Field of Glory: Rise of Rome

On March 25, 2010, in Games, by peterb

As you can tell from my recent review of Field of Glory, there’s not much about Roman-themed wargames that I don’t enjoy. Now, with Slitherine’s first expansion pack for the game, Rise of Rome, there’s even more to love.

Lest you think this will be nothing more than a paean, let me say that it took me a while to really get into the spirit of Rise of Rome. Slitherine’s games are great, but they really need to look in to the issues they have with branding and UI design. I downloaded the expansion pack, installed it, ran the game and…couldn’t tell that anything was different. Not even a splash screen or a version number. I actually quit the program and double-checked to make sure that I had installed it correctly. There is nothing in-your-face about Rise of Rome. It’s not even in-your-house. It’s a very quiet expansion.

What it does — quietly — is add stuff to Field of Glory. This consists largely of army lists, some extra scenarios and terrain types, and a random battle generator to magically create scenarios with the armies you create.

Like I said: it’s very quiet. But it’s also very deep.

To really appreciate the expansion, you have to open the “Digital Army Generator”. At which point just how deep becomes apparent. This expansion — there are 3 more in development now — brings over 100 new unit types into the game, representing a huge swath of ancient history. This includes several army sets for different periods in Republican Rome’s history. It is extremely likely that if you want to simulate any battle that took place anywhere around the Mediterranean you will be able to. Want to recreate the battles against the Pontic King Mithridates? Check. Fancy a battle against Armenia? No problem. Want to simulate Cassius’ ill-fated expedition against the Parthians? Rise of Rome has you covered. It is enough to make an ancient history buff cackle with glee.

Armies are built with point counts, so you can theoretically balance your armies for different battles. For fun, I took an elite army of Roman legionaries against a less-well trained (but much larger) Gallic horde, using the random battle generator, and the battle was bloody satisfying and unfolded as I expected. The AI doesn’t seem to have changed much since the first outing, so you’ll want to use Field of Glory’s superb play-by-internet system to obtain some real challenge.

Like the additional army sets, there are some game mechanic changes that are quiet, but deep. You can optionally now enable line-of-sight rules, which should make tabletop gamers quite happy. Armies can also have baggage camps, which can be raided for extra points. Temporary fortifications, palisades, are also a new addition to the game, and add another layer of tactical depth.

Should you buy it? Well, first you’ll have to buy Field of Glory. In my mind, Rise of Rome isn’t so much an expansion as a completion to the game. Once i played through the original FoG scenarios, I sort of felt like I was running over the same ground when replaying them. With the addition of the army creator and the random battle generator, I think some serious replayability has been added to the franchise. It was already a superb wargame; now it’s a superb replayable wargame that gives you a huge amount of “What if?” flexibility.

So yes. I like it, and I think anyone who loves wargames is missing out if they don’t get this.

I do, however, want to urge Slitherine to do themselves a favor. Please, please, please, hire someone who doesn’t just think about how the product plays, but also how it looks and acts. The first time a user clicks your product’s icon they shouldn’t be left wondering “What’s different?” It should be magical. Take your users by the hand and show them what you added. You made something great. You should be proud. So don’t just write a webpage about it. Show it off a little when the user runs the game. Seriously. Your players will love it.

Field of Glory: Rise of Rome, available from Slitherine or from Matrix Games. Requires Field of Glory to already be installed.

Disclosure: Slitherine graciously provided an evaluation copy of this game.


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