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Tacticular Cancer Review: Rise of Prussia Gold

Tacticular Cancer Review: Rise of Prussia Gold

Review - posted by Trash on Sun 9 June 2013, 16:57:29

Tags: AGEOD; Matrix Games; Rise of Prussia Gold

With the recent announcement of AGEOD and Matrix Games entering a partnership also came the re-release of Rise of Prussia in a Gold version. Our very own Cenobyte went to see what the new Rise of Prussia Gold is all about.

The game has a quite sophisticated supply system and also a rudimentary economic system for unit recruitment and replacement, but the supply system works largely in the background and does not require much management by the player (on a sidenote, the importance of the supply system depends on the settings, in some higher difficulties it is more important to keep tabs on the supply situation and the location of supply depots). Diplomacy is only involved in a very abstract sense in that some neighboring nations, such as the Netherlands or the Ottoman Empire, might choose to intervene into the conflict if one faction grows too strong. Such an intervention seems to be extremely rare, however, and I've never seen it actually happen in a game.

The game is not only advanced by the campaigns between the two rivals. Instead, the course of the game is further shaped by events that unlock allied troops and represent the warfare in the colonies. Short flavor texts provide some information about these historical events and add to the immersion of the game. Some of these events also offer choices to the player, such as deciding whether to mobilize the forces of Bavaria in Bohemia, close to the Austrian front lines, or rather in Nuremberg at the camp of the Imperial army, which would please France. Most of these events are not random and will happen at their historical date. Random events include events providing additional officers, which is especially important for Austria with its rather weak starting commanders, and events affecting your troops in the field in some – usually negative – ways.​

Read the full article: Tacticular Cancer Review: Rise of Prussia Gold



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The glorious title screen.

Rise of Prussia Gold
Rise of Prussia was the first product released when French wargaming company AGEOD teamed up with the Swedish publisher and developer Paradox Interactive. Since then, this collaboration has long ended, and AGEOD has instead turned to the leading American wargame publisher, Matrix Games, for a strategic partnership.
Now, a Rise of Prussia product is again the first release of this new collaboration. In this review, we will see what this new version of the game offers and how it differs from its predecessor.


Frederick and Maria
Rise of Prussia Gold allows the player to replay the Seven-Years-War (SYW) on the European theatre-of-war. This war was started by Fredrick the Great of Prussia to preemptively strike against Austria before Austria could mount their own offensive. The reason for the Austro-Prussian antagonism was the rulership over the territories of Silesia, formerly under Austrian rule but recently annexed by Prussia.

Both countries managed to secure support for their cause. Prussia allied with Great Britain, whose king was at that time also the lord elector of Hannover, and the minor German principalities of Brunswick and Hessen-Kassel. Austria, on the other side, managed to ally herself with most of the other major European kingdoms of the time – namely France, Russia and Sweden. Furthermore, because Prussia had started the war without a declaration of war, the Holy Roman Empire, the loose collection of the numerous German principalities and lordships, also sided with Austria.

The war’s main theatre-of-operations were Saxony, Silesia, Pommerania and Westphalia. Over the course of seven years, first the Prussians and then the Austrians and their allies were on the offensive. However, both sides were unable to defeat the other side, and the war eventually ended in a peace that restored the status quo ante.

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The map really captures the feel of the period


Proven mechanics
Rise of Prussia Gold uses the proven AGE engine. This engine simulates the game in a simultaneous turn-based fashion. The player and the AI (or other players) make their orders, and then the PC executes the orders simultaneously. This system often produces quite interesting and unexpected outcomes, which increases the suspense and the replay value.

The 2D map features land provinces, where most of the troop movement and combat takes place, and separate cities and fortresses, which serve as strongpoints and recruitment bases for new troops. As the war focuses on the warfare in continental Europe, only central Europe is fully represented on the map. Certain other areas of interest, but apart from the main theatres of the war, such as Paris or London, are represented as so-called off-map boxes. The whole game can be comfortably played with using only the mouse.

Units are represented with counters on the game map, and are further fleshed out with individual, coloured cards in the drag-and-drop menu of the game. Commanders are designed and named after historical commanders in the war, with many individual traits and skills. The chain of command ranges from brigade commanders to field marshals in command of whole armies. Multiple corps in the same army can even support each other in battle, if they are located in neighboring provinces.

The soundtrack features a collection of classical music that fits to the timeframe of the game. It can also be turned off if it gets too repetitive or annoying. All scenarios can be played either against the AI or against human opponents via email.

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Lots of fun background information can be found.


Rise of Prussia Gold tries to simulate the SYW in continental Europe. As such, it primarily puts the nations of Prussia and Austria against each other. In most of the scenarios, the allies of each faction, like the United Kingdom or France, are controlled by the player of the main faction. Nevertheless, the troops of an allied nation behave in some respect different than the troops of Austria or Prussia. Allied troops can only be commanded by officers of the corresponding sub-faction or by officers with special traits. Furthermore, some sub-faction have limitations in the areas in which they are effective. For example, the Swedish troops are only effective in northern Germany, but become ineffective if moved to the south.

Battles are resolved by the computer, similar to the way how battles are resolved in games by Paradox Interactive, and players cannot directly influence the course of a battle. The player can, however, choose from a variety of stances to adjust the behavior of his troops in the battle, like ordering light raiding units such as hussars to try to avoid combat as much as possible and retreat quickly if engaged by enemy forces.

Whereas the land combat plays a very large role in the game, naval warfare plays only a very minor role. This is in large part due to the fact that neither Austria nor Prussia were in possession of a noteworthy fleet at that time. The main use of naval units is to quickly transport troops on larger rivers such as the Danube.

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While not the main attraction of the game, naval combat does play a role.


Other aspects such as the economy or diplomacy also play only a minor role. The game has a quite sophisticated supply system and also a rudimentary economic system for unit recruitment and replacement, but the supply system works largely in the background and does not require much management by the player (on a sidenote, the importance of the supply system depends on the settings, in some higher difficulties it is more important to keep tabs on the supply situation and the location of supply depots). Diplomacy is only involved in a very abstract sense in that some neighboring nations, such as the Netherlands or the Ottoman Empire, might choose to intervene into the conflict if one faction grows too strong. Such an intervention seems to be extremely rare, however, and I've never seen it actually happen in a game.

The game is not only advanced by the campaigns between the two rivals. Instead, the course of the game is further shaped by events that unlock allied troops and represent the warfare in the colonies. Short flavor texts provide some information about these historical events and add to the immersion of the game. Some of these events also offer choices to the player, such as deciding whether to mobilize the forces of Bavaria in Bohemia, close to the Austrian front lines, or rather in Nuremberg at the camp of the Imperial army, which would please France. Most of these events are not random and will happen at their historical date. Random events include events providing additional officers, which is especially important for Austria with its rather weak starting commanders, and events affecting your troops in the field in some – usually negative – ways.

The AI performs reasonably well, but is prone to be a little bit too aggressive at times, which can be easily exploited by experienced players. The AI is also very aggressive in playing the newly added provincial decisions (see below). There are a number of options to tweak the difficulty and performance of the AI in the options menu. Even with the highest settings and most advanced AI routines, the game runs very smooth. Due to the low number of factions to compute, the turn resolution is very fast, only in cases of very large and long battles can it take more than a few seconds to resolve a turn.

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Battles are dealt with in an abstract but detailed manner.


Gold content
As an expanded version of the original, Rise of Prussia Gold promises new content next to the inclusion of all bugfixes for the original game. These additions are namely a number of new scenarios and the introduction of decision cards.

The scenarios of the original game were limited to the SYW, with the main difference between the scenarios being the different starting time. Furthermore, the maximum number of players was limited to 2 players, one player for the Prussian side and one for the Austrian side. Rise of Prussia Gold now introduces two entirely new scenarios taken place outside the scope of the SYW and dealing with the previous wars between Austria and Prussia over Silesia – the SYW was actually called the Third Silesian War in Prussia.

Both scenarios take place on the same game map, but they feature numerous new generals and unit graphics. In comparison with the SYW scenarios, the new scenarios are more limited in scale, with less troops in action and more defined fronts and theatres of operations. This makes them a good starting point for players without experience with AGEOD’s games and system or for players who want to have some quick action without all the additional complexity of the larger SYW scenarios. Due to the small number of turns they are also well-suited for MP games. However, in the recent game version, the new scenarios still suffer from some bugs such as officers not being able to be promoted, making it impossible to establish a working chain of command.

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Rise of Prussia Gold's presentation certainly has its moments


The remaining 2 new scenarios are actually old SYW scenarios with a twist – instead of the old limitation to 2 players, it is now possible to play MP games with up to 4 players. In the 4 players scenarios, players can play as either Prussia, Austria, Russia or France, meaning that all additional players will play on the Austrian side. While the game remains almost unchanged for Prussia and Austria, Russia and France play in a more limited fashion. Both sides have restrictions on the areas they can enter, which makes sense from the perspective of gameplay balance, but it means a severe limitation of the action radius of those two factions. Furthermore, since both factions entered the war later than Austria, both sides will have to wait a couple of turns before they can actively participate. This also adds to their limitation. On the positive side, the split Austrian faction arguably simulates the historical differences between Austria and her allies in a better way and also increases the difficulty for Austria, since she looses much of her auxiliary troops.

The other addition, decision cards, is a more ambivalent change. The main usage of the cards is to speed up the process of besieging fortresses and to gather new resources in exchange for discontent. The latter usage works out quite well, since especially the small Prussia is in dire need of all the resources it can gain. The siege cards make it possible to quickly capture strategically important forts, which makes the siege mechanics more dynamic. But this is also means that fortresses loose their specific strategic and tactical importance as strongpoints for areas with few troops. In general, all tactics involving the intelligent use of fortresses for territorial defense are largely rendered obsolete with the new cards. This in turn makes maneuver warfare more important, in which Prussia excels. Many of the changes and additions thus make the game easier for Prussia, whereas Austria will now have a harder time.

While Rise of Prussia Gold features some additions to the original game, some of the rather weird mechanics of the game, such as the replacement system, remain unchanged, however. This replacement system has two components. First, players receive periodic replacement chits at the beginning of each year. As a second system, players can build additional replacements on the map, but these buildable replacements only cover infantry replacements. Here, it would have been nice to get the opportunity to build cavalry replacements as well.

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Your officers can mean the difference between failure and succes.


Conclusion
Rise of Prussia Gold offers a slightly expanded version of the original Rise of Prussia. Most of the new content belongs rather to the category “nice to have”, but does not improve the game substantially. The new siege dynamics will actually force players to adapt their strategies, since it renders many established strategies obsolete. In general, the game will become more difficult for the Austrian player, whereas the Prussian player will benefit from the changes. On the negative side, it must be said that the potential to improve the original game content, especially in regard to the replacement system, was not used. What you do get however is another deep and engaging wargame in the AGEOD tradition.

For the players who already own Rise of Prussia, an upgrade kit is available for a small price. New players can buy the expanded edition directly.

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