Friday, June 12, 2015

Scourge of War: Waterloo - Preview

I move my Army cautiously, with multiple Cavalry units on front and flanks of the main body. In good order, I enter my Army in Brussels a few hours into daylight. At midmorning, a Prussian infantry brigade has dared to push back one of my reconnaissance patrols near the town of Hal. At 13:20 I make the fateful decision to move out my Army from Brussels towards the latest contact. A full enemy Corps is moving our way, I heard. I am Napoleon, and I am about to claim the day.

Scenes of extreme carnage south of Brussels. Wherever you look at there is a regiment either engaged or about to be engaged in battle.

Scourge of War: Waterloo
by NorbSoftDev
Published by Slitherine/Matrix Games
Digital Download: U$ 49.99
Boxed plus Dowload: U$ 54.99

Scourge of War Waterloo (SoWW) is a tactical/grand tactical 3D continuous time wargame about the Battle of Waterloo. Playable from both sides in multiplayer and single player modes, this game is the first from NorbSoftDev to include a grand tactical/operational sandbox mode that allows the player to maneuver his forces in a separate game mode featuring at 90 x 90 km map.

The British forces around defending Hougoumont can't cope with the French infantry and artillery.

SoWW includes 20 historical Waterloo scenarios (10 scenarios for each side) in which the player commands brigades, divisions, corps and armies. The scenarios in which the player commands brigades, divisions and corps feature neighbor, AI-controlled friendly units and the player has to choose the best way to employ the forces under his command according to the ebb and flow of battle.

In this scenario, I don't have any artillery under my command and I am advancing unsupported. Not a great idea.

SoWW's digital battlefield now allows troops to enter buildings and structures.

An infantry brigade in column formation.
SoWW's engine tracks the weapons, ammunition, fatigue and morale of every single regiment in the field. Even the the rating and skills of commanders are taken into account. This is a digital battlefield in which you will see some regiments stubbornly enduring the impossible while others break and retreat at the slightest sign of trouble. The variety of battlefield behaviors and the chaotic scenes of butchery in the Scourge of War games are worth praising.

Prussians on the move. Scene from a sandbox campaign.

The views and sounds in SoWW are fantastic. This is not a big budget game like others, so I will bluntly refuse to compare SoWW against anything else but previous Scourge of War games or maybe "that other" 3D Napoleonic war game that is out there.

SoWW is a game about maneuver, command and control. Is about knowing your subordinate commanders and what they can do. Is about command decisions and OODA cycles. Is fully scalable in terms of workload (frantically move/micromanage every single regiment or just give a couple of orders to your brigades, now and then). It is a very versatile engine that has something for everybody.

This birds eye view of the battlefield is breathtaking. Note the enemy units in the distance.
The sandbox mode is used to generate non-historical scenarios based on (historical) orders of battle. There are several modes of battle available (attack, defend, etc). It is pretty much like a quick battle generator.

The sandbox campaign is a non-historical grand tactical/operational separate game mode. The player maneuvers his forces within a 90 x 90 km area around Brussels. He can detach forces to recon, screen or garrison any given town. When two opposite forces meet each other, the player can retreat or present battle. If he chooses the latter, he will fight the battle in the full 3D environment. It works like a charm and it is very immersive. Some thought on how to conduct the operation will reward the player with a lot of operational art wisdom.

The sandbox campaign map is a 3D stylized map. Each group of units is represented by a single 3D figurine. Any detached unit will have its own 3D figurine.

A close up of the sandbox campaign map. My Cavalry regiment (light blue flag) is retreating from a brush off with an infantry brigade (dark blue flag).

Fully deployed to block a Prussian detachment from crossing the creek on the right, this French Division has occupied the high ground after a forced march.

The sizes of the battles ensure a good amount of confusion. Where is my Brigade when I need it? A very handy feature is the ability to navigate the OOB by pressing the arrow keys.

I am under the impression that the quiet is about to end abruptly.

Damn it! We have just been hit in the flank by enemy cavalry. I haven't spotted this unfortunate event until I saw a square formation within our interior line.
This part of the battlefield is still almost empty. 

There are two types of interfaces in SoWW: the traditional one (shown here) and a new contextual one which is my favorite at the moment. You can switch from one to the other by just selecting a mod from the main menu.
This is the area that the sandbox campaign covers. I use this picture to plan my operations.

This concludes a very brief preview of SoWW. In my opinion this is a great new game from NorbSoftDev, with a lot of new features and options besides the obvious change in the setting. The sandbox campaign and battles offer a great value and replayability. It is a true war game, realistic and with no deal-breaking compromises or shortcuts. The thought and design talent that went into this game is extraordinary, to the point that I feel this is a genre-defining title.


Anonymous said...

great review and a great game, having a blast and enjoy th ecommand and control.

Sam Smith said...

Thanks for covering this game! Entertaining and lucid as usual. I love the Take Command/Scourge of War series and have probably played them more than any other games in my life. Quick question: how does the AI behave at the operational level/in the battles generated through the operational mode? Is it guided by randomly generated objectives, or is there a pre-configured set of objectives for each tactical map, or what? I confess that I do enjoy the objective style employed in the other Nap game, in which you are fighting to protect/capture lines of communication, and have long thought that the SoW series could benefit from something similar.

JC said...

Thanks for reading!

It behaves differently depending which type of sandbox campaign you choose. If fighting for locations, it will try to send troops towards valuable towns. If fighting for your destruction, it will try to find you and then present battle. So far, so good. With occasional glitches, like sending an infantry brigade as a scout force.

The other game is also good. I see both complementing each other.