Jim “Grognard of the Year” Owczarski, 24 January 2021
In the interest of full disclosure, I am probably the wrong guy to be writing a preview of Field of Glory 2: Medieval, presently set for a February 4, 2021, release.
Why? Let me count the ways:
I have been an unapologetic fan of designer Richard Bodley Scott since the time long, long ago that he and the Barkers brought forth De Bellis Antiquitatis and changed the way lead-heads think about ancients wargaming. The authors stepped back from the arcane rubbish that had left so many tied in Gordian Knots and crafted an elegant system that, in only a few pages, gave us centuries of battles that could be fought with only 12 “elements” (bases) on a side. With its system of rolling dice for PIPs for activations it gave us a lovely representation of command limitations and friction. And with its “push-back or eliminate” combat results entirely eschewing figure removal, it emphasized that commanders were far more concerned with whether or not their troops were advancing than how many hastati the 10th Legion had lost. It also introduced many to the word psiloi, which is fun to say. I note in passing that D.B.A. turned 30 last year and I suspect it was only the misery of the pandemic that prevented it from being more properly feted.
click images to enlarge
D.B.A. grew to be D.B.M., D.B.M.M. and D.B.R.; and Hordes of the Things remains an excellent fantasy variant that includes some of the funniest and finest designers’ notes ever written. I own and have played them all many times over the decades.
Despite this, I was no great fan of the tabletop iteration of RBS’ next big thing, Field of Glory. Likely I was too deep down some Napoleonic rabbit hole to notice, but it undoubtedly had and has kept a following, at least if the profusion of supplements released for it is any indication. Also, I played, but I did not love, the first PC version of Field of Glory. It was a bit unlovely, one might even say eight-bit, and the hex-based and d6 combat system was off-putting. That changed dramatically, however, with the release of Field of Glory 2 which I have written and still believe to be the best game of its type — type being miniature wargame on a PC — in this generation. It utterly surpassed, technology being a cruel thing, its ancestor, iMagic’s Great Battles series and brought to the PC everything I had ever loved about the tabletop miniatures experience. It was far better looking, the rule system had been ironed out, and was robust in allowing both points-based battles (which I do not much care for) and historical scenarios to be built with equal ease.
I am far more at home at Crecy and Poitiers than I ever was at Gaugamela.
And if I was already in on the system, I was even more excited to see the armies and battles covered move forward in time. I know my reputation, and I own it, but my first historical love was actually the Middle Ages. My undergraduate history degree and my history M.A. are both in the period. I am far more at home at Crecy and Poitiers than I ever was at Gaugamela. And while I spent most of my time in Vienna a couple years ago chasing Napoleon, those I was with knew that time would have to be set aside to visit the Waffensammlung and its absurdly large collection of armor.
So, all Slitherine had to do was not wreck something for which I was all in.
And it didn’t. In fact, it made it better.
If you have played Field of Glory 2 a lot here is familiar. Troops are depicted in groups that deploy on battlefields divided into squares.
Battles can be wee skirmishes or fairly epic encounters that take hours. They can be built using a point system or as scenarios created in an excellent editor — there is also a very nice set of pre-built scenarios including Hastings; that matters.
The struggle will begin with units largely in line, anchoring their flanks, and throwing out lighter missile troops to do their damage before skirting away as the more heavily-armed soldiers arrive. Then push comes to shove. Generals remain vital to making movement efficient and maintaining command and control. The combat system itself, while I did not take it apart nut for bolt, appears to have been tweaked rather than revamped which, as you might gather, I am perfectly fine with. Such things are always relative, but I find the system smooth and fast-playing.
As was the case with its ancients predecessor, there is an awful lot of content here. I did not count them, but the marketing folks say there are 100 unit types divided among 57 army lists used by 29 separate nations and factions. I will stipulate that there are a lot. These nations span the period from roughly the turn of the First Millennium A.D. to 1270, picking up more or less where ancients and its DLC left off and running through a good portion of the High Middle Ages. Notable, of course, is the absence of the Hundred Years’ War, the wars of Charles the Rash, and the coming of the Early Modern. One senses DLC on the horizon.
And this game was fashioned by those who have studied the evolution of warfare. If one is standing outside looking in, the armies of the Middle Ages can seem an undifferentiated mass of helmets (always late period), plate armor (same point), lances, and longbows. On the inside, though, the coming of the stirrup and the arms race between defensive equipment and offensive weapons alone can take up volumes. I found it rewarding to study the units under my command and see what “arguments” the designers made about their relative strengths and weaknesses. This was a different experience from the ancients game in which I knew a good deal less and spent most of my time just looking up arcane weapon and troop types.
Folks like us do not play games like this for the graphics, but these have been bumped up nicely.
Never wanting to dodge the eternal comparison, these are not Total War graphics, but I did not expect them to be. In variety of pose and costume, though, I think they compete nicely. Perhaps most, they look even more as if one is playing with lovely, well-painted, animated figures on a virtual tabletop and I would never ask for more. The sound, while serviceable, quickly becomes background noise. I shut if off fairly early on in favor of running O Fortuna on a loop.
Do I have niggles? No, I have a grievance. It breaks my heart that Slitherine has, for reasons it attributes to the availability of resources, never created real multi-player for this system. PBEM++ is fine for those that can bear it, but I hate it with the fire of 12 hells. This hatred probably stems from people saying to me, “but it has multi-player. PBEM++ is right there!” Well, rubbish. It is ludus interruptus. I was able to force a bit of real multi-player out of the ancients version using Steam’s Remote Play feature, but it is a kludge and no proper substitute. I know broader multi-player is out of the question — six-person Hastings, please — but at least two-player real multi-player does not seem too much to ask from a game that has had this level of success.
Still, based on my play of what was described as a review-final BETA candidate, my heart and wallet are open for a game I am confident anyone interested in the period or the system will enjoy. Cry havoc, and all that!
We appreciate you visiting the Armchair Dragoons!
Please leave us your feedback in our discussion forum, or in the comment area below.
You can also find the regiment on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and occasionally at a convention near you.