How different the world would have turned out had history's greatest generals gone to battle with a GBA and a copy of Advance Wars in their pocket. After all, what better preparation before invading a neighbouring continent than a few rounds on one of gaming's finest strategy titles?
As with many good things in life, the premise at the core of Advance Wars is surprisingly simple. You control ground, air and naval units and must conquer the game's 114 maps, by either defeating all of the enemy's forces or capturing their headquarters.
But while the foundation may be straightforward, success requires tactical thinking of the highest order. The action is turn-based, meaning you can take as much time as you wish when planning your next advancement. Different units have different movement, attack and defence capabilities, which in turn are affected by their surroundings. For instance, trekking up hills hinders infantry movement, but subsequently provides better cover and offensive opportunity compared to ground-based units. Attacks are performed on a one-to-one basis, with the units usually needing to meet on the battlefield, unless they're a remote-attack unit such as a battleship or missile launcher, which can strike from afar. Damaged units can be repaired by spending time on domestic urban areas or new ones can be created from scratch in army bases - at a cost, of course, which is deducted from the earnings you acquire from successful military action and captured property you hold after each turn.
Ultimately, we could write all day about this and still not fully convey the game's intricacies. In short, the genius of Advance Wars lies in the extraordinary balance of its components. They may sound unconvincing on their own, but when combined they form a remarkably coherent world that offers an astonishingly deep and amenable strategic system. It's one of the most absorbing gaming experiences around, and presents a challenge the formidable Alexander himself would have relished.