Daniele -> Victory & Glory: Napoleon – Interview with the Game Designer, Glenn Drover (3/9/2016 3:37:56 PM)
Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Glenn Drover, game designer of the upcoming game Victory and Glory: Napoleon!
Glenn Drover is a well known name in the world of boardgaming, having created the boardgame adaptations of some world famous strategy games such as Age of Empires III and Age of Mythology.
Victory and Glory: Napoleon will be released on March, 17th
You can find the game also on Steam
Q: What is, in your experience, the main challenge a game designer has to deal with in a new project?
A: The main pitfall is falling in love with your original design and ideas. At the beginning of a project, a designer is usually extremely excited about the new game, and thinks that they know how it should work. Once the reality of the first playtest kicks in, the designer’s assumptions are usually sorely tested, and many issues appear. A good designer will remain flexible enough to immediately throw out what is not working and make the necessary changes. If they are too in love with their original idea, they may not be open to that and their design can become stuck and never progress.
Q: You did great tabletop adaptations of famous PC games like Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery, Age of Mythology: The Board game, Railroad Tycoon, etc. Now you had embarked yourself in a contrary enterprise: to make a PC version of a board game. What are the differences you encountered in this process?
A: This game was actually a PC game from the get-go, but one that was designed with board game sensibilities and mechanics. It’s actually far easier to create in the electronic rather than in the physical medium because the computer allows the designer a great deal of freedom to create mechanics and systems that can be handled quickly and seamlessly by the computer. Board games require mechanics that are easy to understand, easy to execute, and do not become tedious for the players to perform over and over. This often requires streamlining a design and abstracting complex elements to a point that gameplay can flow more smoothly. PC games sometimes reward the opposite: the kitchen sink approach. PC gamers often want more detail and more complexity (since the computer can manage it anyway). Converting from PC to board game is challenging because you have to know what to eliminate and streamline. Converting from board game to PC game is challenging because you have to know what to add to enhance the experience.
Q: In Victory and Glory, can the player play as Great Britain and her allies, or just France?
A: We wanted to focus the game on allowing the player to play as Napoleon. His task of defeating an ever-changing alliance against France, re-organizing the patchwork of antiquated states and principalities in Germany and Italy, modernizing their political, legal, and economic structures, and building France’s power to ensure her security made for an interesting and complex game, even when streamlined and abstracted. In order to ensure that the game worked properly from that perspective, and was well balanced, I wanted to stay focused on allowing the player to play as France and having the AI take on the role as Great Britain and her allies. That proved to be very challenging to get right, but I think that we accomplished it.
Now that the game is finished, we can start to entertain the idea of allowing the player and the AI to swap sides. That will be an all new challenge. Trying to program a competent AI to aggressively attack and defeat multiple enemies while simultaneously protecting their homeland is a problem that even human players struggle with. This will be the greatest challenge. If we are able to accomplish it, we will offer it along with a host of other improvements and additional content in a DLC.
Q: I don't see any cities on the map so I'm thinking there are no sieges?
A: I had considered including sieges in the game. There are sieges in Hannibal (the original engine for Victory & Glory), and they work well. There were some famous sieges in the Napoleonic Wars, however, they were almost always sieges of smaller garrisons, not entire field armies. Most sieges were actually more blockades performed by second-line troops after the main army had advanced past and isolated them. Since this game in grand strategic and abstracts combat and many other aspects like supply, terrain, etc. to make the experience more of a game than a simulation, it didn’t seem to make sense to include something like a siege, which was more of an operational-level activity, and would have slowed the flow of the game down. Finally, given that each turn is two-months, you can assume that any garrisons cut off and surrounded in a region would surrender after a few turns unless relieved. Their fate is more or less sealed by the outcome of the major battles in the field.
Q: How is important the diplomacy in the game?
A: Extremely important. The French player usually has very few opportunities to acquire political points (defeating enemy nations and some event cards), so using them to keep potential foes from declaring war before France is ready, is important lest you be swamped with enemies and driven back inside the frontiers of France all the way to Paris.
Q: What do the 'small yellow numbers' next to army figures on the map stand for: number of units, relative strength... ?
A: They show the number of units in that army. Given that there is a limit (20 early in the game, 25 or 30 later in the game for the allied armies), it is important to know how many units are in each army for purposes of combining armies and determining at a glance the size of a potential enemy.
Q: Will AI use cards too?
The AI uses cards, and uses them well. There are many cards in the allied deck that are exclusive to them. Some of these include: Lines of Torres Vedras, German Nationalism, Italy Rebels, Germany Rebels, Military Reform, Liberate Minor Nation, Liberate Major Nation, The Grand Alliance. Watch out for this last one. Just when you think everything is under control…
Q: How do Generals affect the battle’s outcome?
The quality rating of your commanding general actually makes a HUGE difference in many aspects of battle. And Napoleon's ‘12’ makes him the biggest advantage that you have. You should try to always fight with his army if you can.
Here are the aspects that are directly influenced by the quality of the commanding general:
Every attack gets a bonus (or penalty) based on the DIFFERENCE between the two commanding generals.
The ability of a unit to recover from disruption between rounds of battle is based on the quality of the unit and the Quality Rating of the commanding general
The ability to rally a routed unit between rounds is based on quality of the unit and the Command Rating of the commanding general.
The initiative (which side gets to activate the next unit during battle) is entirely based on the two commanding generals' Command Ratings.
Q: Are there some tips to keep in mind when starting a tactical battle?
Despite the fact that the battles in Napoleon: Victory & Glory are abstracted, they reward good tactics from the Napoleonic era. The player that better utilizes Napoleonic tactics will win more battles and take fewer losses doing so.
• Set up a strong defensive line. Units will have more staying power if they are supported on both flanks. There is a bonus for having a unit adjacent, and a double bonus for having units on both sides.
• A combined arms defence is more flexible and will be able to respond better to any attack. There is a bonus for having adjacent units that are of a different type (Cavalry, Infantry, Artillery) than the unit being attacked.
• Attack on the flank. Flank units have, at most, only one supporting unit.
• Fire artillery first to prepare the way for infantry and cavalry. Artillery units can never become disrupted when attacking, so their attack is no risk and may disrupt an enemy unit so that it is more vulnerable to a follow-up attack. An artillery attack could also rout or even eliminate an enemy unit, possibly disrupting the enemy’s defensive line.
• Attack units that are tired and disordered, their defence is weaker and in the case of a cavalry attack on infantry, the infantry unit may not be as able to form square successfully if it is disordered.
• Try to attack enemy units that have a lower combat rating than the attacking unit. Units with superior combat training and power are difficult to defeat.
• Infantry units should attack artillery or other infantry, especially infantry units that are stuck in square formation. Infantry should not usually try to attack enemy cavalry units. The cavalry can usually avoid contact.
• Infantry with skirmishers attached should attack enemy artillery or enemy infantry that do not have skirmishers. In this case, the enemy will be automatically disrupted prior to the attack, which makes the attack more effective.
• Artillery can successfully target any type of unit, but is especially effective against infantry stuck in square. Another good target is enemy cavalry.
• Heavy Cavalry is very useful for overrunning enemy artillery or in charging enemy cavalry, especially counter-charging enemy cavalry that is tired and disrupted from a previous charge. Light Cavalry can also be effective doing these things, but less so, and are best saved in reserve when possible to pursue a retreating enemy army.
• Cavalry can attack enemy infantry, but the infantry have a chance to form square. If that occurs, the cavalry will probably not be able to break the square and will very probably be disordered trying. On the plus side, if a cavalry charge forces an infantry unit to form square and the attacker has more un-disrupted cavalry in their battle line than the enemy, then the infantry unit will not be able to leave the square and will therefore be a much better target for your infantry and artillery attacks.
BATTLE PLAN – Minor Battles
Deciding which units to place on the battle line and where to place them is a key to a good defense, but a good general also considers when and if to commit troops from the reserve. While it is always a good idea to keep the battle line as full as possible, it may also wise to avoid losing valuable units in battles that can be won without committing them. Heavy Cavalry, Heavy Artillery, and Guard Infantry are valuable and hard to come by. Saving them for later in a battle or for a more difficult battle will ensure that they are available when they are needed. Squandering these valuable resources will ensure that your armies are weak. As mentioned earlier, it is also a good idea to save Light Cavalry for pursuing retreating armies rather than getting them chewed up during battle.
Summary: A good general can be more successful by setting up a strong combined-arms defense, attacking vulnerable flanks, ordering the most advantageous attacks, and husbanding your reserves.
Create armies that are the maximum size (20) to give yourself the best chance of winning battles. This may mean shuffling your forces around a bit in the 1800 scenario during the first few turns, but the delay will pay dividends as you should be able to march on Austria and defeat her.
It is also a good idea to follow your main army with a smaller army to feed in reinforcements after battles where you take losses to keep the main army topped off.
Defeating an enemy nation by occupying its capital will give you political points, which are useful to intimidate other major nations who may be thinking about declaring war on you.
Defend your homeland with a force that is at least as strong as any army that can get there in 2 - 3 turns. It can be very tempting to throw everything that you have at Austria, Prussia, Russia, but there are still two nations that can attack you from the rear (Great Britain and Spain). You have to account for that.
Move a few generals back to France to pick up reinforcements in Paris and to defend Paris. At least one of these should be a top-level commander (Quality 8 or higher).
Battle Tactics (Detailed Battles)
When fighting a battle, make sure that you have 4 units in each area on your battle line and that each area contains all three types of units (infantry, cavalry, and artillery) so that you are getting the combined arms bonus.
When attacking in a battle, the order matters. Start with artillery to disrupt and weaken the target. Then attack with cavalry to finish off artillery or enemy cavalry units, or to force enemy infantry into square. Then use your infantry to attack enemy infantry or artillery.
If the enemy across from you is strong, let them come to you on that flank while you attack elsewhere. The defender has an advantage that they can defeat enemy attackers as they move up. The attacker will initially take losses while deploying forward to attack.
What is the best way to use artillery in battle?
Artillery is great at standing off and pounding the enemy, but is not as accurate when firing at long range. If you want to really pound the enemy and break their line, you’ll need to move some artillery up with your other troops. Not only does this confer a ‘combined arms bonus’ on all units in that battle area, it allows the artillery to fire at close range. The AI likes to target your artillery, so you WILL take losses doing this, but it will result in a more potent attack.
What is the best way to use cavalry in battle?
Cavalry are extremely valuable in Victory & Glory: Napoleon. They are not only useful during a battle, but are devastating in pursuit after a victory. You should try to keep at least a couple light cavalry (they are best in pursuit) fresh and available (perhaps in the reserve) for pursuit or to cover your retreat if that should be necessary.
Cavalry units charging other cavalry who are tired (already attacked) and disrupted (which usually happens when they force an enemy infantry unit into square or fail in a charge), gain a significant bonus. This is meant to reflect the power of cavalry counter-charging other cavalry who are blown and disordered.
This is a case where a heavy cavalry unit could indeed be defeated by a light cavalry unit, and that is by design. It not only models historical tactics, but rewards players for using their units correctly.
It is a good tactic to use cavalry to force enemy infantry into square so that infantry and artillery can then punish them. HOWEVER, this is dangerous if the enemy also has fresh cavalry in the vicinity who could counter-charge. Therefore, the best tactical choice would be to first defeat the enemy cavalry before launching attacks on the infantry. If the enemy has a strong, combined arms force (where they get bonuses for the combined arms AND multiple supporting units), you should try to break this down before launching an attack on their infantry. I usually use my artillery to disrupt the enemy artillery and then charge them to overrun them. Then (usually the next turn) I do the same to their cavalry. Once the enemy has only infantry in an area, they can be defeated very effectively using a combined arms attack.
And all of this assumes that you have created your own strong, combined arms group adjacent. Launching attacks by unsupported single units will usually result in disaster.
Why aren’t my Imperial Guard units more effective? Shouldn’t they be plowing through the enemy ranks?
They were not supermen. Napoleon held them in reserve and only committed his best troops after the 'battle had ripened', meaning that the enemy had committed all of their reserves and were severely disrupted and exhausted. Then he committed his Guard and his Cavalry Reserve to break them. This meant that his best units were spared heavy casualties. It also meant that their reputation soared. When the enemy saw the bearskins, they knew that it was time to depart.
Using your best units right from the start is very tempting, but will result in them not having much of an advantage and in losses that you will not like. I suggest starting the battle with your line infantry and cavalry, and only committing your 'reserve' after the enemy has been worn down.
You still may take losses, but they will be easier to replace without losing quality.
Then if you are ever really in trouble, you'll still have high quality troops when you need them.