26 November 2014

PC Game Preview: Crown of Glory 2: Emperor's Edition Preview

Some sequels seem more like overpriced patches than truly improved games. What does Jim Cobb think of Crown of Glory II: Emperor’s Edition? Will it live up the an emperor’s expectation or just be more of the same?

Published on 14 OCT 2008 7:02am by Scott Parrino
  1. Western Civilization Software
  2. Matrix Games
  3. ground combat, strategic, napoleonics, europe, naval combat

Developers learn; good developers learn exponentially. Western Civilization Software’s first game, Crown of Glory, was an interesting but flawed examination of the Wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The game was patched several times but the developers were already finding their feet with their acclaimed Forge of Freedom American Civil War game. Crown of Glory II: Emperor’s Edition not only has incorporated user comments but also builds on what the developers learned from Forge of Freedom. The beta seems to be far more than just a large patch of the first game.

Reviewing the Fleet

The first new feature that strikes the player is that the strategy map, enlarged by around eighty more provinces, is portrayed in usefully geological colors instead of patches of pastel. A zoom feature enhances this aspect of seeing the geographical challenges of the age as well as aiding in detailed battles. Yet, the biggest change is giving as much emphasis to naval combat as land clashes.

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The map can be zoomed down to province level to show cities formations and roads.

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At a zoomed-out level, the geography of all Europe can be seen.

In the original game, all naval battles were resolved with the grid-driven quick battle mode. The new game introduces a detailed battle option that rivals many dedicated Age of Sail games and discards the original game’s abstract groups. Individual ships from first-rater giants to lowly privateers not only have the usual crew characteristics like morale, experience, and strength but also model rigging and gun types are. Movement is a function of four levels of wind strength and five weather conditions as wells as ships’ movement points, decided by several modifiers such as sail states. Each turn, momentum will move ships a few hexes before players choose whether to luff, close haul, or run broad; ships in irons will drift backwards. Crew experience plays a role in determining if an attempt to tack is successful. Players’ choices are dependent on another innovation: action points. Each ship has a very limited number of these points, an amount further dependent on ship damage and leadership. Players use these points during movement by increasing or decreasing speed and towing. Players can change between three kinds of ammunition and adjust aim between high and low. Adjacent ships can be grappled and boarded if enough action points are available. Fire combat is initiated by clicking on a target within range and damage results depends on range with long guns doing injury at long range while carronades and marines’ small arms wreak havoc at close range. Using action points, damage can be repaired. Damage includes fire, explosions, and loose cannon. Experience can also yield special abilities such as hot shot, better maneuvering, and more accurate fire.

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A French squadron uses the wind to grapple and board an Austrian merchantman.

The start of the battle reveals many factors and options. Combat can take place in deep water, coastal water, and in harbors. Shallow waters allow anchoring and shore batteries are brought into play in harbors. Players can chose to begin the fighting at close, mid, or long range allowing opportunities to use space and the wind gage. Fog of war is especially important in starting at long range, searching for the enemy. The sounds of wind and waves, creaking of rigging, and trilling bosuns’ pipes add atmosphere to fighting on water.

Nouveau Terre

Changes are not limited to the aquatic environment. Operations on land have also been improved. Players can choose to play the game using a simplified economy, making province management easier and allowing for more concentration on military matters. Some regions, such as Turkey and Switzerland, suffer from unique circumstances. Population increases cost more food while under-populated provinces suffer severe revenue problems. Provincial development takes longer and those nations still clinging to feudalism take even longer to finish developments. Allocating labor over bases for production yields diminishing returns. Inflation has been introduced to show how feverish production can harm an economy. A “Will to Fight” concept is introduced indicating how national morale affects combat efficiency. Similarly, a “Path of Napoleon”, essentially a set of victory conditions, provides for quicker victory or defeat for France. Diplomatically, nations can no longer lend units. Wars that don’t produce significant casualties just fizzle out. Protectorates are no longer as expensive to maintain. Nation specific events have been added spice to play as well as the opportunity to rule minor powers. Historical accuracy has been enhanced by the addition of more historical units and generals. The interface has several improvements, reflecting shortcuts used in Forge of Freedom.

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The province screen shows each province’s resources and attributes.

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Diplomacy and a level of information are dealt with here.

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The unit screen clearly shows force composition and abilities.

The truly meaty changes come in the military sphere. Strategically, attrition from marches is added, which can be relieved by the use of roads. Each nation has a mobilization limit, and guerilla units cannot be added to larger formations. Feudal levies are now infantry, not militia. Instant and quick battles are as described in The Wargamer’s review at http://www.wargamer.com/article/2073/PC-Game-Review-Crown-of-Glory?page=1 but detailed combat has undergone many significant changes. Players can opt to play at brigade, instead of divisional, level if they don’t mind keeping a division’s brigades close together. At the start of a battle, each side rolls for initiative aided by generals’ rating. The winner chooses from eight bonuses such as early surveillance and flanking. A change in the fog of war rules allows some units a vague suggestion at enemy location. Cavalry can be formed into a screen and units like jaegers can have many special abilities. An example would be lancers’ effectiveness in pursuit. Special abilities can be gained through experience in battle. However, such abilities are limited to historical parameters, eliminating some problems in the original game. The AI appears smarter and large battles can be ended quickly through “Instant Resolve”. A key combination that allows batch movement instead of single unit moves also speeds play.

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The quick battle grid is the same as in the original.

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In this detailed battle, French cavalry has formed a screen that spotted an Austrian presence, denoted by the small flag on the upper right.

Judging from the beta build, Crown of Glory II: Emperor’s Edition seems a solid improvement over the original. Offering approximately twenty scenarios with different start dates or economic conditions Crown of Glory II Emperor’s Edition seems to cover all aspects of the European experience from 1792 to the 1820s. Some gamers become concerned that sequels are overpriced patches. No such fear is necessary here. All the ingredients for a solid strategic Napoleonic game seem present.

System Requirements

Minimum Specifications

Reviewer's Specifications

500 MHz Intel Pentium III CPU
256 MB RAM 
32 MB video card, DirectX 7.0 Compatible 
650 MB free hard drive space
Sound card
DirectX 7.0+
Windows 2000/XP 

Windows XP home
2.08 GHz AMD Athlon XP
1 GB RAM
NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GS
80 GB hard drive
DirectX 9.0c

About the Author

Jim Cobb has been playing board wargames since 1961 and computer wargames since 1982. He has been writing incessantly since 1993 to keep his mind off the drivel he deals with as a bureaucrat. He has published in Wargamers Monthly, Computer Gaming World, Computer Games Magazine, Computer Games Online, CombatSim, Armchair General, Subsim, Strategyzone Online, Ganesquad and Gaming Chronicle. If you're looking for a PBEM patsy, contact Jim; he never wins.

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