OK, so with the beta patch, I started a new campaign to test out the changes….1805, General difficulty. Final score 416 to 136 – ‘Epic victory’.
First, I have to say that the game feels MUCH better with this update. It still has a quite a few opportunities for improvement (which I’ll provide suggestion/ideas below) but compared to release, it required a lot more planning and execution. It was probably on par in difficulty with playing on Emperor before, but it was much more interesting to play out.
The battles were much more tense, but towards the end of the campaign they were becoming more and more lopsided as I adjusted to the new mechanics (and my troops improved). I still think something more has to be done with cavalry as their presence or absence seems to be much more the deciding factor than infantry and/or cannon. Perhaps it’s just that the French can still get too much of it (leading my back to my earlier post that there should be some sort of ‘recruitment restriction’ so that you MUST take infantry each year). I know historically Allied horsemen normally outnumbered the French but as time drags on in the game, my Cav ratio tends to INCREASE since I protect mine and mercilessly target enemy horse. I more jealously guard my Cav than I do my Imperial Guard infantry lol.
Some additional notes:
1) Early on, I had a battle vs Russia which I won and even though I only killed about half of their troops, ALL THREE of their leaders present were killed during the pursuit. This pretty much set them back to the point where they were only a nuisance for the rest of the game. This seemed like a bug to me (odds of killing the leaders are quite low) but as a failsafe, perhaps change it to a max of 1 leader per battle can be lost during pursuit?
2) Possibly due to the above, Russia was very active for my first war vs Austria/Prussia, but then just sat it out again for much of the rest of the game. There is little/no incentive to actually go invade Russia so I just left them be. Attacking Russia opens you up to losing your Elite and better units due to the random ‘attrition’ and there is no reason to risk that. IMO, better units should be less likely to be destroyed by attrition (they tend to be more coherent, less likely to panic, and higher on the supply priority). If such a change is made, then I could see adding some VP requirement to subdue Russia at some point. But as it stands now, it’s obviously possible to win an Epic victory without ever stepping foot into Russia.
3) UI Suggestion: Cards that are ‘Major Events’ that trigger VPs should be flagged as such. Cards that are repeatable should also be flagged. Players shouldn’t have to pick through the manual for that info.
4) Combat suggestion: Cavalry held in reserve should be able to cover the pursuit even if the army breaks in one flank. That’s the whole point of keeping them in reserve :) . And it would greatly help the AI because they tend to keep reserve Cav and they lose a LOT more battles than the player will.
5) Naval aspect: It still seems completely unnecessary/unwinnable without a MAJOR commitment (for which there is no payoff). Something here just doesn’t work. It’s too hard to do anything and there is no incentive to even try. MAYBE if they didn’t take activations, I would try but I just can’t see wasting yearly recruitment allotment on the fleets. The biggest problem is….why bother? Invading England is going to be difficult at best and again, unnecessary to win the game. Doing anything else ‘amphibiously’ is also unlikely to succeed and also unnecessary/unprofitable.
6) Territory: As I’ve mentioned in prior feedback, there is little reason to care about holding or taking territory (other than for ‘roleplaying’/historical purposes). The player doesn’t derive any direct benefit/penalty from gaining/losing territory (other than a nebulous and artificial and minor ‘score’ at the end of the game). British invasions that liberate a territory? So? Reaching to take Scandinavia or into Russia or anywhere else? Again, why? Somehow, some way, SOMETHING has to be built on the territory occupied in order for the player to value it. Income, cards, something has to be a reward. Either that or the score for territory has to be greatly increased. As it is now, winning Major battles and punching out the Majors is far more significant than territory lost or gained (heck even just standing pat and playing ‘Consolidate’ is almost worth 1 territory….). Potentially that is more ‘historically accurate’, but the ultimate goal of creating the ‘Empire’ was well….territory. The battles and surrender of enemies should be a means to that end. In fact, why is winning a major battle even worth points? I never lost one and I fought quite a few so that adds up to the majority of my score. I would think that territory could at least double in point and the scoring for major battles and capitulations halved. Then I might care about taking and holding more and more territory which might cause me to overextend. But the current scoring rewards staying centralized in powerful stack and punching enemy stacks for VPs and then forcing the surrender. You minimize risk to losing a Major battles (which cost you a lot of points) and you get the points for the Major’s surrendering more often. I think the VPs should more reward ‘reaching’ for territory which, in turn, would spread the troops a bit thinner to cover more area.
All of that said, as I mentioned at the top, the beta patch is a major step forward. It solves many of the tactical/operational level issues with the game. The overall ‘grand strategic’ level is where I think the game has the most opportunities. Yes, I know it’s meant to be ‘simple’, but many changes could be added that don’t increase the complexity at all. Heck just an overhaul of the scoring could go a long way to encouraging a different play style which would be more in line with history.
Thanks again for the update. I look forward to continued updates and hopefully this game can reach it’s full potential as a result (or at least in a DLC).