Welcome to my first post from my tablet. It’s typical really, I buy a new gadget thinking it’ll improve my mobile life, but to be honest I still before blogging and writing in general on my main PC at home. This keyboard is kind of small. Anyway – I’m not here to talk about my things, I’m here to talk about March of the Eagles, Paradox’s latest Grand-Strategy game set during the Napoleonic Era.

You can read more about my thoughts on the game in the review I did over on Strategy Informer. Essentially, it’s ok, not great, and is a far better multiplayer game than it is single-player. Seriously, I’ve been playing Paradox games for years, but I’ve been missing out not trying to take these games online more often, and March of the Eagles stripped down design and narrower focus means that everything is more immediate. As I mentioned in my review, a multiplayer session of Eagles reminds me a lot of the boardgame Diplomacy.

One of the issues I have with it though is how the game handles technological progression. Essentially, you learn more through losing. Now, I don’t mind the principle behind this – winning a fight simply reinforces the belief that your way is the right way, while losing forces you to look at how you do things and come up with a way of doing it better. In March of the Eagles, all nations get access to the same tech trees, which cover a range of areas from economy, to ship building, to Infantry and ‘Command’. The Great Powers also get an eighth tree which is unique to their nation. You earn idea points naturally every month, and if you fight and lose a lot of battles, your get bonus idea points and so can unlock ideas quicker. This does help redress the balance of power somewhat between strong and weak(er) nations, however it’s not perfect. To really earn enough idea points to make a credible difference, you essentially have to lose all your armies, lose a lot of sieges… essentially be taken to the brink of annihilation, and if you lose that badly, you’re essentially taken out of the game for a very long time.

Take Prussia, for example, the country I was playing as for the majority of the playtime for my review. I ended up fighting both France and Russia, which was essentially a fight I was never going to win. But that was ok, because I made it my mission to take as many of them down with me and psychologically wear both players down through attrition, hit and run tactics, and guerrilla warfare (or as close as you can come to it in a game like this). The thing is though there’s no scope in the game to reward behaviour like that. I really had to fight to keep my armies mobile, and alive, taking out a stack here, thwarting a siege there… in a move that was more troll than tactical, I sent one army into France via Austria just to take Paris, and then left again.

Man, this WordPress App sucks. And this keyboard is REALLY small.

I don’t mind so much that, as far as technological progression goes, there’s nothing gained through winning. Winning is the reward in itself, and your generals – whether they win or lose – get traits through combat which makes them more effective anyway. But I lost that war – 90% of my towns and forts were taken, and I lost most of my army in a stupid last ditch defence manoeuvre which even at the time I knew was a bad idea but I was pretty tired by this point, and wanted to see if I could defeat the Grand Army.

Anyway, despite losing all those sieges, and that one, last climatic battle, I didn’t earn enough points to even unlock a single idea, because I didn’t lose the “right” way. When you’re facing an enemy as numerically superior like France, and Russia to some extent, you don’t really want to get into pitched battles with them as you WILL lose. Yet because I lost it all in one go, instead of over a series of battles, I didn’t get the full extent of bonuses that losing battles get you.

My armies were in tatters, I had a massive manpower deficit to work through, and my nation was no more technologically effective than it was when I started. I was also essentially a non-entity for the rest of that session. Truces are locked in March of the Eagles, so I couldn’t declare war on anyone even if I wanted to, and I didn’t want to as I had to wait for my army to rebuild, which doesn’t happen quickly.

Forgive me if you think I’m whining – I had no problems with losing that war. I knew it was a no-win scenario and I was kind of proud at what I managed to achieve in the end – I annoyed the France and Russia players so much that I didn’t have to cede over that much territory, and they are now at war with each other because I gave each of them territory the other wanted. Revenge is sweet. The only things I was genuinely disappointed by was my own stupid decision to fight that last battle (It would have made rebuilding a lot easier if I hadn’t of done it) and the fact that I was unable to organise the other great powers into an alliance against France. Well, not one that lasted anyway – Russia started off fighting France with us, then truced out early and attacked me instead.

My issues with the technology system then are ones of design: the progression through loss thing is an interesting idea on paper, I just don’t think it was executed particularly well in this case, which is nothing in itself as there are a lot of things about March of the Eagles, as you’ll see in my review, that are not all there. It’s still a fantastic multiplayer experience though, and I’d recommend giving it a go.

Oh yeah, the Playstation 4 happened, didn’t it? I suppose I should talk about that at some point.

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