Interview: Civil War II Wargamer.com Interview Ageod
With the release of Ageod's Civil War 2 imminent The Wargamer asked Philippe Thibaut about the game, changes from the original and what players can expect
- american civil war, north america, strategic, intermediate, turn-based wego, top down, 4, yes, yes, yes, pdf e-book, printed - color
For those readers who may not know can you briefly tell us who Ageod are, and who has been involved in the development of CW2?
AGEOD was formed back in 2005 by two French gamers, developers and designers, Philippe Malacher and Philippe Thibaut. Our goal was to create games we wanted to play - grand strategy games about history, using our AGE engine. We launched our first game, Birth of America (about the American Revolution) in 2006 and it was a great success. Our next big hit was American Civil War, in 2007, the precursor to Civil War II. Since then we have designed and produced many games on various periods of history including the Ancient Era, 18th Century, Napoleonic, Victorian Age & WW1. The games have built us a really strong and loyal community on our site.
So why make CW2? I’ve read many comments on the original game saying how good it was, so what led to CW2, and what do you see as the key changes to the game?
From Day 1 Ageod has been known as a developer who maintains and improves its games for years to come, not just by fixing bugs, but by adding new features. One of the ways we have been able to do this is because the games share the same underlying engine. When features are added to one game, it is possible, if the features are suitable for the game, to add them to other games. This is what happened with the original American Civil War. However, after some time the engine has moved so far that the older games are no longer compatible, and the original game reached that point some time ago and it meant it was stagnating and we needed to give the whole setting a revamp. We’ve taken everything that was good from the original and merged it with everything we’ve learned over the last 8 years to create a new and improved engine which runs much more smoothly, with a refined UI that conforms with modern standards, and is much more user friendly with a beautiful new look. We’ve also added some very cool new features!
Initial impressions can be vital, when a player of the original game fires up CW2 what do you think they will notice first about the changes? And what do you think will immediately grab the attention of new players?
As far as I am concerned, what strikes me at first glance is the beauty and the scope of the game. You get to play on a massive map of the USA from the Atlantic to the Rockies in a sleek and clean interface that we redid almost from scratch. The new unit artwork is beautiful and we have 300 hand drawn commander portraits in game.
Are there any features or strategies from the original game that you think existing players will need to “unlearn” in order to be successful with CW2?
The core mechanics are the same so it’s not so much a matter of unlearning the game mechanics. There are refinements but the key changes are in the new features that layer on top of the previous features. This will absolutely change the way you play the game and there will be a certain amount of adjustment to your strategies required. The mere fact that the map area covered is so much larger completely changes how you play for a start. There are no longer artificial boundaries and edges of the map, and the new play area has a much more authentic feel to it. One of the things that existing players will find most changed is the UI. The UI is much improved which makes it much more intuitive for new players. Existing players will take a little time to get up to speed, but once they do we’ve had great feedback from the beta testers on how much easier it is to play the game, and how this affects the overall enjoyment of players.
Game development inevitably involves compromise, are there any features that you wanted to include in CW2, but that didn’t make it to the release version?
Yes of course – there is no shortage of ideas, only a limited supply of time. A game like this is never really finished. All you can do is get it to a point where you are happy with the results and then support it post release. One thing I would have loved to get in is the ability for the player to extend new railroads lines in plausible places. Unfortunately the time cost to add this feature was just too high and it had to stay on the wish list. We also have plenty of ideas for additional regional decisions but you just have to draw the line somewhere!
I see the release version of the game will include 8 scenarios, 3 of which are tutorials. Will players be able to set up their own scenarios to play “what if” games? If not what is the thinking behind this decision?
Our community is very keen on modding our games and we hope Civil War II will gain the same level of support. Based on the reaction we have seen so far it certainly looks like it will. We expect all sorts of “what if” and real scenarios to start appearing from the community once they get to grips with the system (and can tear themselves away from actually playing the game!).
Which is your favourite out of the scenarios included?
Personally I am a great fan of the 1862 Sibley’s campaign scenario: it’s located in an unusual portion of the map (Far West). It is a well balanced, challenging and fast-paced scenario. It’s a brand new scenario for Civil War II and one where the traditional opponents (CSA vs. USA) have also to contend with a third party - the Indian tribes. This addition really adds some extra excitement!
The game info mentions that there are 400 individually rated leaders. If these are based on the historical figures this must have been a major piece of research. Are they all historical figures and how long did this take?
This has been an ongoing process and the culmination of many years of research. The database includes 300+ leaders in ACW1 and since then the database has been improved and extended. This has been through both personal research and the power of the community which was widely used in evaluating the leaders and writing the short in-game bios that you can see when playing the game. With Civil War II we have added more leaders as we now cover the areas that were not included in the previous game such as the Far West or the CSA Navy for instance, and with the same level of detail. We’re currently working on a guide book that lists all the leaders in the game which we’re hoping to make available in the coming weeks.
Do leaders’ abilities change as the game moves through time? An obvious example would be Grant – if he starts the game as he ended the real war players will want to put him in high command right from the start, which would skew the game badly.
As in all Ageod games, leaders evolve over the course of a campaign. They gain experience and can be promoted either by player’s decisions or sometimes by game events. Game events such as political interference with the military command structure can lead to some interesting promotions that do not necessarily match your plans! Some leader’s capabilities increase as they are promoted, while others may suffer when promoted because they were just more suited to commanding a smaller force. All this is just as in real life…
Can you outline to our readers how the leadership abilities work in the game and the choices that players face in this aspect of the game?
Leaders affect the strategic and tactical levels of the game and also, to some degree, the political and national levels. In the field leaders have strategic values representing their initiative and ability (or lack thereof) to respond to movements, both friendly and enemy. They have tactical values that give combat bonuses or penalties when attacking or defending. The leaders rank (from Brigadier to Army General) affects their overall capacity to command and the performance of a force through command points. If the number of command points in a force is insufficient, the force will be penalized and suffer movement or combat penalties. In addition, many leaders have special abilities (over 70 different kinds) that give various specific bonuses, affecting a wide scope of skills, including battle, supply, organization, civilian loyalties, etc. Last but not least, all leaders have a political value that affects the nation when they are promoted or demoted. For example promoting Grant too fast to the head of the Union army by bypassing the resident old brass has a significant political cost.
Are there new units in CW2? If so which do you think will appeal most to players?
Yes there are a number of new units, and all the existing units have a complete facelift with gorgeous portraits. One good example is Pontoon bridges which assist large units in crossing the numerous rivers found on the map. We have also themed units for the Far West theatre including mounted volunteers, infantry, conscripted slaves, labourers, and more. I believe players will love the mounted volunteers for the West and Far West theatres, as they will be able to create fast-moving reaction forces which are especially useful when fighting off Indians and raiders of all kinds.
Lastly, although CW2 is not yet released players are always wondering what the future for a game might hold – are there any (tentative) ideas for the future?
Yes we have quite a few projects underway right now! After Civil War II, you shall see early October ‘Espana 1936’, the only grand strategy PC game ever been made to cover the Spanish Civil War. This game is particularly interesting also beyond the original subject, by the fact it is initially a pure modding project from one of our previous titles that has greatly evolved into a full standalone product with our support. Shortly thereafter, we will release ‘Parthian Wars’, the latest expansion to our Roman themed grand strategy game ‘Alea Jacta Est’.
Beyond this, I can’t reveal, but be sure that we have lots of plans!