I am a massive fan of AGEOD and Philippe Thibaut. There is no company which does higher quality historical pre-modern simulation gaming. This is awesome news.
As a die-hard fan of this period (1683-1789), I have been looking at the screen shots for Wars of Succession and I feel there is a serious issue which may be developing with fortresses. I feel strongly that there is a strong "superstar fortress" effect which is happening in AGEOD games, and this game. There is something in gaming I call the "Superstar Fortress Effect". That means that of all of the fortresses which were built, those that had battles near them and/or sieges got mentioned by historians. Those which did not have major battles or sieges were forgotten. On the "Wars of Succession" screen shot, France has most of its frontier fortresses (90% it seems) in Alsace-Lorraine, the Southern Alps, and the Atlantic coast. This is, in my opinion, for two reasons, 1) Vauban was the foremost fortification designer of the era and as such, locating reference materials on his upgrades and new fortifications is very easy. Heck, you can find maps of all of his works, and 2) because of the number of battles and sieges in and around others. The problem with this, and several other wargames games (of all brands) is that other regions are often ignored because of this. On the "Wars of Succession" preview map, other countries around France are missing 60%, 80% or even 90% of their fortresses.
France (Alsace-Lorraine region): Has about 90% of historical fortresses
France (Southern Alps region): Has about 90% of historical fortresses
France (Atlantic Coast): Has about 90% of historical fortresses
France (Spanish Border): Difficult to see, but it seems that the regions I can see the designer has included all of the relevant fortresses, leadning me to believe that he has basically mapped all of the major fortifications of France in the area
Swabia (Baden Wurttemberg region): Missing about 85+% of fortresses
Bavaria: Missing about 85+% of fortresses
Savoy: Missing about 40% of fortresses (no doubt, it has 60%, because the reference material for the War of Spanish Succession discusses action around those included)
Po River Valley, Genoa, and Northern Appenines: (Missing about 60%)
Spain: France seems to have its noteable, minor fortresses on its side of the border, but Spain is missing its fortresses.
Because of the "Superstar Fortress Effect" some fortresses are gone from games because of their own success. In his Blenheim campaign, Marlborough himself avoided Ingolstadt because he called it the strongest fortification in southern Germany (though he sent the Prince of Baden to siege it to get him away from the Blenheim battlefield). As a result this fortress is barely mentioned if it is mentioned in these histories at all. Result: it is missing from virtually every game I have ever played. Including, I see, the upcoming "Wars of Succession".
One argument could POSSIBLY be made: that in order to make the game "playable" and have "action" and movement, fortresses have been scrapped (this would be unacceptable in a World War 1 game... imagine throwing 80% of trenches out to create "action" in World War 1. Obviously the trenches and fortifications should be kept and mechanics adjusted. However, if this is the case, then France should also lose 80% of its fortifications. Which, as we all know, would be ridiculous.
If a high density of fortresses is making this game "unplayable" (or allow for less movement of armies than was historically the case - as reading histories of the conflicts give me a much more playable feel than WW1 would have), then the fortresses are over-powered. And this is my suggestion on how that is the case: Unless a fortress had: 1) a strong garrison, 2) a quality leader, 3) good stockpiles of supplies, odds were high that if a sizeable army came along with artillery and started to lay siege that the whole affair would be over in 3-14 days (this could be calculated like an "overrun" attack, costing a few extra movement points for the marching army). If an approaching army had just won an important battle in the field (or if a major engagement had been won by the enemy in the 100 or so miles around the fortress), the fortress would often surrender upon the approach without siege lines being laid. One factor that would increase resistance was if the defending side had a sizeable army in the field nearby. Additionally, if the residents and rulers of the city were friendly to your cause (and there was no garrison to take their ability to easily open the doors to the enemy away), then the doors could also be opened without a shot fired. Finally, there was always the (remote) possibility of a coup de main -- a surprise attack on a fortress or a trick which got the defenders to open the gates to an attacker. Maybe 1 in 70 fell like this, depending on how it is measured - but generally not those which were best prepared.
Additionally, fortresses which could not be taken could be masked with about 8000 to 10,000 troops to prevent supply problems in your rear areas.
The fact of the matter is that fortresses of this period were a serious problem for advancing armies. It wasn't until the age of Napoleon that these problems were reduced for attackers because of several factors: 1) better roads allowed for better transport of artillery AND better supply of massive stationary armies, 2) artillery itself got much lighter due to a revolution in metals and carriage design, 3) an improvement in and professionalisation of the engineering corps, 4) bigger armies which allowed for more fortresses to be masked and bypassed. To simply throw fortresses out of this game because they might slow things down is not the way to do this. It would be like throwing most trenches out in a WW1 game -- sacriledge. Remember, although Louis XIV's armies were by far the largest in Europe AND they at times approached the size of Napoleon's armies, he never even managed to threaten Vienna effectively. I believe that his troops never made it past Bavaria (though I do believe they threatened Bohemia at one point). ARMIES OF THIS PERIOD DID NOT MARCH FAR INTO ENEMY TERRITORY. Marlborough managed his Blenheim campaign because most of it was across friendly territory and he had pre-positioned supplies to speed progress.
As most of the readers of this forum know, the defence was in the ascendancy during this period in time. From the late 1500s to the time of Napoleon perhaps, fortresses dictated the pace of operations. Taking them could be an exhaustive process. Entire campaign seasons could be spent taking just one major frontier fortress in the low countries. But they could also fall at the drop of a hat if weak willed or ill-prepared. By adding most of the missing fortresses (which I have in a database which took hundreds of hours to research), players could choose their own strategies, instead of having those of history forced on them. AND, the game would not be rendered unplayable if the above proposed rules for taking unprepared fortresses were implemented.