Editorial: Advanced Tactics - Gold Edition Developers Diary
Wargamer gets its hands on an inside look into Advanced Tactics - Gold Edition from designer Victor Reijkersz.
The last game I designed was Decisive Campaigns. This was a very focused historical game on the initial battles of World War II. Before doing a second Decisive Campaigns game I decided to do an upgrade of old Advanced Tactics first. I felt it would be a good idea to port some of the new features developed for Decisive Campaigns to Advanced Tactics. After all Advanced Tactics had not had an upgrade in years. Also there were a great number of small improvements and new features I have been wanting to add to Advanced Tactics for a while now. Instead of making a completely new game I decided to keep full backwards support. After consultations with Matrix Games it was also decided to offer existing owners of Advanced Tactics a big discount and publish the new game as the Advanced Tactics Gold Edition.
In a nutshell Advanced Tactics Gold (ATG) is a hex and counter wargame that can handle a big variety of scenarios. There is a map, there are different sides you can play, and up to 14 different players can join in a random game for example. Each side has its own objectives that vary on a scenario to scenario basis but mostly the objective is something like: crush your enemies, or: conquer the world. And of course in ATG you’ll find all the things you expect to find in a wargame: Recon, Zones of control, Chain of Command, Supply, Landscape modifiers, Equipment statistics, Roads, Rivers, Strategic Transfer, Bridges, Fortifications, Airpower, Flak, Artillery Bombardments, Air strikes, Ambushes, Action Cards, Research, Production, Shroud of darkness, Victory Points, Concentric attack, Shipping of troops, Construction of factories and airfields, Shore Bombardment, Paradrops, Airsupply, Entrenchment, Experience, Air Recon missions, etc... In this article I cannot discuss everything and to keep things interesting I will discuss only a limited part of the rules and features (those that have been added to AT Gold).
Scenario Bank and Full Editor
First of all: ATG can load old Advanced Tactics scenarios. This means that all the scenarios that can be found on the scenario bank over at www.advancedtactics.org are available to you in ATG. Dozens of excellent scenarios can be found on the scenario bank. The new import/export functionality should make it easier to share scenarios that use their own graphics. ATG comes with an extensive and full editor that allows scenario designers to create and mod almost anything they desire. From space and fantasy scenarios, World War 1 and 2 scenarios, multi-scenario campaigns to Roman Empire scenarios. Upon release of ATG I expect a lot more player build scenarios to be added to the scenario bank.
New Random Games
One of the great features of old Advanced Tactics was the “Empire”-like random map games. The old random map algorithm is still present in ATG, but a new random map maker has been added.
The new setup screen for a random game.
The new random games give climate zones (arctic, temperate, subtropical, desert and tropical) as well as seasons (clear, mud and winter). You random nations will have different distinct historical flavors. There are German, Anglo-Saxon, Russian, French, Arab, Chinese and Japanese nations to be found.
In ATG resources are introduced. In the new scenarios and new random games shipping with the game you’ll find oil and raw resources. But for example in Tom Webers new WAW scenarios (public beta version included in AT Gold) you’ll find over 10 different resources including pilots, engines and steel.
In the random games raw materials are needed to build the heavy stuff like ships, artillery and tanks. Having a limited number of mines to your disposal means you’ll have to make hard decisions on what to produce and what not to produce.
Engineer unit looking into the possibility of upgrading the oil well in its hex from level 1 to level 2.
Oil wells give you oil. The oil you’ll need if you want to move and fight with your tanks and aircraft.
In theory it is possible to do without oil and raw and fight with an infantry and horse drawn artillery army. But you will find out that an army lacking essential blitzkrieg ingredients will not be good in anything else then defense. Unless of course you are a genius general!
In ATG the option to ally is added. Allying means you can trace supply over your allies hexes and stack allied units together in the same hex. Furthermore allies will be able to give units, research and hexes to each other.
Here we see the allied Soviets nation and Burgundy nation stacking their units.
Battlestack and battledelay
These are 2 rules that enforce realism in a relatively easy and understandable way. When you attack a hex you will get a penalty if you attack with more troops than the stacking limit for an attack. However in a lot of games you can do the attack again and again, in ATG the previous land, artillery and air attacks are remembered so that you cannot use gamey techniques to break a hex. And when a hex is taken and combat took more time then moving into a hex without combat would have taken, the follow up troops (who didn’t spend any action points in conquering the hex) will have to pay a penalty to move through the hex. These two rules make it possible to hold fortresses against massive attacks and also to use well placed defensive strong points to delay the enemy advance.
Intercept Uncertainty and Airfield Attack Bonus
One of the valid criticisms from AT players was that in the air battles it was the most advantageous to put all aircraft in so called mega stacks. 2 new rules have been added to break that gamey trick. First intercept uncertainty is added. This means your never sure if your aircraft will intercept. This will make you want to divide up your aircraft over multiple units if you want a solid air cover. Second airbases are now more vulnerable to attack so you want to spread out your units over as many airbases as possible to avoid them being vulnerable to one big strike.
Defense has been made stronger
In the new random games and scenarios using the AT Gold rules the defensive form has been made stronger. Lower concentric bonuses, the addition of an attack startup penalty to non-tank land attackers, extra movement cost to move into enemy ZOC hexes all work together to get more realistic campaigns. Also AT guns have been made stronger and halftracks now actually provide cover for infantry. The effect of the battlestack rules and battledelay discussed further above is also all in favor of a stubborn defender.
The AI will do its turns much quicker now, up to 50x times more speedily. Also you have the option of watching the AI results come in as the AI is playing (instead of watching blank screen).
Extra Info screens
A number of info screens has been added so that you can get better in game info on Subformation types, landscape types, location types, rulevar settings and peoples.
Comparing the light tank with the medium tank.
A zoom in and a zoom out mode has been added. In zoom in mode you can either see your units as big counters or as small counter spread out over the hex.
Ukraine in zoomed out mode.
Fighting near Minsk in zoomed in mode with big counters.
Lots of incremental small improvements
It is hard to use this as a selling point. But a huge engine like AT does require a lot of maintenance, small fixes and improvements. A lot of those have been made in preparing ATG. Incremental changes are small things like the game now allowing you to switch the color of your regime, or sending an in game text message to your PBEM opponent. Zillions of small things have been added.
Lots of new editor features
Not directly interesting to the regular player, but might well result in more interesting scenarios being built by scenario designers. Added editor/engine features include the possibility to use layered Subformation type graphics with colorization, the option to replace all graphics with your own, the addition stringlists that allow easy use of tabular data in scripting, almost 200 extra checks and execs added to the scripting language, prevent rules allow for letting one subformationtype take the hits for another subformationtype in combat (like the halftrack) and loads of other small features.
Setting prevent rules on a subformation type in the editor.
Post Scriptum: A word for people looking for more Decisive Campaigns
I know a lot of people liked my previous title Decisive Campaigns: Blitzkrieg from Warsaw to Paris and have been looking forward to a next title. Being a small developer it is hard to work on multiple titles at the same time. However now that Advanced Tactics Gold is in the final stages I am looking forward to pick up work again on Decisive Campaigns. I am planning to move to the eastern front with that engine and make a large number of smaller and bigger improvements as well as adding some new features. Upon release of the next Decisive Campaigns title I also plan to release a big update for Warsaw to Paris! I hope to give some more news on development of Decisive Campaigns a few months after the release of ATG.
About the Designer
Victor Reijkersz, also known as 'Vic' has majored in history on the Erasmus University in the Netherlands. He held public office for 2 consecutive terms in the city council of Rotterdam and developed a number of wargames including People's Tactics, Advanced Tactics: World War II, Decisive Campaigns: Warsaw to Paris and Advanced Tactics Gold Edition. In 2008 he founded Victor Reijkersz Designs and is as of yet still coding and designing happily. You can find more info on VRDesigns on www.vrdesigns.nl.