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OneArmedMexican
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First impression - after playing a Grand CSA campaign

Wed Sep 17, 2014 2:37 pm

After having taken a two year hiatus - forced by RL. I finally bought CW2 and started a Grand Campaign (April 1861) as CSA. In my arrogance, I took for granted that I could still beat Athena and gave her with every boost the option menu offers. My main question was to find out if the game constitutes a real upgarde over its precedessor while also evaluating its accessibility to newcomers.

The good:
  • OOBs have been overhauled to a considerable degree - especially in the West and Far West. Players get more free units at the start, there are some new generals added to the game.
  • Decisions have been added. It's a nice feature but for the most part flavour. Although it appears to offer some new strategic possibilities: in particular I like the option to devastate territory that I have to give up anyway and thus extracting the most before retreating my troops. However due to the limited number of times these decisions can be drawn, a scorched earth defence on a broad scale is impossible.
  • Fleshed out Far Western theatre of war: In the first iteration of this game, the Far West was barely more than 2 off-map boxes. Now it has become a fully fleshed side-theatre. Granted it's ultimately inconsequential but it is an entertaining distraction. The same applies for Mexico and Canada - I didn't get a foreign intervention in my game - but I am pretty sure they are a lot more interesting now when you actually get to fight in more than a few off-map boxes.
  • Battleplaner: nice feature and appreciated. I would like to see the treshold for it kicking in to be lowered, though. Early during my camapign I had a few engagements in Missouri that featured even forces of 200-300pw each. Later during the war such a battle is small fries but during the opening months these were the biggest engagements, I had. I believe that having balanced forces as well as commanders present on both sides, should be the decisive factors, not so much the size of the involved armies.
  • The game is still pretty good. It draw me back in quickly and I enjoyed kicking Athena's old butt.

Mixed feelings:
  • Calritiy of the UI: The main menu definitively looks a lot more attractive. The in changes to the in-game user interface are a mixed blessing imho. There are even more sub-menus than ever before. As an old player it took about 5-10 rounds to get used to the changes but for new players this is increasingly becoming less and less accessible.
  • The strength of this game lies in its incredible detail offering an unparalleled amount of historical accuracy. But somehow I feel sorry for players who want to learn this complex game without having prior experience with AGE games.
  • The slow start of the 1861 campaign. This was always the case and it is historically correct. However it takes some enthousiasm to get through those first few boring months. For a new player this slow start with lot's of seemingly arbitrary limitations (inaccessible regions, disabled options, ...) can't be motivating. He has to take a lot of fundamental decisions and - tooltips nonwithstanding - will have little idea about their long term effects. Again this is a double-edged sword: it assures a simulation that represents history as well as possible but it comes at the cost of gameplay that - at least initially - lacks excitement. Luckily, there are smaller scenarios and tutorials (haven't looked at those but in the past, they were mediocre).

The bad:
  • On the whole, the amount of inovation seems somewhat underwhelming. The differences to AGEOD's first Civil War game are only in some details - huge amounts of data have just been copy-pasted - including large part of the OOB, events and the basic gameplay elements. Knowing what a small company AGEOD is, I can forgive what would really piss me off coming from a bigger developper. But like I said above: there are some nice new additions and the new game has been brought up to the latest standards of the AGE engine. Still the feeling of disappointment remains: I would have expected a bit more new content from a fully prized game.
  • Graphic overhaul: Granted it is extensive and thourough. But this is obviously a question of presonal preference. For my part, I am not thrilled about this part of the game. Compared to the hand-drawn maps of the past, the new style seems outright ugly to me (and has ever since its first iteration in PoN -I understand that it is a lot cheaper and practical, though ...). On the other hand, there are some nice new unit graphics. Only the leader graphics don't please me. If I am not mistaken, they were produced by colouring old photographs. A lot of leaders look bloated/lifeless to me (Longstreet would be an example). I liked the old leader graphics better.
  • Complexity is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. And although tooltips are plentiful and of good quality, the learning curve must be a nightmare for anybody but veteran players. With every new layer AGE games become less accessible to new players which firmly limits AGE games to the hardcore historical simulation fans. I introduced my older brother to RuS two years back and although he is a major history buff and enjoys complex strategy games, he gave up frustrated after two or three hours. Admittedly coming from Total War games, one of his biggest gripes was that the actual combat is removed from his control once the troops collide. But the complexity did just as much to make him lose interest fast.
  • AI: Athena needs some steroids. After a two year hiatus, I was able to beat the crap out of her (I was almost ashamed of abusing an elderly lady). AI McDowell stumbled around like a drunkard in 1861 which enabled me to capture Alexandria early on, then I wiped out several smaller stacks until I finally managed to trick the main Union army into stumbling upon my well entrenched forces. I pressed my advantage and denied the Union any chance to recover in the East; this allowed me to capture Washington in January 1862. But my main issue is that the AI still makes completely idiotic moves on a regular basis. One example: during the late summer of 1861, it smashed 3 newly built and leaderless brigades + an observation balloon into my entrenched army that was just sitting still at Alexandria. Such senseless attacks used to be a staple of AGE AI, just like an incapability of handling supplies or plan ahead to build proper supply lines to support advances. All these old weaknesses still seem to be present.

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tripax
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Wed Sep 17, 2014 2:50 pm

Two quick notes:
I think the current leader graphics are a bit cartoony, adding color to old photographs might be better, IMO.

In late summer 1861 a couple Union brigades arrive in Alexandria by event as fixed defenders. If you already hold Alexandria in force, they get destroyed. I think this bug has been pointed out, I'm not sure if it is fixed in the new patch.

Welcome back!

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Mickey3D
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Location: Lausanne, Switzerland

Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:14 pm

Several people made the same kind of comment about the interface new style, having a preference for the style of the first version.
I get used to the new look and feel but Picaron has made a mod changing some of the interface elements.

minipol
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Thu Sep 18, 2014 9:38 am

As to Athena, it's best not to put here on a too aggressive setting.
Even the detection bonus shouldn't be set to high as it may trigger more weird attacks.

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OneArmedMexican
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Thu Sep 18, 2014 6:09 pm

minipol wrote:As to Athena, it's best not to put here on a too aggressive setting.
Even the detection bonus shouldn't be set to high as it may trigger more weird attacks.


I left aggression on default settings. Making Athena more aggressive hasn't helped her in the past, either. It's interesting that you observe the same effect for a high detection bonus, though. I gave her the maximum possible since I would have thought it would actually help her judge the situation accurately.

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jack54
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Location: East Tennessee USA

Thu Sep 18, 2014 7:07 pm

Welcome back OAM.... good to see you on the forums again. I hope all is well.

I agree totally that the added complexity in the UI is a nightmare for new players. The 'nesting' of options and the need to scroll one line windows is uncomfortable even for old players. Perhaps we have sacrificed some charm for detail. Overall still good stuff though and AGE remains my favorite system.
AGE games I own; RUS ,AJE, BOR, H:ToR, AACW, WIA, ROP,NC, CWII, Espana 1936, TYW
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Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne
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Fri Sep 19, 2014 2:26 am

OneArmedMexican wrote:I left aggression on default settings. Making Athena more aggressive hasn't helped her in the past, either. It's interesting that you observe the same effect for a high detection bonus, though. I gave her the maximum possible since I would have thought it would actually help her judge the situation accurately.


It took me a long time to figure this out as it seems counter-intuitive. But it messes up Athena's routine when she can't see the forest for the trees. I almost always keep a +1 detect bonus on all Ageod games. Any higher and it gets erratic.

And welcome back OAM! Any chance for some more AAR's? I've also not been able to get AACW 2 yet because of RL. I plan on getting it after my deadline this month though.

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ohms_law
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Location: Syracuse, NY

Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:04 am

It bothers me that people get so defensive about these games that they feel the need to talk about how good they are ("Overall still good stuff though and AGE remains my favorite system."). They're great games, period. I don't think that we need to be so defensive over any sort of criticism. Criticisms are going to be how we get the game improved, anyway.
:)

Regardless, I agree with most of what you said OAM. I don't find the general pictures bothersome at all, but like you said that's going to be a very subjective topic anyway. I mostly prefer the map, although there are some minor issues that could certainly be improved.
FYI: there's an 1861 campaign that starts a bit later... August, I think. That'd be the "grand campaign" for the newer players who may find the first few months of the April start boring.

Athena always needs help. heh
The AI has always been remarkably decent in these games, though.

penlin
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Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:59 am

Just my two cents as someone new-ish to AGEOD titles. I had bought Napoleon's Campaigns and ACW previously but never got into them. AACW2 is the first AGEOD game I have played much with. In my opinion, the new interace is MUCH more accessible to new players. Although some options are nested down, the buttons in the lower panel are larger and easier to deal with compared to old games. In fact, I just bought the Spanish Civil War and was pretty disappointed to see the old interface again. There have also been some other improvements (e.g. when you hit F11 to build units, it "remembers" your last selection of region and troop type, so it's easy to go in/out of troop building mode). I also find the map generally easier to read even if it looks cartoonish a bit. Of course, there has always been the problem of some regions being small (e.g. forts) or otherwise crowded and hard to see what's going on. Anyway, hopefully this alleviates your fear a bit about the interface changes.

On the other hand, AGEOD has a LONG way to go to really have a UI that is friendly to new people - or experts. Any interface that puts so much key info in text and tooltips just isn't a good idea.

And then there is the general accessibility of game play to new players. The AACW2 manual is pretty lousy. A lot of the info is pretty generic or doesn't really guide you in terms of what you need to do. To learn the game, you really have to read the forums a lot - not a good sign. I made it through the learning curve because I really wanted to learn the game.

On the other hand, there are some bright spots. The shorter battle scenarios are a good way for new players to learn the game. They play quite fast. Also, the AI can really be dumbed down - also a good thing. I learned the game by doing the following: playing the Shiloh battle scenario, playing the 1-year West campaign, playing the multi-year East only campaign (Blood Road South, I think), and I have finally started my first Grand Campaign. I played the East campaign on the lowest AI settings, so it was a cakewalk but still a valuable learning experience because I was learning game mechanics by trial and error (again, the manual kind of sucks). The first few months of 1861 in the Grand Campaign are deadly boring, of course, but I was already hooked by then.

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jack54
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Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:08 am
Location: East Tennessee USA

Sun Sep 21, 2014 3:03 pm

ohms_law wrote:It bothers me that people get so defensive about these games that they feel the need to talk about how good they are ("Overall still good stuff though and AGE remains my favorite system."). They're great games, period. I don't think that we need to be so defensive over any sort of criticism. Criticisms are going to be how we get the game improved, anyway.
:)
.


Not trying to be defensive, I just don't want to leave the wrong impression about my own statement. I prefer CWII to AACW and I wouldn't want my comment about sacrificing charm for detail to be misinterpreted.
AGE games I own; RUS ,AJE, BOR, H:ToR, AACW, WIA, ROP,NC, CWII, Espana 1936, TYW

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