Thursday, September 12, 2013

AGEOD's Civil War II - Preview

This is the sequel to the acclaimed and venerable American Civil War (AGEOD), a computer game of military strategy. With six years of nonstop improvements and new features for Civil War II, the “Adaptive Game Engine” (AGE) is at its peak of wisdom.

Like its predecessor, Civil War II is a game with a razor-sharp focus on military strategy. There are some political, economic and financial decisions to be made by the player, but in a very Clausewitzian way, all these decisions are tied to the war effort. The only departure from the original game is more variety in the decisions menu and the new so-called “regional decisions”. More on these later.

The new Civil War II map is expansive and covers all the US east coast all the way to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The most strategic points of the US west coast (Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Ft. Yuma) and some points of western New Mexico, Colorado and Montana are represented as off-map boxes. The big surprise for Civil War II is the inclusion of the whole Mexico in the map. Is it me or this smells like gunpowder from the Mexican–American War and the Texas War of Independence?

The art work of the map and unit counters has moved into a more vibrant, colder colors palette. The trees and hills within the terrain tiles have slimmer border lines than in the previous game, making them less distractive. The railroads, which are very important for gameplay are more visible than before. The unit counters have been streamlined and stripped of frames or other period adornments. I find the new unit counters more functional. For starters, the existence of a stack of multiple units in a region is more intuitive now than before (do you remember the beads? They are gone now). You still have to click the unit to know what is in the stack, though. The only casualty I can count from the new art work and interface is the borders of the terrain tiles, which are frequently difficult to see.

Besides the expansive map, interface improvements and art work, the most conspicuous new features in Civil War II are the following:
  • Regional decisions. These decisions can, but will not always provide supplies, increased loyalty, internal revenue and infrastructure development. Other decisions will force local military actions or impose political measures/policies. There are also decisions regarding espionage and pure good old treason. The game changer gameplay mechanic is that these decisions are available for some regions only, which gives the player a more flexible and advanced strategic tool than a single, country-wide decision. For example, in the first stages of the war I could really focus the scarce persuasive resources of the Union on the region surrounding Baltimore. This region has showed the lowest loyalty to the cause and required some serious coaxing (martial law and habeas corpus). The preview version of the manual is showing more regional decisions than what I could experience in the game, some of them very exciting in what they could mean for the expansion of this game.

Regional Decision "You get to be El Jefe"

Regional Decisions for "America Expands to the West"?
  •  The Battle Planner. This is a new refinement for the resolution of tactical combat in the AGE engine. If your side’s general in command has enough military skill, right before a battle starts you will be prompted to make some tactical decisions. One has to remember that the game engine always had a sophisticated battle resolution mechanism, which many of us never have looked into much detail. Well, your range of options on how to win or lose a battle have just expanded so pay attention to your forces composition, how you deploy and use them in battle.

Civil War II is a war game that has all the marks of strategic warfare during the American Civil War. As the real life supreme leaders of both sides, you will struggle with the unwieldiness of your armies, the shortcomings of your generals, the vastness and diversity of the country plus the un-decisive nature of the 19th century tactical combat. 

This is a worthy sequel to the previous game, with great new content and features. Definitively worth keeping on the radar.


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