So this came out of EA today, and it’s unique in that I can’t think of any other game (released in the West, anyway) set during the Chinese Warlord period of the 1920’s.
There are two grand campaigns, encompassing the whole map of China, one starting in 1920 and the other in 1925. There are half a dozen or so smaller scenarios that are more focused. Each scenario has a turn limit (a turn is 1 week) and different victory conditions depending on what faction you are playing.
And there are dozens of them, depending on the size of the scenario. Typically you control a group of up to 3, some being more militarily focused, others concentrating on “hearts and minds”.
The gameplay loop is itself pretty simple. You control the faction leaders, a specific character with traits and a job. Each leader has his own pool of resources - Qi (action points - usually starting each turn with 4), Money, Manpower, and Face (reputation). The actions a leader can take are dependent on the leaders job and traits - a diplomatic educator can’t issue commands to an army, and a general in the field can’t order a district to increase opium production or build more schools. The key is using the right man for the right job.
Combat is hands-off, but you still need to manage your armies. They need to be fed and paid to keep their morale up, and can be trained to be more effective. An army that hasn’t been paid for a while may refuse to fight. Smaller armies or roving bandits can be bought off if your army is tired, weak or hungry. And speaking of hungry, in order to be fully supplied, an army travels with an equal number of Coolies (who can be killed in battle).
There’s a bit of a learning curve mostly due to unfamiliarity with the various factions and historic characters to be controlled. Sometimes you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.
The only issue I have so far is that it could have used another pass by an English-proficient proofreader. There are several misspellings, and sometimes menu items are indicated as being on the left when they are on the right, but given that the developer seems to be a one-man shop, and (I’m guessing) not a native English speaker, that’s not a deal breaker.
After completing the tutorial and one of the smaller scenarios, I’m liking it quite a bit.