From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
2. It’s harder than I remember. Here’s my play time to date; get all excited, start a campaign as Pontus. Think about all the victories I will win with my ultra fast horse archer based army. Realise within 3 turns that I will be gone within 5. Quit. Start the introductory campaign to get the hang of things. Play the third scenario four times before successfully capturing the city with a still-living general. Play two turns of the open campaign and realise I will be dead soon. Quit. Start a new campaign as Rome and this time, focus.
3. Money is important. The number of turns I’ve spent basically doing nothing but waiting for my treasury to recharge is high. At least one third of my earlier turns were spent this way. Money is the sinews of war, and without it you can do nothing.
4. Food is more important. You cannot eat money. Neither can you turn money into things you can eat through trade. Either your empire is self-sufficient, or you starve. I went from a surplus of 24 food to a deficit of 16 in about 6 turns by not paying attention. In the end I had to abort my invasion of Greece and Thrace as my armies were dying from lack of food.
5. Planning is everything. This is a game that rewards careful planning, and information gathering. Simply launching yourself at your neighbors without checking things out first is a great recipe for disaster. Even going back to the food situation above, if you’re going to expand your home cities then look for provinces with good arable land to invade and start farming. Don’t just attack randomly, it doesn’t work out.
6. The living map is awesome. In previous Total War games, unallocated regions were always passive ‘rebel’ regions and would simply wait to be conquered. In Rome II every province has its own identity and agenda. Once you start the ball rolling on a campaign, crazy things happen. Crazy awesome things. In my current campaign I have watched Carthage get taken apart by the other (non-playable) African factions acting together. Sparta conquered Epirus and Athens conquered Egypt, and then both fell to Odryssia. The Suebi expanded to their south quite rapidly, then lost all their gains in a series of rebellions. Regardless of who you choose, you are playing on a living map, and it pays to be attentive to what is happening elsewhere, and take advantage where you can. I gained two provinces from Carthage in their long war, while remaining their trading partner, by swooping in to take over once the city had been deserted, or taken by a minor faction I felt safe in annoying.
With less than 100 turns played so far, the playable factions of Athens, Carthage, Egypt, Epirus, Macedon, and Sparta are all gone. Starting a new campaign, even as the same faction will start the ball rolling in a completely different direction. This speaks well for the game’s replayability as you will find yourself facing different circumstances even when repeating a faction.
7. Battles are short but intense. Battles typically last four to six minutes, but they feel like an hour. Tactically, things are still there. Rushing horsemen down the flanks to attack bowmen and slingers works fine. Legionaries can hold until their fellows charge in from the flanks to break an enemy, but the amount of time to play through a battle has been compressed. The house could be on fire and I wouldn’t notice.
8. First impressions: good. This game is a great addition to the series. Some aspect, such as city management have been streamlined. Others, such as the factions, have been deepened. The experience so far has been superior to Rome. If nothing else, not forcing you to play a campaign as Rome to completion before unlocking any other faction as playable is a massive improvement. There is a lot to get the hang of though, and the game rewards careful planning and information gathering over simple military superiority (though that is important too).