Victoria 3

I am really excited about this game. I have not read a single dev diary beyond the first one, purely because I am so excited reading the details will just make the wait seem even longer.

The big news about no more micro-managed units on the screen has even seeped into my dark cave, and I am really happy about it. Moving around individual armies in Victoria 2 was not anywhere close to being the most fun or engaging part of the game. The idea that we can remove it and (hopefully) deepen strategic/economic/political systems and give the AI an actual chance really interests me.

It reminds me to some extent of one of the few non-Paradox GSGs Realpolitik which is set in the modern world, it had a system where you sent armies to provinces then a battle screen came up showing results. I think it worked just fine.

There’s still lots of opportunities to move pieces around each inch of the map in the EU and CK universes.

Moving pieces around the map is bad in EU and CK too. hopefully this new way of modelling war will be used in every future Paradox game that isn’t focused exclusively on warfare.

I always though they should include a delay in the orders. Each order to an stack takes some days to activate/execute (depending on technology, province, distance, etc). And changing an in-progress order has a bigger delay.

A simple change like that would make ordering stuff around much more strategic and increase the need for planning.

Even take a page from Old World and make army orders consume some abstract c&c resource.

The problem is, of course, the AI should use the same system, and that some sort of long distance routing mechanic should be forced on armies that lose a battle.

/armchair designer

The problem was always too much detail and too little strategy. There’s so much detail and clicking, but the actual strategy once a war starts is “raise all the troops, bunch them up, send them at the enemy stack and hope you win”. The complexity and depth are at the tactical level, with different troop types, positions in the line, combat phases, morale and so on, but that’s just the computer having fun. Player control is at the operational level, where you just throw stacks at each other. All the clicking is just busy work.

In a Total War game, the strategy matters because it sets the conditions for the tactical battle. Here the tactical battles are outside player control and too opaque to influence.

Maybe players with more experience than me can find interesting strategic dilemmas in raising armies and moving them on the map. I never managed that.

I’ve never really enjoyed it either unless you focus the game around it like Hearts of Iron. Mostly I find the actual moving stacks around gameplay tedious in a game like EU4. Sure, on paper there’s army composition (with often a one size fits most answer) and terrain and stuff but mostly it’s just me playing whack-a-mole chasing AI armies around the map.

I was very happy to hear that Victoria 3 is taking a more hands-off approach where the focus can be more on the strategy, not the moving armies around stuff.

Those ideas sound good in theory but are often irritating when implemented. In most modern 4X and empire building games you know if another country will accept your diplomatic proposal before you send it, and it’s effective immediately. Even in EU3 (my memory might be failing here but I’m fairly sure) you’d have to wait for an answer for some time and you’d only have an estimation of the answer (like maybe or very likely).

More recently in CK2 you had seasonal decisions. Like you could only have a feast in winter and hunt in summer, I think. It was realistic and very bothersome. CK3 gives you arbitrary limits as in you can only go to a real hunt once per 5 years but it removes “realistic” limits.

Delayed orders for armies work magnificently in many real time wargames. It’s not like it’s a new mechanic, and it’s very different to diplomatic proposals, etc. (it adds much more uncertainty and less ability to react)

Delays would make whack a mole impossible, since the enemy army won’t be there when yours arrive necessarily, thus having a defense in depth (with defensive armies in forts, etc) would be necessary to ensure safety of your borders, and wars would mostly be limited to a big stack against a big stack, and the loser have no a very hard time to recover (which is quite period appropriate for IR and CK3).

But anyway, like other I’ve always found the military aspect extremely lacking and unbelievable in Paradox games. I love that Vicky 3 is abstracting it.

We’re talking about a level of detail that a rare wargame is going for. In an empire building game a lot of delays make sense (construction, envoy travel) but adding this whole dimension would move the game too far.

The trouble is that, at a practical level, there would need to be some kind of mechanism for standing orders, or contingency plans built in. At the end of the day it is true that a monarch could not issue a directive to an army in Goa that was followed immediately while sitting in Versaillles, but on the flip side said monarch would very likely have sat in meetings for weeks and months prior to deploying those troops gaming out scenarios, crafting directives and orders, and generally having a plan in place.

You can’t do that in PDS games generally because that is a whole big system. And realistically if you implemented it would become very frustrating to actually play in a EU4 scale game. You would have generals sitting around doing nothing. The reality is that a game would have to be built at the ground up to facilitate such mechanics. You need to create a way for a player to have the ability to craft and prepare plans, create standing orders, and direct armies through broad strokes in advance.

The interesting bit and the strategy comes from utilizing the terrain. Forcing enemies to engage you over rivers or into mountain provinces. Knowing how to utilize maneuver to prevent getting caught out in unfavorable terrain. Wars become interesting when you are having to utilize the map to try and force conflict on your terms. Why is Byzantium such an interesting start? Because you really have to carefully manage mechanics in order to forge a tactical battle into a strategic victory. Northern Italy and southern Germany are fascinating to play in because of the Alps. Taking on the HRE or France and using the passes and mountains to funnel the enemy into your desired battles is a fun puzzle.

Really the interesting bit does come when you fully understand the map and maneuver, and can use the various combat elements to win battles that numerically you should lose.

Not trying to claim it is some masterpiece of tactical combat, but merely pointing out that there is more to it than have bigger army = win.

It’s like 95% of the equation, in games like Stellaris, CK, and EU (notably, not HoI). The most important thing I found that allowed me to win wars was to just bring more troops, by any means necessary. You can faff about, hoping for the best Martial skill leader, put them with the best levy and retinue compositions, and meet an enemy on favorable terrain, and maybe you win a 4000 v. 6000 battle. Maybe a duel fires and you lose it and the battle anyway. Whereas hiring mercenaries or catching your opponent with their stack split is a guaranteed win every time. It’s so much more reliable and easier to execute.

I’m excited to see a game with that gameplay removed to focus more on pops, politics, and diplomacy.

All other factors being equal, sure. But tech level (pips), discipline, max morale, damage modifiers, combat width, army composition, combat ability, etc. all matter a lot.

Meaning if two armies of roughly equivalent discipline, morale, and combat ability meet in neutral terrain? Sure the size matters most. But once you start to push some of those other factors, winning battles against 2:1 or 3:1 and beyond odds becomes not just possible, but expected. Jokes about Prussian space marines go here.

I understand your point, and you are not wrong that numbers are always good. And no matter how well you do other things if numbers go to far against you it doesn’t matter, but there is a reason late game China is so easy to take on even if Ming hasn’t exploded, and it isn’t because they have fewer units.

But those factors, and the “maneuvering” don’t bring in strategic decisions either, as far as I could tell. It’s either a number that needs to be high, or a math puzzle with one best answer.

In Total War, or XCOM or other games with a tactical layer, the answer to what sort of units you should get depends on how you want to use them, and each possible force composition would bring different strengths and weaknesses. Interesting choices and all that. In Paradox games you get the unit the guide says is optimal in terms of combat power per cost.

They do, and I think they matter more in EU than CK. I’ve never lost a 3 to 1 or won a 1 to 3 battle in CK.

To be fair, most of the examples you list as relevant factors don’t come into play when discussing tactical army maneuvers, which is what Vicky is removing. I assume tech level, morale, combat width and army composition should all still be factors in Vicky.

The factors that matters the most when discussing tactical map maneuvering is terrain and army grouping. Personally, I find my tactics there to be very similar in all situations. Group up, try to catch the enemy ungrouped. If they have more dudes, hide behind a river in difficult terrain and hope for the best.

I think each game needs its own solution. What works for Vicky may not make sense for Stellaris or EU. Stellaris, as a space based game where the pew pew is expected, could experiment with making combat more tactical rather than less.

…looks like George beat me to the punch.

Yes, in Paradox games, especially EU4, you are building out over long time scales. In the micro level there isn’t really anything you can do to influence combat other than trying to control terrain. An important fact for sure! But things like discipline or cavalry combat ability, can only be built towards on the span of decades in game. There is a lot you can do to push morale, or discipline, or combat ability and really optimize your force towards your goal. It can be really rewarding long term too. But on the scale of a single war, you won’t be making those kinds of gains. The die is cast before the battle is fought. Which is to say it is a strategic, rather than tactical, consideration.

Sure, its certainly a matter of focus. I mean the reality is what I look for in EU and Total War are very different. Both are top 5 series all time for me, but the emphasis is so very different.

At the end of the day, if you can force an army to attack your mountain fortress in Walis or Istria, that’s always the right idea. Fighting the Swiss is always dicey for a reason.

With EU4 the reality is that the battles should be won before firing a shot. It all comes down to strategy prior to declaring war. Having the right allies, splitting off enemy allies and controlling who joins a war, long term force design, national ideas, etc. The interesting part isn’t trying to defeat that stack of 30k Austrian troops, it is finding a way to fight Austria without Brandenburg and Spain joining the war, of using diplomacy to dismantle the HRE in a single fight. The tactics merely exist to enable that strategy.

I am hopeful about Vicky3 and the abstraction here, it could be a way to achieve more emphasis on the interesting aspects and not the tedium of pushing stacks around on a globally dispersed force.

We seem to be in agreement.

Generally I am really enthusiastic about it. I’m just a little wary of having a single front line that might stretch across an entire continent with no ability to issue finer-grained orders. Hopefully in the release version you will have the ability to say “defend this state strongly” or “focus the advance along this section of the front”.

Regarding maneuvering, some of my favourite memories in EU4 is playing as a large empire and fighting against another large empire of equal strength, usually with allies on either side. When the war starts there are many different considerations, depending on the shape of the territories involves:

  1. Should I tackle the main enemy first or one of their allies to get them to peace out early?
  2. Should I send troops to support my allies or just leave them to do what they want to do?
  3. Do I go down the centre or try to take forts in a particular area?
  4. (If I am the aggressor) How do I get information on where the enemy is and what they’re doing?

4 is particularly important, I am not a really high level player by any means but I will often create horse scout units to break the fog of war and give my smaller siege stacks some warning before they get wiped.

The fort system introduced ages ago also goes a long way to break the ‘doomstack vs. doomstack then war over’ thing you’re talking about as you are unlikely to be able to venture very far into enemy territory with your doom stack. You’re forced to siege first, and if you want to do that faster than your enemy can siege you, you need to split stacks.

Even if the AI is a cheating bastard about ignoring fort zone of control at inconvenient times and places.

Or more likely it is a weird system that never quite works the way you expect, and sometimes you can get trapped in a fort province, or move through a ZoC when you expect you wouldn’t especially with forts situated directly on a border.

Caught on reddit, new screenshots on the Steam page

The GUI interface looks a bit plain to me. Not that I care, but I wouldn’t be surprised it’s not appealing to newcomers.

New peace mechanics seem good. Ability for both sides to gain something and reduced scope for stabbing your allies in the back in unrealistic ways.