We skipped a couple of Friday nights, as people were off doing this and that as summer came to a close, before returning to Total War: Rome II.
Our first run a couple weeks back at the multiplayer was summed up by the computer adviser declaring that it was a shameful display.
The only plan after that round was for everybody to go off an learn how to actually play the game. That was it. Just learn how to do things, because that seemed to be the first barrier in our way. I often sort of knew how I wanted things to turn out, but even getting troops lined up the right way in the right direction… that was problematic.
In the mean time, the whole thing was upgraded to Total War: Rome II: Emperor Edition, a patch that included a bunch of… stuff. So when I saw that, I setup the event/hangout in Google+ both to get the game on our collective calendars (I think we missed one week simply because nobody scheduled it) and to warn people to patch up. My very words were, “Big Rome II update out on Steam, so patch up.”
I also put a link to the patch notes so people could see what was dropping. However I also included my favorite minor bits from the update, which were:
- Updates to battle grass colours.
- Fix for some tree graphical issues on battlefields.
- Improved battlefield lighting ambiance.
- Updated weather environments for Mediterranean climate, dry and rainy conditions on the battlefield.
- Briton Levy Freemen now look less like Celts.
Ha ha, right? Ambiance!
But when we joined up on Friday night, only three of us had patched up in advance. Loghound took the reference to ambiance to mean that the patch was no big deal. So Mattman, Potshot, and I loaded up the game for some warm ups against the computer while Loghound patched. He then decided to look at the patch notes and found that among the new features was native support for Mac OS. That caused him to reboot his Mac from Windows mode to Mac OS, only to find out that installing the Mac version was not a trivial task. So he went back to Windows and resumed patching.
While he patch the rest of us got together to face off against two AI opponents. At a medium budget setting, it seemed like we ended up with a lot of troops on the field.
There we struggled a bit to get ourselves arrayed to even be able to strike at our foes, all while learning a new thing. When setting up on the battlefield, if somebody clicks the ready button, everybody else gets a 30 second count down to be ready as well. Those with the fewest troops to arrange or the simplest tactical problem to solve win!
We went on to crush the computer a couple of times, helped along by the AI’s determination to run straight at us, allowed us to fold around our flanks in something akin to a double envelopment. It was practically Cannae. We also figured out how to draw lines on the map, using the mini map palette tools, so we could indicate our vectors of advance and suggest possible cooperative moves.
More after the cut.
A couple of warm ups like that and Loghound was finally ready to join in. We ditched the AIs, I swapped over into opposition against Mattman and Potshot, and Loghound joined me.
My theory was that Loghound, who did not get to play last time (he watched the Twitch stream) and who had not gotten a chance to warm up, would be the furthest behind. And, since I always get accused of being the card sharp in the group, I figured I would take the potentially weakest player on my side in the name of at least the perception of fairness.
I also started swapping maps with each game so as to not make things a tactical replay each time. And off we went.
As it turned out, Loghound was no slouch when it came to fighting. We got together on the first map, each deployed on a flank, indicated our planned route of advance around the flanks to take Potshot and Mattman on either side, and got on with things. We were both playing as Romans, which seem to have very solid infantry.
After chasing off Mattman’s chariots with cavalry, we each hit a flank and pressed towards the middle, eventually able to bring units around the ends of the enemy lines to roll them up. Victory was ours.
Our second battle was across a valley with two high points, one on each side, which represented potential strong points for each team. I put a long, thing line of spear men in the center to screen that, then sent my legionary in a shallow flanking maneuver while my cavalry swept wide to come around behind and take on the enemy ranged units. Loghound had something similar planned for his side, and off we went, with the whole thing working famously.
Loghound got hooked up on the enemy cavalry for a bit, but was able to press through and link up, after which it was a matter of chasing down and slaughtering our foes. We took losses, so it was rated a close victory, but we won.
The next time around I chose a lightly forested map with a dust storm blowing to limit visibility. Loghound and I went with about the same plan, each of us on a flank with my spear men screening force strung out on the middle. Potshot and Mattman also went for flank positions, more heavily against Loghound than I. So on the far side of the map a desperate fight started while I was able to waltz up to Mattman’s troops, left without orders due to him being busy elsewhere, line myself up to take them from three sides, after which I destroyed them handily.
However, by then Loghound was being pushed into a corner, so I had to get myself marching all the way across the map, through the forest, until I was able to come up behind a mass of hostiles and get stuck in. My weight shifted the tide and it quickly became a matter of hunting down stray units in the dust storm.
Loghound and I were clearly doing well with our pattern of attack. Too well. So we decided to change up teams. The final battle of the night would be Mattman and Loghound, versus Potshot and I.
I had my Roman legionaries and cavalry and he had his Parthian archers and spear men. The final map of the evening was forested with some small hills that formed channels across the battlefield. What to do?
I decided we had run the flanking forces thing too many times to try that again. I swapped out my sole ranged unit and a couple legionaries for more cavalry, since chasing things down seemed to be the main problem so far in battles. I decided, for no good reason, to put my cavalry on the left flank to see if could sweep around and my infantry on the right flank as a big fist. Then I drew a red circle on the map around a hill just in front of our starting position, which covered two of the roads, and asked Potshot to hold it until we figure out what was going on.
Things did not look good for us. The haphazard placement of my troops looked like a mistake almost immediately. Loghound had discovered that pressing the Tab key would give an overhead view of the battle, and this is what it looked like.
My cavalry was facing a force of Roman infantry which was likely too strong for them to handle. Meanwhile Mattman had a huge mass of troops poised to move between Potshot on the hill and my infantry on the right flank, and Loghound had more infantry with ranged support coming up on that flank as well. I put my screening spear men again on the crest of a ridge in hopes that they would be able to run down into somebody if needs be, or at least deter any move on Potshot’s flank, sent most of my cavalry across the map towards my infantry, leaving two units behind to harass when the time was right, and then sent all but one unit of legionaries against Loghound on the right flank.
That left a huge mass of Mattman’s infantry closing on my flank as I engaged Loghound’s force, so I left one unit behind, strung out as long as I could make them, to try and hold Mattman off while I battled Loghound. I also put my spear men into play to draw off a couple of units, but there was still the possibility of a lot of troops bleeding through to join up with Loghound.
Lined up I was able to crash into Loghound and send most of his troops to flight. His ranged unit was surprisingly tenacious, destroying the cavalry formation I had assigned to take them down.
I prevailed in the melee and was able to detach a unit of legionaries to chase down Loghound’s archers who, close to being out of ammo, had done their last significant damage. Then I turned to see what was happening on my flank with Mattman’s onslaught.
Mattman had decided to follow Stalin’s maxim, believing quantity has a quality of its own, and had opted to get the most troops on the ground as possible, even if they were inferior quality. As it turns out, one unit of legionaries was able to hold, and send to flight, most of Mattman’s forces.
I am glad I remembered to save the replay at the end of the battle because I had to go back and watch this part of the engagement again. It was quite a sight to see that line stand up to the onslaught. You can see my spear men on the heights in the background and the banners of Potshot’s Parthians in the distance.
As my legionaries held the line I was able to bring up the troops that had finished off Loghound’s infantry to support, routing Mattman’s human wave. I ended up having to chase a number of them down, including his command group that went running off for the corner of the map, a line of my troops in hot pursuit.
Meanwhile, back on his hill, Potshot and his Parthians were a rock, outnumbered but holding the high ground and bleeding the remaining hostile forces as they tried to assault his position. I started trying to close in with my own troops to support him as they freed up from chasing down enemy units. My cavalry on the left flank was finally able to go into action, plowing through units fleeing the carnage of the hill. Eventually the bulk of the hostiles broke and Potshot came down off the hill after them, destroying them in detail. Then it was time for my cavalry to find the remaining enemies on the map. Victory was ours.
At this point I start asking what constitutes a “close” victory. We sent a much bigger force flying after a mighty slaughter of their troops and retained control of the field. I am going to guess that the casualties on our part were a limiting factor. But it certainly felt like a mighty victory, sending more than twice our number packing. Of course, this also no doubt say that we need to look into unit quality as well as quantity and you should use such units. I am going to guess things might have played out differently had Mattman found some high ground to defend and made us come get his mass of levies.
As it was, not everybody was happy with the result of the battle or their ability to make this happen on the field. I admit that I was certainly feeling more lucky than good in sort of an “I meant to do that!” way.
So the end result was a decision that we all need to go finish up the tutorial so we are at least feeling comfortable with the mechanics of the game. Next time we will have to decide if we stick with the current open field battle type, or try something like a river crossing battle. I was also debating whether it might be useful to go with a small budget for forces so that we have fewer units to work with so could concentrate better on what we had. I clearly got away with murder in the battle in the wooded map because Mattman’s focus was elsewhere.
Or maybe we could have a naval battle! How could a completely different set of units go wrong?
Either way, Loghound will be playing the native Mac OS version next time… if he remembers to download it in advance.
And, now that I think about it, I never really checked to see if that battlefield lighting ambiance was improved or not.