The Art of War In Field of Glory: Empires24 Jul 2019 1
Without question one of the biggest selling points about AGEOD’s newest grand strategy game Field of Glory Empire (FOGE) is the ability to play full scale tactical battles as part of the world conquest experience during the age of Rome. Here we aren’t talking about short, generic engagements on sparse real estate as found in similar games, but full-fledged battles with realistic looking and performing armies hacking and slashing across a lavishly recreated battlefield with lots of trees and buildings to get in your way.
This concept is not for everyone, however, and FOGE wisely provides three different options to settle such spear-point disagreements. It allows players the ability to pick the methodology that suits their fancy, not a bad selling point in and of itself. So without further ado, here they are.
Velites Option 1 – the Non Battle
This option is the one most commonly found in strategic and grand strategic games, and thus needs little coverage here. If the computer informs you there is a battle to be fought, simply click the mouse and let the computer AI fight it for you, running the calculations for both sides. Then when finished, the software will inform you of the results, the losses each side incurred (to include leader casualties) and move both the winning and losing sides across the map as needed. As an option you can also view the end of battle summary as well. Then all you need to do is start calculating how to replace losses or how much more wealth you will gain each turn from all these new provinces you get to tax.
The big advantage to this option is that its very quick and requires minimal to zero player involvement. The bad news is that its very quick and requires minimal to zero player involvement. By this I mean that you as the player will not really get a sense of why your army prevailed or tanked, and thus what corrections to make or advantages to exploit further. Also, it will be impossible for the player, budding Hannibal that he is, to use his own tactical expertise to offset an enemy superior in numbers or quality.
For FOGE this means that if you aren’t Roman, expect to lose at the beginning. A lot.
Hastati Option 2 – the Mini Battle
This option is sorta in between having the software AI do all the work and the player do all the work. Essentially the idea is to allow the player to watch the battle play out as managed by the software engine. It’s a simplistic system, not unknown in other games, but while it does take longer and involve hands on management by the player to a marginal degree, there are some advantages.
First, how it works in FOGE: When battle occurs the software engine recreates simplified tactical terrain based on the region where the fight takes place. Then point values are assigned to unit types within the two opposing forces who are deployed facing each other, low point value units assigned closest to the center of the friendly battleline, high point units on the flanks. It’s a little more complicated than that, but in general this means that infantry, especially heavy infantry, are in the center while cavalry grace the wings. Skirmishers are normally out front, and while they can’t cause casualties, they can cause fatigue.
Friendly units are deployed one on one against enemy units in what the game describes as a “unit duel” process. If there are more units in the army than can fit in the first line, a second is formed. If a battleline of units is wider than its foe’s, the overlap is considered to be flanking its adversary. At that point ranged fire such as bows and Pila is resolved, followed by one on one duels between a friendly unit plus supports with the enemy formation directly in front. This continues until one side or the other sees enough Cohorts, Alae and Phalanxes rout for victory to be determined. The software AI then adjudicates additional casualties against the loser as its army is pursued and run down. The results are then kicked into the same summary as noted above, the strategic game continuing afterwards.
Quite honestly, most of the work is done by the software and lasts only 10 or 15 minutes at most, even with multiple rounds. Where the player participates is in the force structure department. In the game each region is given a designated geographic size such that invading it with too few troops will afford the player a penalty in battle. Plus, and more importantly, the type and number of troops within the army is critically important. Some things are obvious, like having lots of light troops with a paucity of horse if you are going into a very mountainous region. Other things are not so obvious, such as the Roman Legion’s unbelievable shock value based around chucking Pila prior to going in for the kill with Spatha, that short, deadly meat cleaver the Roman’s masqueraded as a sword. On the other hand, Macedonian style Phalanxes are not really all that scary, but elephants seem to give the Romans fits.
What it all boils down to is that this second option gives the player a very blunt, graphical presentation as to WHY computer managed battles turn out the way they do under the Non Battle option. Yes, there are numbers available, but the visuals really hammer home why certain types of soldiery are better than others when faced with enemy forces of a particular type. This allows players to then build armies optimized to be successful fighting on different types of terrain against various categories of units. The first option’s “we fought, you lost, sux to be you” process simply does not provide that crucial information.
Bottom line – do not flip the switch and go out to the kitchen for coffee. You really need to see what happens.
Principes Option 3 – the Big Battle
Here is where it gets real interesting, at the cost of an awful lot of time. This third option is where you import the opposing armies and their various into the separate Field of Glory II (FOG2) computer game. This game fights battles at the tactical, Cohort level using a digital system ported from a set of very well received miniature wargaming rules for Ancients. In fact, the designer of the digital edition, Richard Bodley Scott, also designed the tabletop version prior. The two pretty much work and look the same when played.
First the downside. An imported battle from FOGE into FOG2 is going to work like a normal in-game battle of FOG2. That means learning a new, substantially different game play process and then finding a good four to six extra hours to complete the engagement. If you don’t have the time, or this level of combat doesn’t interest you, importing and fighting out a one button battle from FOGE the Option 3 way can get very old, very quick.
If you do have the time (or a markedly inferior army, more about that later), here is what happens: FOGE imports a set of unit data into matching units depicted in FOG2. For example, if your army on the strategic board contains lots of Alae (Italian allied infantry in service to Rome), then the imported data set will build Ala units and populate their data fields with the appropriate unit characteristic numbers from FOGE. In some cases, there might not be a matching unit in FOG2, so a similar unit will be used, but again with the FOGE data set inserted. There is a twist here, however. The data set imported by FOG2 may well change the default data set for the matching unit in FOG2. This means FOG2 veterans will soon learn that some units have different abilities than what they are used to, with some stronger or weaker than what they see normally. For example, those Alae mentioned above default to a rating of Above Average in FOG2, but as imported become Superior. Likewise, strategic factors such as fatigue may also degrade an imported data set.
Notes on Unit Performance in FOG2 vs. FOGE
So what does this all mean? At battlefield level there are now a number of significant changes from what I am used to with the FOG2 standalone product. These include Macedonian Phalanxes that seem under-powered going head to head if not downright brittle, elephants that are extremely difficult to kill although their numbers per unit are few, heavy cavalry that can now evade and are thus almost impossible to pin down and destroy for victory purposes, and Roman heavy infantry that are literally steamrollers because all are rated Elite or Superior, and their Shock value for initial contact is enormous. Here we are talking about inflicting 85 – 90 casualties at first swing, and this means some enemy units will crack right then and there. There has been some discussion that heavy horse is also underpowered in FOGE, but I have yet to be able to make a determination in my own mind as to whether that is true or not. That’s sad if true, because these need to become your primary weapon when facing Rome.
What I do know is that the FOGE Republican Romans seem much tougher to beat than the default variety in FOG2, and because this entire process actually supports a strategic game, this may well be design intent. It means that in most cases attacking the Romans frontally may not be suicide, but it comes close. This in turn means that the enemies of Rome will have to rely much more on maneuver and cavalry assets (the latter something the Romans have not a lot of) to turn flanks and hit the Legions where they are the most vulnerable. Again this may well be design intent, because historically pike based armies like the Seleucids faltered because they used their Phalanx as their main weapon du jour vice a pinning force so their better cavalry could sweep in from the left or right. A combination of missile armed light troops supporting the Phalanx seems to do the trick, but the key is evidently not becoming decisively engaged at the center with the opposing Roman infantry. Now admittedly the stock FOG2 program does likewise, but the disparities between armies does not seem near so great.
So why take this option at all (outside it’s fun and looks great)? Then big reason if you run a non-Roman army is that now at least you have the option for pin and maneuver tactics. Options 1 and 2 assume a frontal assault as the norm where only force structure is used as a discriminator, and this type of battle heavily favors Rome. From what I have seen so far it also produces a Roman AI controlled army that is much more sluggish and less innovative in its tactics, relying on the quality of its soldiers vice tactics. If that sounds a lot like Cannae where a pretty low grade army from Carthage butchered the Legion opposed to it, just remember that Option 3 gives you a chance to be Hannibal and do likewise. The other two options do not.
Now finally my ruminations on which option is best. I would definitely toss out the Option 1 Non Battle, as it does nothing save give a result and declines to educate the player on why his army did or did not win, and thus how to change the situation for the future. Unless you absolutely do not like dealing with anything tactical, to include simple observation, this choice is worse than useless IMHO.
Otherwise one might think that if you have time and enjoy fighting individual battles, the last option is your best choice, if not then go for the in-between Mini Battle process. But there is a fourth choice to consider, a hybrid option. This is what I use and has worked pretty well so far. I’m a mini guy so you know I love FOG2 for large colorful battles with lots of troops. So that’s when I import FOGE battles into FOG2 and fight them out there, importing the results back. Its also my go to option if I have a decidedly inferior army (defined as anybody but Rome) as well.
However, for smaller battles, skirmishes and dealing with fortifications, engagements that just don’t provide the same large battle, miniature feel, I go with the Mini-Battle option. And yes I do watch the battle play out, because if there is some new surprise formation with the power of an ancient Pilum Gatling gun, I want to know about it and see what it does, allowing me to prepare more wisely next time.
Its sorta a one stop shopping, something for everyone embedded tactical system and AGEOD deserves a Roman Triumphus at least for including it. Ave!