Its winter in Pennsylvania. The snow is falling, cars are skidding and the thoughts of most turn to tracking down and skinning a small, yet plump, rodent named Phil. But for wargamers, it’s also a good time to stoke the fireplace and with espresso in hand, put an army through its paces on the digital battlefield. Hopefully it should come as no surprise that for me and a growing number of my pewter pushing colleagues, this means Matrix’s Field of Glory II (or FOG2) for the computer.
And with two BIG user mods having recently hit the Appian Way, as it were, the weather may be frightful, but life is still really good.
The two user mods in question are the Tabletop (TT) Mod, which adds a host of new armies and new units as well, and the Silk Road Mod, which allows FOG2 to go all oriental, as in China and its adversaries. Both are free downloads, quite large in some cases (as in ½ Gigabyte large), and very easy to find and download. When you open FOG2‘s home page you will notice a series of small buttons on the upper left corner of the screen, one of which looks like a globe. Click on the latter and it will connect you to a very substantial list of user mods to download. If the globe is actually blinking before you send your mouse after it, that means there are new user mods available you’ve not seen before.
Most of the mods are fairly small and narrow in scope, such as a mod portraying the Spartican Slave Revolt or something similar. The TT and Silk Road Mods, however, are Hat Tricks. Each has a campaign mod, a custom battle mod for solitaire play (which is what I always download) and a custom battle mod for multiplayer battles. Select whatever mod you want, then click the left button below the screen and it will auto download and install.
This is where it gets tricky, however, especially for lead heads that have an intimate knowledge of pilum and pike, but shudder at clicking with a mouse anywhere on an LED. Since you have likely downloaded one of the custom battle mods of these two offerings, you will want to access that portion of the game’s user interface. From the main screen access “Battles”, and from the resulting menu “Custom Battle”. The next page will present a burgundy scroll titled “Field of Glory II”, just above a pull down menu called “Pick Your Army”. Just to the right of the burgundy scroll will be a small square button with an icon designed to look like four paper pages stacked. Click this and you will be presented a menu box called “Modules”. One of these modules will be TT Custom Battles, the other the Silk Road Skirmishes package. Select one or the other, hit the “Launch” button at the bottom, and your army list for selection will change to either the TT set, or the Silk Road set. Then proceed normally.
BTW, each of these two mods adds additional offerings to the default FOG2 set of armies, and is not independent of them. However, it is not possible to combine the two mods’ armies into a single list with the FOG2 default.
The TT Mod Package.
The TT mod adds 80 new unique army lists to the original default set in FOG2. There are, however, some significant mods within this mod. Instead of simply rearranging and reusing existing troop models, author Paul Adaway has actually modified the 3D soldier models to not only create all new units, but to make existing unit’s appearance specific to the country they fight for. For example, every country in the game that deployed a Greek style phalanx has one with its own unique design, to include texture, clothing and shield pattern. It is not necessarily an Alexandrine phalanx repurposed for use with the Kushan. Overall, there are 140 + new models to be had, each one an impressive work of art.
And if you like the classy styling this gives, you can thank in part Stephen Hales, proprietor and designer of Little Big Men Studios wargaming products. This firm sells hyper detailed flags and shield transfers for 10/15/20/28 mm miniature wargaming, often specific to a certain miniature manufacturer. The stuff is drop dead gorgeous and an absolute lifesaver for those lacking my own artistic genius (I have 33 packs for review purposes only, seriously, ahem). I thought I recognized the designs, and now I know why.
The TT Mod army lists themselves are not new armies, but rather expansions on the default set of armies in FOG2. For example the default set provides an Indian army list. The new TT Mod, however, lists eight, count ’em, eight Indian armies. These include two Indian Republic and two Royal Indian armies from different time frames. There is also an Indo-Greek army, an Indo-Parthian and two Indo-Skythian armies, and yes there are some significant differences. As a simple example, there is now an early Kushan army list, one that is far less Cataphract and light cavalry heavy than the later variety, with a lot more infantry to include Greek mercenary phalangites with Little Big Men shields of course.
The Silk Road Mod.
The other biggie is offered by some bard nicknamed Jomini, one of the principals behind the also very successful Matrix Game Sengoku Jidai. Like the TT Mod, this package is free, requires version 1.17 of the base software and is a collection of new army lists to supplement the default set that comes with the game. As such they provide play from the Zhou Dynasty (1049 256 BC) thru the War of the Heavenly Horses (104 101 BC, and no kidding, that’s the name) supported by 21 new armies. These forces include five Chinese, two Beidi, three Di, three Qaing, two Wuhuan, two Xianbei, two Xiangnu and the Xirong. Outside the Chinese themselves, if I had to describe these armies with just a couple of words, I would say horse archers. Lots of them. A whole lot.
There are some significant differences from the TT Mod however. The first is while the TT Mod will generally let you use the new armies provided against just about anybody on the new or default lists, the Silk Road Mod is more restrictive, and thus in some respects more historical. For example, if you choose the 208 201 BC Wuhuan army, the only opponents you can select as your enemy are the seven they actually fought against historically, eg, the Chinese. This means that despite the name of the mod, Dragon Blade, Jackie Chan and Adrien Brody, you will not be able to march the Legions of Rome against the Han or any other Chinese. A travesty to be sure, but those stout of heart will survive. (AEd. Note: You can fight Romans vs Chinese , you just need to turn off the Geographical and/or Date filter.)
The second difference is that these are entirely new armies, not variations of the default list of forces within the base game. As such the artwork is also new and pretty darn accurate so far as I can see, in both composition and appearance. I’m no expert in this part of military history, so I checked a bunch of miniatures Chinese army lists, the old WRG standby The Armies and Enemies of Ancient China (still available on Amazon), the ubiquitous Ospreys and Jomini’s work is pretty solid. I was especially impressed by the high number of crossbows represented and their visual depiction, particularly those behind what I can only describe as a Chinese Pavise (or Bu Bing Pang Pai (????). Likewise in combat the armies seem to work the way they are supposed to, and the challenge of playing these types of very missile heavy forces was quite refreshing. And tough! It makes no difference which side, but playing crossbow vs mounted archer is a nail biter.
These two mods are very welcome editions to the FOG2 universe, and though I often wonder why companies allow modding (vice developing the same material as a future addition to the product line), I am glad they do. It increases the replay value of the game exponentially, and then some. The “then some” is when I use a GMT Great Battles of History game in conjunction with the FOG2 Custom Battle process to closely recreate an historical engagement. Think the new Indian army lists and the 2008 GMT game Chandragupta. It works.
Free is an unbeatable price for what is truly quality stuff, and I’m thoroughly enjoying battling with the new armies. If I had to make any recommendations for improvement it would be a mod to fix the Halfling houses and Hobbit forests, and while you’re at it, why not depict some battles along the Great Wall? The Taotie (??) are on the move, and only the Nameless Order can stop them!