Old World (pka Ten Crowns) from Soren Johnson

Oh yeah. There is no accounting for how someone experiences the game mechanics, which is why I prefaced it with a discussion of Carr’s essay. If you check upstream here, my initial experiences with the game (as a collection of rules) were much more favourable than where I ended up with it eventually, so there’s plenty of variance even with one person’s experience(s) with a particular game!

Yeah, this is where it falls apart for me as far as it being a “historical” game is concerned. I don’t reference Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in the review, or the (superior) Origins, but those games do a lot better. Even though those AC games are rife with historical inaccuracies (I wrote thousands of words about them!), they at least try to feel authentic, which is easier to pull off than simply making sure you skip the leather breastplates and bracers (since authenticity plays into players’ expectations).

With those games, I never felt the frustration that I felt with Old World, and I guess that’s partially because the AC games have a much tighter focus (a more specific period of history), but also because within that smaller scope they try to get the broad outlines correct (e.g. the Peloponnesian War is a conflict between Sparta and Athens and their respective allies, in a world where the sea plays a major role, featuring mostly dudes who live in cities with marble temples and run around with big round shields and spears – never mind the anachronistic Corinthian helmets, the stark white statues, or the catapults).

I think Old World lives in this weird space where the focus is on a more narrow slice of history than Civ (and so details matter), but also a much broader scope than something like the AC games (and so you need to get a lot of different stuff right as well as a great many more broad strokes for it to not feel weird/ahistorical or, in a word, inauthentic). As I say in the review, I think it was a mistake for Old World to mix and match Bronze Age and Iron Age cultures, for example.

Edit:
And I should add that there are plenty of gamers who don’t give a spear’s sauroter about whether or not a game is historically accurate or authentic, only if it’s fun. More power to them, of course.

Whew, I can resume feeling ok about myself for liking and enjoying this game a lot.

Good, I knew you would be worried about this. Have at it.

I liked your essay a lot. I was able to form in my head a picture of a civ-type game that you would really like. That’s good reviewing.

Things I most agreed with:

  • I’d also like to see a Persian DLC Probably wouldn’t sell as well as Greece, though.
  • Would also prefer similarly historical starting leaders from more similar eras
  • Rome being the baseline civ (though, I don’t think my brain could handle remembering what several different historical farms look like when scanning the map)
  • Many of the ambitions are either un-fun or present themselves at the wrong time, so there isn’t a meaningful choice which to pick. And you aren’t really forced to take ambition victory seriously unless you play against the militarily strong AI levels

Least agreed with:

  • Old World’s narrower scope makes Civ-style fantasy-history a problem
  • One year per turn causes problems for warfare length (wars did last decades…) and emotional attachment to family members
  • The family system isn’t fundamental to the game (though I can see that pairing with disregard for ambitions)

Again, good stuff. Just listing those things to prove I read it, really.

I actually think it would be cool if they narrowed it down even further to just the Roman republic era or just the late bronze age. I never got the sense that I was hugely progressing, technologically or culturally, over the course of a game anyway. And you can still have a sense of progress through a shorter time period, especially if you somehow manage to include key events like the bronze age collapse or end of the republic as capstones. (Though maybe you’d want to start with those rather than the with them so there’s a sense of “forward” progress.) I’m thinking of At the Gates as an example, though I guess that had other issues.

But this ties in to another point you repeated a couple times, which was (loosely) “why don’t they just do fantasy instead?” and the reason is probably this:

The advantage of a wider time span is that you get to include Egyptians and Greeks and Romans and they’re all cool and more importantly recognizable, and that probably helps sales. (Also the techs are more recognizable since you’re get to include wheel and irrigation and acqueducts, etc.) The same reason fantasy games always have orcs and elves.

I came across your review by way of the comments in one of the ACOUP articles. And now here…small (old) world.

Wars could last decades, but battles didn’t. They sort of get muddled in a game like this. I don’t think it’s a problem that can be solved, but there is something off about the scale in the game, I think. Again, not a problem when it’s more abstract (e.g. Civ) or much more small-scale/narrow in scope (e.g. Age of Empires), but in this game e.g. Alexander gets old in a “war” that lasts 20 years (!) to just capture a few neighbouring cities…

That needn’t be a problem, since Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans also co-existed at the same time. You could have the historical scope of the game focus on the Hellenistic era, for example (so the first three centuries BC). Other games have done that, too (e.g. Imperator Rome, IIRC). You wouldn’t have chariot-riding Egyptians and hoplite-fielding Greeks, of course, but that, too, needn’t be a problem, and might actually be more interesting? Not an unsolvable problem, I don’t think.

There’s not a lot of us “pedants” about, I guess? Bret Devereaux and I also know each other from Twitter, so there must be some overlap, especially since we both also write about games. ;-)

Is anyone having issues since last night’s update? I’m no longer able to pan the map using the wasd keys after selecting a unit, and tooltips have gotten wonky on events. I can’t find where to report bugs.

I’m still loving the game. I actually lost on Noble level with the Assyrians (I think - the ones that get to buy tribal mercenaries). I became too dependent on my mercenaries, expanded extremely fast, didn’t build up my own armies, neglected my economy, didn’t build any wonders, and got repeatedly invaded by the Egyptians. It was pretty nice that the game wasn’t a pushover.

Learned my lesson - now in the middle of a game as the Egyptians. Built many wonders, concentrating on resources, and building a local army for the inevitable clash with my neighbors. Unfortunately, I’m lagging in tech, so I’ll need to address that.

I find the narrower scope to be enjoyable. It’s a tighter game with a more predictable gameplay loop.

It seems your main criticism is that it’s historical, but not historical enough, to put it a certain way - that it clearly is playing with the components of history without trying to reproduce them the way a Paradox game appears to do. It’s clear this takes after the Civ series in that it’s a board game style design where there are not asymmetric political or economic systems.

I do think it taps most into Crusader Kings for being information heavy and, for me the worst part of the UI, which (imo) is certainly not horrible or anything, but the sense you have a bunch of information, and especially characters, with apparently nothing to do with them. If you tried to actually map out all the Characters and interactions in CK2, you’d go mad, so you learn to ignore them except when you go fishing in the character barrel.

How did you feel about the “gross” systems though? The sense that there are competing factions within the civilization, the balance between cultural and economic and military development?

I get that, but honestly, the worst possible example of this i know of is Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia, where it takes like 15 years to cross the island from one end to another in ‘game’ time!

I don’t think that does it, though, because if you do that then you have Egyptians without chariots and pyramids, or Romans without post-Marian legions, or Greeks without hoplites, or whatever, and while that might be more interesting to you, I strongly doubt that it’s going to help sales. “What kind of game has the Egyptians without pyramids and chariots?” is going to be a tough question for the marketing department and I suspect most reviewers won’t appreciate the distinction or at best will put in a couple lines about historical accuracy.

But, then again, I haven’t done any market research about this, so maybe you’re right.

Not exactly. I’d argue it’s not really historical at all, that it pretends to be. I mean, a lot of this stuff, especially the character stuff, has little to do with the ancient world. There are kings and dukes and all of this pseudo-medieval aristocratic power structures that are antithetical to how many societies organized themselves in the ancient world. I wonder if Ten Crowns had originally been intended to be medieval, and the design was switched later to the ancient world? It would make a lot of sense as regards to how Old World’s representation of history ended up.

I think this is perhaps a key issue? That Old World mixes two dramatically different styles of games?

The different factions (“families”) – to me they didn’t have much personality. Since the same basic structure applies to all of the different cultures in the game, it means that none of them really have much personality either (IMO). And the game seems heavily geared toward warfare, to the point that it’s actually pretty great turn-based wargame.

Oh yeah. I don’t like it in those games either, especially not the more recent ones. (A propos of this, perhaps you’re interested in my thoughts on A Total War Saga: Troy, or Total Troy as I call it, are available here – not a review, though.) I understand that time needs to pass for the characters to work; I am just not convinced Old World manages to make it work with the rest of the systems they have in place.

Oh sure, could be. I haven’t done any market research into this, either! But I don’t think it particularly hampered, say, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, since you can incorporate some of that stuff anyway. For example, have control of the pyramids give you a particular perk or bonus. I also think Julius Caesar and Cleopatra have pull with general audiences. Have a trailer video about the Greeks being “the heirs of Leonidas” etc. I mean, the Heroes of the Aegean DLC leaned heavily into 300-style stuff, to the point that the artwork draws almost exclusively from pop culture instead of history.

I noticed this but then found a fix: WASD works fine to scroll the map if your cursor has nothing selected. Having a unit or other object selected stops WASD from working, now. Not sure if that was an intentional patch change.

Also I just noticed that urban tiles now have roads, apparently automatically.

Yes but if I want to move a unit to a location off screen, I have to pan the map. And if I do that without the unit selected I can’t move it. In any event there is a workaround. If you click on the unit portrait you can keep it selected and move the map. But is just annoying enough to make me not want to play and make me think it’s not intentional.

In any event, glad it’s not just me.

We are going to get a hotfix for this out by Monday at the latest, hopefully earlier.

(EDIT: and it’s out now…)

Thanks Soren! I haven’t posted because I’ve been at war with Rome.

It’s understandable that war with Rome required your personal presence. But why not to send a message by a bird?

Does discord even have carrier pigeon integration?

I’m sure this joke is going over my head. Still funny!

Does anyone have any tips for mod-late game wars? Takes so long to take down a city. I’m at around turn 130 and I’ve got an ambition to capture 4 Roman cities and another for 5 cities total. I don’t see how I’m going to do it.

This is where siege units come in, IMO. For later game wars you really need to plan ahead and have a siege engine or two with your main attack force.

Do siege units get a bonus for knocking down walls? Or just the +50% into urban? I guess I need to build some.