Editorial: I want Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnought and Rule the Waves 2 to have a baby

By Joe Robinson 20 May 2020 3

I first discovered Rule the Waves last year, when the second game graced out digital shores. The other Joe did the review as he was a veteran of the first game, but I ended up getting it as well and it pretty much consumed my life for a couple of months. It hits just the right level of abstraction, while also offering lots of variable depth.

I’m not an expert on Early 20th Century naval policy nor have I mastered RTW as a game, but I very much appreciate it for what it is even though it’s one of those iconic passion project games, much like Aurora. There’s still plenty of these kinds of games about; low-frills conceptual games that are more about the simulation than they are about the game. The good ones are wonderful, but rare and ultimately I don’t think they’re the future of the hobby.

ultimate admiral dreadnoughts ship builder

Now let’s talk about Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts. It’s one of the two Ultimate Admiral games being developed by Game-Lab, them wot made Ultimate General: Civil War. It’s’ a Naval wargame set in the late 19th/early 20th century during the ‘Dreadnought’ arms race that preceded WW1. At the moment it’s still in Alpha, but it’s still very impressive. The Colonel was the first to try it out for us here, but i’ve just started dabbling in it myself.

It currently has just shy of 50 Naval Academy scenarios and the random battle generator, although both of these allow you to design your ships in the same way Rule the Waves does. Since it’s using a lovely 3D engine, there’s the added element of being able to place things (RTW2’s ship design interface is actually kind of naff, or at least not as intuitive as it should be), but other than that you’re still balancing the concerns of cost, displacement and of course how many guns one wants on their ships.

rtw2 guide 1

The combat engine is beautiful, and battles are just as tense and engaging here as they in RTW. Dreadnoughts offers a more intimate scale I feel, whereas RTW2’s top-down 2D view allows for a wider field of view. But both (to me) offer the same level of depth and simulation in terms of how these combats have been fought. I’ve seen so many readers and commentators on the web bemoan whenever a wargame idea starts focusing on nice visuals. The argument is that it is often at the expense of depth; to be fair, they have a point just as much as it’s reactionary nonsense, but for me the future of wargaming is not in churning out the same hex-and-counter 2D experience over and over again.

There are clearly some talented people out there still making very genuine, very in-depth wargames but often keep them low-tech because of resource concerns. There are other people out there who have the desire and resources to make very pretty games. I feel we’re getting to the point where we can have the best of both worlds. Unity of Command 2 is a close example and Dreadnoughts is shaping up to be another. Who knows, maybe it’ll end up being that perfect blend all on its own. Since the main campaign mode hasn’t been revealed yet, we don’t actually know what it’ll be like.

To be clear, this isn't a slight on Rule the Waves 2 - it's a fantastic game and you should all try it. Dreadnoughts offers a level of depth rarely seen in a game that offers this level of fidelity, and really, there's no reason why it HAS to be a trade-off. One major issue in wargaming continues to be in-game tutorialisation - funnily enough BOTH Dreadnoughts and RTW2 are not brilliant at explaining themselves.

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