Sunday, July 3, 2011

Future Force - Gameplay Notes About this New HPS Sims Release

Future Force was released last Friday by HPS Sims. 

This is a grand strategy game that lets the player manage a defense budget in a simulated conflict spanning 5 areas of operation. The player is in charge of mobilizing, deploying, re-deploying, refitting  and demobilizing five types of units (heavy brigade combat teams, Striker brigade combat teams,  infantry brigade combat teams, SOF groups, aviation brigades and engineer teams). Also, the player has the ability to allocate funds for strategic and tactical intelligence. There are costs associated with each of the activities mentioned above and the challenge is to allocate the right amount of funds and military assets to achieve victory. 

This is not a traditional war game and it may be a bit difficult to grasp what is all about without playing it. So I will be posting some notes and screenshots of a game that I played today.
Future Force's main (and only) screen.
Please click the images for a better view.

The first phase of the game (information phase) presents the results of intelligence. In this particular game I was lucky enough to get a clear tactical picture of the enemy forces in all areas of operations (AO). The binoculars in the side of each AO info panel (blue counter) indicates that the blue side has tactical intelligence on that AO. Note how each AO has different types of military activity going on: major combat operations, peacetime military engagement and irregular warfare. Also note the stability bars in each AO: they indicate for how long the current situation will hold. The blue and orange map silhouettes contain a graph with the amount and type of units being mobilized (new units, gray section), refitting (ARFORGEN, yellow section) and ready to be deployed (available, green section). If I would have allocated enough money for strategic intelligence, and if such intelligence would have been successful,  I would have been able to see the enemy's forces within the orange map.
The next phase of the game is redeployment. During this phase the player can move forces out from each AO. Here I am taking out Aviation Brigade 37 from AO Charlie.

During the deployment phase, the player deploys forces into the AOs. These forces are taken from the "available" pool, which can be seen within the blue map silhouette. Here I am deploying forces to AO Alpha, where major combat operations are in progress. Watch out: deployment costs money! A heavy brigade combat team costs 5 "strategic mobility points" and each one of this points costs around $1B. This is not a war where you can shovel tanks at your problems. The amount of remaining "strategic mobility points" is indicated in the info box at the top left panel (SM 1). Other units are cheaper to deploy: an infantry brigade will cost just $2B.
During the conflict resolution phase, combat happens. The game calculates those automatically, apparently based mainly in force ratios. There are no combat modifiers like terrain that I know of. The combat results are aggregated in percentages (note the info box in the top left corner) and very generic. The main type of activity in each AO can change for the next turn: AO Charlie has four bars for stability and may destabilize into either major combat operations or irregular warfare.
Happy New Year! Now get your ass into that chair and fix the budget ... and the war! This is the information panel at the beginning of a new year/turn. First things first, just keeping the troops on the ground is costing the taxpayers some handsome $114B (indicated as OPTEMPO). With a budget of only $140, only $26B are available for anything else. In this screen, I am given the choice of spending in intelligence operations or strategic mobility.
More choices for my $26B-sized wallet: build units. Note the cost and  the  year by which they will be available.
I can also use the available funds to refit units. Heavy Brigade Combat Team 8 doesn't need any  of that, fortunately. "Transform Unit" refers to disbanding the unit. If I disband this unit, I will bring $3B back to the coffers.
Another set of options for the available funds: R&D will improve the effectiveness of these units.
With all the available funds allocated, the new year starts and the cycle repeats. Here is the start of 2017 right before re- and deploying forces. AOC looks like it will be the choice for serious reinforcement.
A score is given to both the blue and orange sides. A graph can be checked at any time during the game to see your progress. In this game I was defeated by the orange forces. The total score is the thick green line. The score accumulated at each AO is also plotted. Note the tides of war.
My overall impression of Future Force is positive. When I started playing this game the minimalistic, abstracted approach of the game had me scratching my head. But after a couple of games it is clear that this is a classical example of "less is more". With a razor-sharp focus and just a few variables to tinker, this game is challenging and teaches a lot about resources management. Can I have a game like this for the manufacturing planners at my day job, Mr. Lunsford?



gabeeg said...

It sounds somewhat interesting...but does not really sound that fun (of course this is just my opinion). The real question that I have is does the game have much replay value?

JC said...

Hi gabeeg,

There is only one setup/scenario. Every time you start a new game it is different: you and the enemy get different forces.

Infinite replayability ... sorta ... but you are playing on the same battlefield.

I am having fun with it and I will be posting some time in the future.


spelk said...

I've been playing it a little today, and I must say it certainly is more exciting than it looks.

Its a bit of a balancing puzzle. Get the intel you need, allocate the right amount in the right place, make sure you can keep units cycling through your deployables and fingers crossed you can push the win on most of the AO's.

My knee jerk reaction was to assume this is a dull economic game, but you have resource management, deploying the correct force to meet the enemy, all with the uncertainty of the fog of war against you.

Its not pretty, nor immersive, but ultimately I think it has some nice game mechanics in place.

The one thing that concerns me, is if things start going bad for you, I'm not sure you can pull it back.. so I've had to abort a few games around turn 10, simply because things were just going from bad to worse, and I was left without the funds and hardware to cover the AO's.

JC said...

Hi spelk,

I read part 1 of your aar. Looking forward for more.


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