Whoa! What a difference a year makes. I reviewed the Beta that many months ago, and to be honest, I had some serious reservations about this project. I was wrong. True, AGEOD’s Wars of Succession (WOS) is not perfect, but just about every concern I had has been fixed and in some cases what worked well has been improved. While the AGEOD game engine is showing its age, it’s obvious that in WOS, this area movement adorned old gal still has a lot of horse power under the hood.
The game covers two simultaneous wars of the early 18th Century, the Great Northern War (GNW, 1700 1721, Sweden vs Russia for Baltic dominance) and the much larger War of Spanish Succession (WSS, 1700 – 1714). The latter occurred due the childless Spanish king’s passing, leaving both France and Austria with legitimate claims to the throne. A Hapsburg Spain would have seen France geographically surrounded by competitors, while a Bourbon Spain meant a merger producing a European juggernaut. So for 14 years Louis XIV supported by Spain, Bavaria, etc locked horns with just about everyone else in Europe. With the GNW, this was a global conflict, and overall WOS does a commendable job capturing the unique military flavor of the era.
This after all was the age of the “War of Position.” After the genocide called the Thirty Years War, Europe entered the Age of Reason, and the military tagged along. Armies were small, professional, well drilled, expensive as Hell and lavishly supplied through a depot based logistics system. Thus strategy supported gaining territory and influence, not destroying armies or nations. The best generals were those who manoeuvred the enemy into untenable situations, causing retreat vice fighting. Battles were rare. And now WOS captures that historical tempo faithfully, with a game engine that runs smoothly despite its age and is easy to learn and manipulate. Here’s how.
Drill and Discipline
This is a Windows game, requiring at least a Pentium 4 CPU, 3 gigs of RAM, a 1024 MB video card, 3 gigs hard drive space and a 1024 x 768 screen. This is a minimum, and even with game tweaks to allow more physical RAM for caching and use of the Windows 10 Game Mode, you will experience a small time lag as the game tries to catch up after you click a button on the screen. Typical PCs with a little more oomph will run the game just fine, however, quite briskly with no modification
Download and installation was easy and uneventful save one issue. That issue again was my Avast antivirus. It locked the PC when installing the main executable and when installing an Uninstallation related file. When I turned Avast off, no problem, but this time I had to keep it off for nigh near an hour. This was due the installer running through a very long process of unpacking files to support the graphics of nearly 5000 geographic map regions in a variety of weather formats. So be prepared to sit back and enjoy some java while you wait, but know it’s worth it.
Learning the game, conversely, was unique, primarily because there is no in game tutorial! Or, at least I could not find one, and I searched mightily. I am not sure if this is the way of the future, but the game tutorial is actually a series of five to six minute YouTube shorts where some French lad actually talks and walks you through how to play using the short 1701 Italian campaign included in the game. This really resonated with me, far better than the 94 page manual included, or regular tutorials that use non personal text screens to direct mouse pointers to places you can’t find. Also, seeing a person actually do it on the screen gave just the right amount of information to get you up and running was not only enjoyable and less confusing, but faster to boot. Unfortunately, I found out about the process by accident so if this was deliberate, it needs to be mentioned somewhere on screen.
An Army Marches…
Also unfortunately, there are way too many relevant and interesting features in WOS to cover everything. Instead I would like to concentrate on just a couple of major aspects to convey an overall feel, and one of these is the game’s concept of a turn, especially as regards Movement. In many ways Movement is the primary process in a turn, and drives other aspects such as combat, which does seem fitting for the subject matter.
Each game turn 30 represents day’s historical time, during which a player performs various functions such as movement, resupply, and diplomacy, any time he wants and in any order he wants. Once finished, clicking the Next Turn button will trigger the computer to execute all the player’s commands simultaneously while executing his AI opponent’s, ticking off one day at a time until 30 days have past and a new turn begins. Units physically move and if they run into the enemy in same region, the computer stops on that day and a battle occurs. The player can then select options for the type of battle to fight, and the overall formation of the army doing it. The battle is resolved and the computer continues with the remainder of the turn until 30 days have passed.
Movement itself is pretty simple, performed on an elegantly styled map with edges and admin blocks in very classy Baroque. All easily disappear at the click of a mouse to allow full screen play. The map holds square icons displaying the image of a famous commander or a unit of some sort. Click on it and a bottom bar appears displaying the commander, other leaders and each military unit in that stack and the geographic region occupied. The units themselves are actual period regiments (ie, French Infantry Regiment Navarre, Vieux Band) and clicking them will reveal differences in capability based on historical track record. Left on this bar are a series of buttons which will define the current mission posture (defense, offense, etc) and a second set the emphasis thereof (all-out assault, defend at all costs, etc). One can either click and hold on the icon in bar or map and drag it to its destination, or simply drop it there and let the computer determine the best route. Each leg of the journey records the number of days moving out of the 30 per turn. Units that are moved individually are considered detached from the commander, and will not move as part of that force.
There are, of course, game modifiers, impacting all this, and one of the most clever is the issuance of Decision Cards at the beginning of the game. These include things like increased local reconnaissance and several concerning sieges, such as forcing a city invested to surrender just by playing a card. It’s kinda an 18th Century Clausewitz “friction” model, and it does make the game enhances fog of war and places a premium on decision making. Spiffy.
… On its Stomach
Logistics is the other major emphasis of WOS, as it should be given the “war of position” model simulated. Very generally, logistics come in two flavors, the first being the recruitment of new military units or replacement of losses. Players start the game with a certain number of points in gold, recruits and weaponry. Every third turn the computer adds to this total, and also does so at a trickle pace every turn if certain cities or regions remain under friendly control. Click on the appropriate icon and another bar will appear at the bottom showing what types of units are available for recruitment, as well as cost in the three categories above. Click on a unit icon and the map turns rusty brown except for those regions where the unit can be raised, which are now colored green (this is a common convention in the game for many functions). Drag and drop said icon to the green area of your choice and the process begins, sometimes taking as much as six turns before the unit appears. Replacements are handled similarly, but you can always allow the computer to do this automatically.
The second type of supply includes such things as food and ammunition, the latter expended only when fighting a battle. Units carry provisions for two turns and ammunition for two battles. When expended they can draw off any Supply Wagons present, and then forage failing that. This latter is dicey as how much one collects depends on the time of year, weather, type of terrain and current status (as in His Twitness Prinz Eugen von Savoyen deliberately pillaged a region so I couldn’t use it; tacky). Otherwise cities, regions and depots back home are continuously producing supply points, but units or Supply Wagons must be co-located to receive and distribute them. Alternatively, two Supply Wagons could be used to construct a local depot to begin its own collection effort, but this takes time, and this makes campaign progress slow. This makes siege warfare particularly crucial in this game as it was historically. Fortresses have to be taken as otherwise one sitting unmolested along your supply line can easily spawn catastrophic attrition rates as teamsters and enemy heavy horses never mix well.
But this is how it was back then. His Grace the Duke of Marlborough fought four major battles during the entire war, but in 1813 Napoleon’s Grande Army fought six in less than a year. Logistics was a major reason why, and WOS accurately portrays this painful process exceptionally well, doing so without forcing a player to become a cabinet level minister fretting on wheat production in Normandy.
This small tome only touches the surface of what has surprisingly become a very solid entry into the AGEOD lineup. There are far more features to discover, and very welcome fixes for those little annoyances such as those info popups every time you pass a mouse over top of a unit or region (you can put a delay on them doing so). Yet for me one major distraction remains, and typically its sorta miniatures related. The portrait icons of the various troop types are… well, they’re simply wrong, particularly for the French whose multi-national army was a veritable cavalcade of color. Yes, Irish regiments are included by name, but in the same white-grey uniform (but with green appointments) as native French infantry. The Irish, of course, wore red, as did most Swiss, but not in this game. I suppose this was done to avoid player confusion, but I do wonder if there is some sort of supporting research that says this is necessary, especially for software out of France. It would also be nice if there were more, shorter scenarios. Outside the 1701 Italy tutorial, the other four are 50 to 100 + turns long — quite a time sink.
Nevertheless, such sins are easily forgivable. I think with WOS we are at the pinnacle of what the old AGEOD game engine can do, and in an historical era tailor made for its functionality, it does quite a lot. WOS replicates a type of warfare that will not be to everyone’s taste, but for those palates who do enjoy such sumptuous delicacies; this game will be hard to beat, especially at $29.99.
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