Field of Glory Part 115 Feb 2010 0
Field of Glory has rapidly become my favorite game of late. I have been hopelessly addicted to the PBEM games, and managed to score an ?Error 26? code ? a warning from the game that I have tried to start too many PBEM games in one day (the cap is presently five per day, the rationale being to curb potentially spamming of the server from gamers who never want to play the game ? fair enough, except that I get the shakes if I don?t have at least half a dozen games going simultaneously!)
Dr. Jim Cobb and I have been friends for years, having written and edited each others? work for what might be closing in on a decade. PBEM games are a favorite genre for both of us, but I?ve never had the chance to cross virtual swords with him. So in a moment of desperation ? being blocked the evening before from creating more than five games, and not having my fix of at least six, I resolved that I could at least find a dealer in Jim. By his review on another website it was clear he likes the game as much as I do, and who better than to try and break me from my PBEM addiction than him? I took the bait and asked if he was up for a game. That?s like asking if a wargamer has 50 games he has never played but won?t get rid of. The game was on.
A reflection of my addiction.
The next choice was one of scenario. I seem to gravitate toward the battle of Pharsalus. At Pharsalus the Roman civil war was in full bloom and rivals no less than Julius Caesar and Pompey were vying for Rome and its riches. The things about that scenario that appeal to me are several: it?s a classic match up of quantity versus quality. Caesar has some outstanding troops, but fewer. Pompey?s troops, while no slouches, aren?t as elite as Caesar?s but far outnumber them. The battlefield is large, there are a bunch of units (which means we get to do more than push a handful around them map ? there?s real meat here), and lastly I have won as both sides, which in my estimation tells me it?s a balanced scenario. Unfortunately for Jim (I think, maybe me) I have also lost as both sides, and I think I might have this thing kinda figured out.
In any event ? win or lose (and I?ve done plenty of both) ? I enjoy Field of Glory, and I am looking forward to facing a wily opponent who has probably forgotten more about Roman history than I have yet to learn. This is going to be good.
The battle opens with a considerable distance between the two armies. Caesar, having fewer troops, starts with his back against the wall, or the map?s edge in this case. Pompey has plenty of forces to outflank Caesar, so it?s essential that Caesar not advance too far from the map edge. On the other hand, remaining too close to the map?s edge means that routed troops may flee off the map edge before they have a chance to rally, eliminating them from play quite rapidly. In Caesar?s case this isn?t such a big issue; he has veterans of the Gallic Wars and the elite troops sometimes don?t route until they?re below 40% - making them especially dangerous.
The initial formation. Caesar is to the top of the screen, my troops are at the bottom.
As for Pompey, he has some high quality troops, but his (my) best troops are at least one step down from Caesar?s. That means my best troops, Superior, are a step lower than his Elite troops, and his Superior troops are yet another step above my Average ones. If I mismatch the troops, with my Average facing his Elite, it?s game over for me. With my superior numbers I can hang with him through attrition, but only if he?s just one level of quality above of me. So my dance card is somewhat fixed, and woe betide the centurion who fails to heed these signs and portents.
Thus in the opening moves a couple of things need to happen. First, I need to ensure my troops are matched to his as best is possible. The historical setup of the game does this, so I just need to be sure he doesn?t try to switch places on the fly. Next, both of us, aware of Caesar?s vulnerable right flank (his right is protected by a river) start stretching out our troops to try and secure this vital real estate.
On Turn 2 my my troops advance and he deploys his ranged units to the front.
One of the lessons I?ve learned from Field of Glory is the hard one of victory conditions. Victory is determined not by seizing objectives but rather from a concept of ?break points?. Simply put, as my troops? morale fails, the enemy tallies points. Troops go from Disrupted to Fragmented to Routed. Easy enough? Not quite. Troops can rally. In this scenario it?s a bit more difficult to accomplish, but any time you can assign some expendable troop to latch onto and destroy a routed enemy unit, you effectively ensure they cannot rally ? an essential factor if you intend to win. The other issue should be obvious, but is not: it doesn?t matter which troops rout. This is vital, and a lesson that cost me several hard losses before I learned it: archers appear as fun little skirmishers who shoot up the enemy, engage (if they don?t evade, which some actually will do) and then can get munched up by heavier combat troops. Oh, it sounds so easy?but if those are your little archers, each one that routs puts your opponent two points closer to victory! Sometimes they are expendable. Sometimes it?s wise to not expend them.
I deploy my left flank with ranged units and cavalry.
On Turn 3 I prepare to take out two of his archers.
On Turn 4 we see the initial clash of arms unfold. On my extreme left are two units of archers, but they?re so isolated from the rest of their army they appear to be suffering some morale problems. I resolve to make good on those fears. As I noted above, some ranged weapon troops aren?t good at close-in fighting while others are. Velites do both fairly well. I like to face them because unlike some archers who will quickly evade the attempts of even the weakest units to engage them, Velites will gladly engage the enemy. In this case my opponent has thrust two of them far out from his army, unsupported. This is an ideal situation for my Velites and cavalry to take advantage of, and I begin the process of envelopment that should quickly see them annihilated.
The initial clash of arms.
On the far right of my troops more Velites approach. Again I use my Velites to engage them but lacking cavalry I have deliberately advanced my lighter and faster Velites at a slower pace to keep well within the reach of my heavy Legionaries. Again my opponent?s Velites have quickly outpaced the advance of the rest of his army, and I begin the process of envelopment. However, as I do so some of my Legionaries take substantially disproportionate casualties. This comes as a surprise, as I should have the benefit all the way around. But there is an element of luck here, and over the course of battle I don?t expect to suffer some 250 casualties while inflicting only 50 when it?s a case of Legionary against Velites. This is a surprise, but nothing that won?t quickly turn lopsided in my favor ? especially once I can get behind his troops, surround them, and eliminate them.
My first unpleasant surprise on the right flank.
I am hoping that these should be easy points for me ? Caesar?s troops are tough, but they need significantly fewer break points than I do to lose. Chopping up his Velites should advance me much closer to victory, and it?s a margin I will need when his elite Legionaries start cutting through mine like a hot knife through butter?
The last thing I do at the end of Turn 4 is to close up the ranks in my center.
The rest of the turn is simply plodding the rest of my troops forward, closing gaps in the ranks and passing the turn back to my opponent.
At the end of Turn 4 this is what the battlefield looks like.