micabytes

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  1. Episode 409: Field of Glory II

    Outflank the elephant. Once it's disrupted, it will crumble... fast. Also, javelin infantry are extremely effective against them. While I critique a bit above, my overall opinion is positive - it's an improvement on an already solid system.
  2. Episode 409: Field of Glory II

    If the opponent spreads out their cavalry, I think the simple counter is to not play that game. The AI makes that mistake a lot - sees one of your units doing something mildly threatening and runs after them with 1-2 units of its own, and it is always - always - a mistake. At Cannae, the Romans have so many troops that if the Carthaginian cavalry try to do a proper end-run around the Romans, the battle will be over before the Carthaginians are done. But generally, I feel cavalry mobility is OK. But Cannae is a special battle that almost every ancient game struggles to simulate - which is why I call it the Cannae-test. Can you simulate Cannae and 1) allow the Carthaginians to do what the sources tell us they did, and 2) have the Roman battle plan make sense? To carry out the maneuvers described by Polybius/Livy, your Carthaginians basically need mobility that would be hugely overpowered in every other battle, and thus they often don't. Strategos/Lost Battles handles this by giving the top generals a double move ability; GBoH handled it with its "momentum" rules (which allowed the Carthaginians to basically scoot around a fairly static Roman army due to the leadership gap). Don't think I've seen a game that manages 1) without this kind of "extra" mobility advantage. And almost no games (Lost Battles being the only exception I know of) can manage 2). Sure - heavy cavalry that charge engaged infantry in the flank are awesome. But if I have double the number of infantry you have (as, e.g. at Cannae), I'd say that I'm doing something seriously wrong if you get to make any significant number of flank charges, beyond what you'll get as a result of the chaos of combat. One definitely shouldn't do what the AI did when I played that battle - throw the majority of its infantry against my cavalry. It successfully defeated my cavalry - but by the time it had done so, I'd rolled up its front line of infantry using only my infantry and could break their morale. Hmm. If I were designing within this system, I think that one possible tweak I'd consider/test in the game would be to make non-Lance cavalry much more likely to break off/fall back if charged by infantry (especially when charged in the flank). One of the problems with the handling of ancient cavalry right now is that they are far, far too likely to stick it out in a melee with infantry. Which is almost, always a bad idea - even if the odds are even (which is presumably why the AI makes this choice). Don't think I've ever read any of any battle where that happened either (cavalry could sometimes have long battles against other cavalry, though often as a result of one or both sides dismounting). IMO, getting tied down in an equal combat is only a good idea for cavalry if you have other units that can exploit the situation. But that's just my 2 cents. Ancient warfare is something that better scholars than me have spent tons of pages discussing.
  3. Episode 409: Field of Glory II

    That's actually a really good idea, though it would probably require some form of determinism, since performance would otherwise be luck-based.
  4. Episode 409: Field of Glory II

    Yay - episode on my favorite period of history. Stuff I really like about FoG2: The pacing of the battles in the game; as Rob says, knowing when to commit and when not to, can make all the difference. The handling of light troops, especially light infantry. The way they function here "feels" right, when set up against ancient accounts. The Legion vs Phalanx dynamics are good. Can't agree with Rob about the rough ground criticism - in that respect the game reflects pretty well what the sources tell us. Things I didn't like: Campaigns. Agree that they are boring. Elephants are appropriately strong unit which can come apart very quickly if things goes against them, but there is not any rampage. This means that one of the key elements of accounts of elephants in battle does not exist in the game. Fails the Cannae-test. To be fair, most games do, but this one does so spectacularly. The historical holding action with Numidian cavalry is impossible. Cavalry is too immobile for it to even be a consideration to attack the opposite flanks cavalry. The historical gradual withdrawal of the Punic center during the battle is practically impossible and a terrible idea. I'm not sure you could even recreate the course of the battle if you tried. Polybius famously said that it was better to have cavalry superiority and half the infantry. FoG2 essentially disagrees, making it far too easy for infantry to tie down and counter cavalry. Taking Cannae as an example - it doesn't help to have 8 cavalry against your opponents 3, when he can throw 12-15 infantry units in to counter you. I also feel the game undervalues quality quite a bit. History is replete with battles where smaller numbers of elite troops defeat larger numbers. I doubt Caesar could beat Pompey in this game. Overall, though I still like it. It's a good wargame, even if it doesn't quite catch all the nuances of the period.
  5. If you haven't played it, you should definitely try GMT's "Sword of Rome" boardgame. It's probably the best game about this period that has been done so far, and it does it by having each side with sharply distinct powers. The Romans win by colonizing, which increases their ability to raise armies and can eventually make them (almost) unstoppable. The Gauls are hugely mobile and gain victory points from raiding, so unlike everyone else in the game, they're not very concerned about holding land. The Etruscan/Samnites (one power in this game) are a major thorn in the side of everyone else - the Etruscans can bribe enemy armies to blunt enemy offensives, while the Samnite heartland is inhospitable and difficult to conquer. Greece has superb generals and superior technology (best siege cards), but has to pay heavily to maintain their military strength (representing the difficulties of mercenary armies and commanders such as Pyrrhus), as well as face the most dangerous of the independent minor powers in the game in Carthage (the Volscii and Transalpine Gauls are the other minor powers in the game). Each side requires a completely different strategy than the others, but the game (in its 4-player format) is finely balanced - although some powers are definitely easier to play the first few times than others.
  6. Episode 336: Star Wars: Rebellion

    But such an incredible game. Though a shame about the interface, as Jason says. I played this a lot despite that - both single player and multiplayer. It was also fatally unbalanced, though - IIRC, it was pretty much impossible for the Empire to lose if played correctly, as there really wasn't an "endgame" that worked for the Rebels.
  7. Episode 339: Ancient Warfare

    You give some excellent examples but - in my opinion (and obviously YMMV) - this is no different from any other period of history but the most recent (and some might argue that even current events are not exempted). Historical records are - by their very nature - guaranteed to be questionable in their reliability. Consider something like Waterloo - one of the most well-known battles in Western history. The obfuscation of what actually happened at the battle started almost immediately the battle had concluded, and historians were arguing over critical details scant years after the event. Arguments that Wellington himself famously refused to participate in, with his (somewhat) famous quote: "The history of a battle, is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance." Everyone have their axe to grind in the "Waterloo Industry". The Prussians had their angle. Wellington - heavily involved in politics - had his own interests. The French - anti-Napoleonic and Napoleonic alike - needed to vindicate their actions. Was it the leadership made the difference? The thin red line (which was neither red, nor thin, in this case)? Napoleon's illness? The Prussians? Arguments can - and have - been made for all of them and tons of other theories. The points of contention for historians to argue are innumerable, and - absent a time machine - we just won't ever know the truth. Or more succinctly, to me the difference is one of degree, and not of kind; at least in the context of the discussion that was being had in the podcast. And now I really want to get back to doing that Waterloo campaign game that I was designing at one time. Right after the ancient battle game. So much to do, so little time...
  8. Episode 339: Ancient Warfare

    Easy way to get me listening to 3MA again - just start doing stuff on Ancients. I really like the characterization of the Ancient period as a battle of systems. To me, that is one of the things I feel are lacking in most existing ancient wargame offerings - the right balance of systems (pikes should not just be heavy infantry that are better against horse), morale (frequently ignored, letting units fight to the death) and leadership (also often ignored). Probably there is no balance that will satisfy everyone given the openness to interpretation of the period. I just know that the balance that will satisfy me hasn't been created yet. One aspect of ancient wargaming that I feel is totally forgotten in contemporary games, is the advance to contact. Games always start you with deploying your troops, but if one reads the historical accounts (as well as the various tactical manuals), it quickly becomes apparent that the advance to contact - securing a positional advantage, forage, water - was some of the most important aspects of an ancient battle, and furthermore one in which the quality of the General had a huge impact (arguably, several of the decisive battles of the classical period were won in the maneuver phase of the battle, when one side or the other placed their opponent at a disadvantage). I think one could make a pretty interesting game based on that aspect of a battle, in addition to - or perhaps as the main part - of an ancient warfare game. In terms of the various systems present on the Ancient battlefield, this was also were some of the units that are frequently useless in the pitched battle itself become important - Peltasts, Light Lancers, Numidians, etc., were prized not so much because of their battlefield prowess, but because they allowed the General to pick the time and place of the battle (and could be used to weaken the enemy prior to the battle). Praetorians annoy me too. Perhaps it's just that I've read way too much on Ancient warfare for my own good health, but I do feel the "we know nothing" point podcast might have been a bit overstated. I mean - certainly there are many holes in what we do know, and there will no doubt keep on coming up new theories on how ancient combat actually worked - but I feel this is true of almost every sort of warfare prior to the 20th century (or at least pre the Civil War era). Playing Napoleonics, for instance, I've experienced the prevailing theory about what made the English infantry so effective swing from being that the English were able to fire more shots per minute, to a theory that the English effectiveness was in fact all about single volley + a ferocious charge (a similar evolution has occured in thoughts about the American Revolution). Despite possessing enormeous amounts of information - diaries, eyewitness accounts, tactical manuals, etc. - key aspects of what actually happened in battles no more than 200 years ago remain hotly contested. Which makes sense - just like for the Ancient world, there really isn't anyone alive today who has first-hand knowledge of what it's like to stand on a muddy field, blanketed in acrid black powder smoke, eyes stinging, surrounded by other miserable humans prepared to charge forward against an enemy they can hardly see. Considering that more than 2000 years have passed since the events of Cannae, etc., I think we actually have a surprisingly large amount of knowledge about ancient warfare.