Slitherine Groups Big Games

By Nik Gaukroger 22 May 2014 0

As we move through the long list of titles that the Slitherine Group are planning to release this year we find ourselves wandering down the long path that leads to the more hardcore, traditional games ? those that are released under the Matrix Games and Ageod banners. Hexes and deep detail abound in these parts. What is coming over the horizon? Read on ?

 

Our first encounter takes us back 100 years to 1914 and the start of the Great War. In the autumn of 2014 Ageod will be releasing To End All Wars, a grand strategy game covering the whole scope of the First World War and based on the successful Civil War 2 engine. Players will play as either the Central Powers of Germany, Austria and Turkey, or as the Entente powers facing them; although if playing the Entente you can choose between the Western part, basically Britain and France, or the Eastern i.e. Russia. As you would expect the USA are neutral at the start of the war and will only join in if the progress of the war affects them enough ? the main driver here being German submarine warfare causing loss to the US. The game runs at a divisional level with the usual Ageod 2 weeks per turn WEGO system.

The main gameplay area is, of course, Europe, but the rest of the world is also covered ? so the of forgotten African campaigns are here as is the global commerce raiding that was prevalent at the start of the war. However, as Europe is the main focus of the game the more ?peripheral? areas of the world are handled in a more abstracted manner so that the player can keep focus on the main event. Indeed more remote areas (including Scotland!) are not divided up into a number of regions but are handled as a single entity, which makes sense from a gameplay point of view. There are a number of ?start point? options; you can start the war from its historical point or from a ?July 1914? start point and you can choose your strategic posture as well ? for example the Germans could choose to follow the Schlieffen plan and attack in the west, or hold back there and concentrate on the Eastern front.

Trench warfare, such a feature of the war, is handled through a mechanism whereby troops will dig in and build up entrenchments over a period of time ? so the war can start with a mobile phase and then settle down to fixed lines just as happened in the real thing. However, the mechanism works in different ways depending on troop density. For example in regions with fewer troops you get less entrenchments ? Palestine would be a good example of this. Other features of WW1 warfare that emerged over time are handled through what is essentially a ?tech tree? approach, which I believe is new for an Ageod game. Thus you cannot conduct a rolling barrage at the start of the war, but it can be developed as the war progresses. Likewise new equipment such as tanks will appear in the same way.

There are 2 mechanisms that determine victory, and need to be managed in parallel. One is National Morale and the other is War Weariness. The former is quite volatile and will change with each victory and defeat, however, the latter is gradually eroded over time, although success and failure still affect it.

Overall this is shaping up to be a really attractive game and, obviously, the release timing is spot on. I must confess that I am not a player of Ageod games, however, this one has really piqued my interest and I?ll be in line for a copy when it is released.

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Ageod also introduced us to Hannibal: Terror of Rome, the latest title (4th in fact)in the Alea Iacta Est series due for release on 18th June. The game?s time span starts in 230BC and then runs through to the end of the 2nd Punic War in 201BC, and is mainly focused on the great war between Rome and Carthage for domination of the western Mediterranean. There are 2 scenarios set just before the start of the 2nd Punic War, and 4 covering the war including a ?whole war? scenario.

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The game runs on a 1 turn is 1 month basis and is, of course, WEGO. The basic unit size is the Legion or the Phalanx. Ageod claim that the Roman political straucture is modelled within the game and that there will usually be 2 ?consular? armies at any one time unless some sort of national emergency dictates (see what I did there?) otherwise. Diplomacy plays apart in the game as the player must deal with ?minor powers? such as Macedon and the Aetolian League, who can intervene in the war to the benefit or detriment of the player of the main powers. Sieges are also a key part of the game as they were in history and success or failure in sieges will be important.

This game has been developed by a modding team for Ageod and the intention is, we are told, to end up covering the whole history of ancient Rome and we can expect a couple of games each year until they achieve this. That?s some ambition ?

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Next up is an American Civil War game (yes, another one) - Brother Against Brother, developed by Western Civilization Software slated for a winter 2014 release.

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This will be a regimental IGOUGO offering and is tended to be a series of releases with each release being a collection of 3-5 battles based around a related event, or events. For example the first will cover the opening stages of the conflict around the battles of 1st Bull run and Williamsburg. The individual battle scenarios will be a mixture of historical and ?what if?.

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One of the big selling points that is being pushed on this game is the high degree of accuracy of the orders of battle and, especially, the maps. The latter have, we are told, involved a vast amount of primary research, and in some cases will change what is considered the definitive view of the battlefield as they include previously unpublished material. The underlying combat mechanisms are also very detailed in terms of casualties and the command and control process is a key part of the game. There is a proper chain of command involved and the physical separation of commander from the person or unit they are issuing order to is an important factor and can result in unit actions not being quite what the player desires. Incapacitated commanders also affect play, and the research into the game involves having known and named replacements, all with individual characteristics, available to be promoted in the field should their superior fall. Again, the effect of having a new man in place will affect how your orders are carried out. Hopefully this will not mean frustration, but an enjoyable battle management challenge.

 

And so we move onto a more modern subject with Flashpoint Campaigns: Southern Storm. Last year?s Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm was our 2013 PC Game of the Year, and deservedly so, and On Target Simulations have moved quite quickly to produce a follow up to that success.

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Where Red Storm was based in northern Germany, Southern Storm is, surprise, surprise, based in southern Germany but also in a ficticious WW3 setting. Here the Warpac forces have driven deep into Germany and the game models fighting between NATO, French, Soviet, East German and Czech forces. It uses the same WEGO turn based approach as its predecessor as well as the much admired variable turn length which depends on the command and control and quality characteristics of the nation involved as to how much time they take to execute orders. The game engine has been tweaked and new features will be introduced ? including a number of features such as AI improvements requested by the gaming community. The aim is for a winter 2014/5 release.

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Lastly, but in no way least, we turn to Gray Grigsby?s War in the West ? and let?s face it, when you?re talking about heavyweight strategy games they don?t get much bigger than a Gary Grigsby title.

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Basically this is a western companion to War in the East (doh!), but includes improvements and is even bigger that its predecessor. It covers the entire Western Theatre of Operations from July 1943 through to the end of the war in 1945 with the fall of Germany. A turn is 1 week and each hex is 10 miles across (told you it was big). Units are divisions, brigades and regiments or their air and naval equivalents. There are 16 allied and 5 Axis nations represented. Release is set for winter 2014.

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Compared to War in the East the air war is covered in far more depth and detail and amphibious operations are a major feature as befits a game covering the landings in Italy and Normandy amongst others. One feature that sounds really intriguing is that if you are playing the Germans there is an abstracted mechanism for how you handle the ongoing Eastern Front. Over the course of the game troops arrive from, or leave for the East depending on the stage of the war. However, if they desire the player can take control of this and the abstraction then determines an impact on the course of war in the West based upon the players choices. Deprive the East of troops and the Soviets will make ground quicker which forces your hand later on, for example. This sounds like a really good way to get yourself into trouble to me, but players better than I will no doubt make good use of it.

This level of control runs throughout the game. There are a vast number of options that let you micromanage great portions of the game should you so desire (and have time for), however, they can also be left to the AI to handle the detail after you set general parameters for it to follow.

Overall this is going to be a must buy for fans of this sort of game from what I have seen so far.

 

Next week we look at yet more games, including 2 boardgame conversions ?

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