatever anachronistic nightmare matchup pleases you. Battles tend to be over in seconds. Players compete to post the most bizarre set-pieces on YouTube.
TABS is still in early-access and has no framing or narrative elements. The campaign is a collection of arbitrary but often cunningly-designed battles; the harder and more specific they get, the more the game feels like a series of puzzles and less like a tactical sim. It is nonetheless hilarious, absorbing and shockingly habit-forming, hours disappearing into the promise of a single coffee-break battle.
It's well-worth the $15 price tag, and I've barely scratched the surface of the early-access version–you can make custom maps, units and campaigns, with more features to come. Players interested in customization, in creating ingenious set-pieces and mapping their minds to its demented combat mechanics, are already completely catered for. Those looking for a more epic-scale or narrative view of battle are, clearly, not.