We managed to get all four of us online and together again last Friday. Mattman, Potshot, myself, and Loghound were all in the hangout, with Loghound telling us about his new Windows 8.1 64-bit install on his Mac, upgraded from an older 32-bit version, allowing him to take full advantage of his hardware. A copy of Windows 7 64-bit wasn’t readily available, so he had to go with Microsoft’s “tablets are the future, even if you don’t have a touch screen!” UI. The cost for him to play Total War: Rome II has now moved into triple digits.
But he has that to fall back on now for the next game that claims to run on the Mac OS, but has some issues. In the case of Rome II, it apparently supports multiplayer on the Mac OS, but you can only play with other Mac OS clients.
Life in the world of video games.
With an even number on, we were able to carry on with last week’s river crossing scenarios without a need to have an AI opponent. After a couple of warmups with the AI while everybody loaded in, where I played as the Spartans, we picked sides. The teams were Mattman and I versus Potshot and Loghound. I returned to my usual practice, playing as Rome, along with Loghound, while Mattman went Macedonian and Potshot chose some barbarian horde from Gaul I think.
I am not going to say I am good at this game, because I am not. But I am okay at taking advantage of the mistakes of others. So when Mattman and I were given the task of attackers, we each built up our force at one of the two river crossings, hoping one of us could break through, cross the river, and come to the aid of the other. Not the best plan, I will admit. It does ignore that bit about concentration of forces. On the other hand, it keeps and problems with divided command and coordination of effort away as well.
As for what Potshot and Loghound did, you will have to look after the cut.
Across the river.
Potshot and Loghound, who later expressed confusion as to whether they were attacking or defending, did concentrate their forces. They put a large part of their troops at the river crossing facing Mattman. (Though they did not know who they were facing until the game started.)
However, they seemed reluctant to set up close to the ford. Only a small part, one of Loghounds units, was in any position to block the ford and keep Mattman from spilling out onto the open ground, where the larger numbers of the attacking forces would gain a large measure of advantage.
Meanwhile, at my end of the river, Loghound chose to leave the ford wide open, putting his troops into something of a blocking position… I think maybe he was trying to cover the flank of their main force. The smart play would have been to block me at the choke point, which was the ford. So I had all my troops lined up to come across the ford, without much in the way.
As the game started, I sent my two units of cavalry racing over the ford and into the open plain beyond as my troops marched across the river. Loghound quickly realized his error, but was unable to close the door before the cavalry was across and my foot troops were arriving on the far shore. There was a short clash at the bank, but my cavalry was already in their flying wedge formation and hitting his units from behind.
Loghound fell back, attempting to use a small wood to anchor his line so as to strengthen his defensive line. However, my troops were already across the river at this point and I was able to hold him with a couple of units while the rest went around his flanks to attack. My cavalry was able to ride off to help Mattman at the other ford.
Mattman kept pressing against the troops at his end, driving them back across the river as my cavalry swept up and dispersed any ranged units aiding the defense from behind the lines. This ended up being rated a decisive victory for Mattman and I.
The numbers tell the tale. I had changed up my plan a bit. Previously I had opted for fewer, high quality troops, something we all ended up doing after seeing cheap troops flee the battlefield again and again. However, this time I decided to fill out my line with a mass of cheap Roman spearmen. They do not have great morale, and will run when pressed too hard, but they will actually hold pretty well if you keep the commander close and you use the morale buffs your commander. Given that I lost only 33 troopers in the battle seems to indicate some success on that front.
We went for a rematch. I kept my same composition, set myself up almost exactly as before at the same location as before and again found myself facing Loghound. He had changed his troop choice, dropping all his foot troops and opting for a small amount of heavy cavalry. This he raced into the ford to keep my own cavalry from dashing into his backfield again. However, I pushed my spearmen forward, and as we learned in Age of Kings, spearmen get a bonus against cavalry… and cavalry is not suited to a static defense.
I was again able to push across the river, mauling Loghound’s mounted force with my mass of pointed sticks, allowing my cavalry to run free and take Potshot from the flanks again. Another victory for Mattman and I.
After that, it was decided we should change up the teams. The price of spotting the mistakes of my foes was to be put at the kids table with the AI, while Mattman, Potshot, and Loghound joined together. Things went somewhat less brilliantly for me after that. I did managed to get them to let me defend, and we had already chosen a 20 minute timer for these battles. All I had to do was hold the river crossings for 20 minutes and I would win.
It is easy to blame the AI, especially since the AI is dumb. I chose a map that had a ford and a bridge. Ideally, the AI would have setup to defend the bridge, which is tactically a more constrained position, and done its routine of rushing headlong at the enemy even in defense where it might have done a bit of good. Instead the AI insisted on setting up to defend at both crossings, the bridge and the ford, but at neither spot did it have enough forces to hold on its own, so I had to split my own forces and watch both crossings as well.
But for the most part, everybody was learning as we played, so the mistakes of the first few games were not repeated. I traded out my cavalry for some solid legionaries, set myself to try to plug the crossings at both end while the AI did whatever it did, and let the masses of enemies come on.
I lost, and lost, and lost again.
Not that I did not make them pay. The river ran with the blood of the dead and wounded… or would have if the game supported that graphic detail. The results noted the toll I took upon my foes.
In the last run of the night, I actually survived through to the 20 minute mark, with my remaining troops drawn up in a last ditch defense.
You can see the dead all over the field. A lot of them are the dead of the AI, which followed its usual plan of flinging units piecemeal against superior odds. Meanwhile Potshot had discovered flaming arrows, which do not do much damage but which quickly demoralize the receivers of such fiery gifts. Those sent the last of the AI’s troops fleeing the battlefield.
And while I still had troops alive and fighting when the time ran out, the enemy had achieved their victory condition of crossing the river just after the 16 minute mark. Still, that round did at least earn me a “Valiant Defeat” result.
After that it was time to call it a night.
We are in something of an odd position. While we probably have a few more weeks of Rome II in us before we start looking for another game, what we really need is some way to come up with, for lack of a better term, “even teams.” How do we balance things out so that we end up with two teams that have something like an equal shot at winning. Playing 2v2, whatever team I am on appears to win, but playing 3v2 with me and an AI on one side ends up with me on the losing side each time. Adding an AI to my side might help, but I think that might shift the balance too much to my side again.
So we have that to work on.
I wonder if any of the nationalities are stronger/weaker than others? I tend to choose the Romans just because I am familiar with their troops in general.
Anyway, we wrapped up the night trading details on system performance. Loghound wanted to his Windows Experience Index, the performance rating that Microsoft uses to… discourage you from upgrading to Windows Vista and beyond? It really isn’t all that granular or informative and, as it turns out, Microsoft ended up hiding it in Windows 8.1 because… again, another guess… they didn’t need another reason to discourage people from upgrading to Windows 8.1. Anyway, Google reveals all, and he was able to find the command line method for invoking the tool so we could all compare. Here are our results.
You can tell which two have an SSD and which two do not. My four year old machine still seems to be adequate. SSDs were still kind of pricey and small back then. I will put that on my list of things for the next machine I build, though I am at least a year away from doing that.
Loghound’s Mac Pro is from 2009, so rings in as the oldest of the bunch. I am not quite sure how to read his score though. In Windows 7, the maximum score is 7.9, so Mattman is clearly rocking it. With Windows 8.1, the score is from 1.0 to 9.9. However, I am not sure if the performance numbers are comparable. Is a 7.5 on the 1.0 to 7.9 scale of Windows 7 the same as a 7.5 on 1.0 to 9.9 scale of Windows 8.1?
If nothing else, I suppose we were able to prove our systems were all capable of running Windows. Go us.