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Three Moves Ahead Episode 150: Year in Review

January 5th, 2012 by Troy Goodfellow · 11 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


The original cast, gets together to look at the strategy games they liked in 2011. We focus on the positive and talk about Atom Zombie Smasher, Shogun 2, Unity of Command, Men of War and lots of other names are dropped. Also a preview of the games we are looking forward to in 2012.

Tom’s review of Atom Zombie Smasher
Tom’s review of Shogun 2
The Shogun 2 podcast
The Unity of Command podcast
Men of War podcast

Andean Abyss
Festung Budapest

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11 Comments so far ↓

  • Mitya

    Bruce comments during the show that “you can’t do a 3D, kind of, third person Napoleonic wargame”, I assume along the lines of the Total War/Take Command games. I hate to be that guy that throws out a random niche title (though given the subject matter…), but has anyone on the show played Histwar: Les Grognards? I’ll admit that I only played (and enjoyed) the demo and I’m not incredibly intimate with the time period so I can’t comment on the accuracy, but from what I can tell it was pretty well received.

  • Bruce

    Mitya: great point! I haven’t played Histwar but I have heard good things about it. The last 3D Napoleonic game I played was Breakaway Games’ Austerlitz game. If Histwar works, then I officially retract my statement.

  • Darren

    Great podcast guys. :)

    I guess I put myself somewhere between a ‘beer and pretzels’ players and one of your ‘mid-core’ players but I’ve got to say that Minecraft is the game I just keep coming back to. It is sandbox in you can do anything you want but I would ‘just’ squeeze it in as a strategy-style game as it requires resource harvesting and management to ensure you keep fed and don’t die but you also get to build all sorts of cool contraptions. It is also a game that really stretches your spatial relationships while fending off zombies and mobs when darkness falls. And it does have levelling – which you can then spend to get better weapons and armour.

    For me the big stand-out ‘pure’ strategy game of 2011 was the recent release of Distant Worlds: Legends. Man, this is one awesome 4X game. I haven’t enjoyed a 4X game as much since the old days of Stars!

  • spelk

    Good to hear the old line up together again, don’t get me wrong I enjoy TMA with Rob fronting it, and plenty of interesting guests, but I think my heart is with the original line up and the interplay between them all. I guess its just an enjoyable mixture of personalities, that is proven.

    Splenda (sucralose) is real important for us “sugarfree” diabetics, if we want to hold onto the dream of sweet things. :)

    I enjoyed the round up, especially the highlighting of Unity of Command and Atom Zombie Smasher. Unity is certainly one of my favourite wargames of the year, and as I’ve said before sets the bar of expectation high in terms of UI and AI for other wargame developers to try and follow.

    I was surprised there was no mention of Six Gun Saga (Vic Davis’ poker centered posse battler), or Infested Planet (Rocketbear games indie squad based real time tactical shooter – although technically its been in beta for a while now). Or the Armada 2526: Supernova expansion, which really tightened up the turn based 4X experience of the original. Also in the 4X genre, Star Ruler was a satisfying real time space conquest game.

    I have to add that there is in development a Napoleonic modification for the Scourge of War American Civil War game – which I’d jump at, over the quirky and confusing UI of Histwar.

    I totally agree with Bruce on the different expectation levels of players on the PC vs the iPad, and it particularly rings true with someone like myself eager to find decent boardgames in an electronic form to play against an AI of some sort. I only have an iPad because of these boardgame conversions. If they were being made for the PC, I’d buy them there. The iPad is chock full of novelty reaction games, or throwaway conversions that when a true strategy game (usually a boardgame conversion) turns up – I snap it up regardless. There are so few worthwhile strategy games on the platform, that anything is better than nothing.

    The year ahead, I’m looking forward to some more wargaming releases from Matrix/Slitherine (Battle Academy: Sealion, Commander: Great War, Team Assault: Baptism of Fire, Brother against Brother), Naval War: Arctic Circle, Command: Naval Warfare (formely Red Pill). Drox Operative (Space RPG from Soldak). Gratuitous Tank Battles (Positech). The Occult Chronicles (Vic Davis/Cryptic Comet). Plus some biggies like Guild Wars 2, perhaps Diablo III, Warhammer 40K Online. Gettysburg Armoured Warfare (ACW Steam punk style). Hegemony: Rome. Iron Front. Lots to choose from! :)

  • ShadowTiger

    The game I am most interested in is the recently announced X-Com game. The fact that they described it as having both RTS and TBS elements makes me curious. The original X-Com did indeed have both, but I feel like they are going to switch it in the new version and have a strategic map thats turn based with real time combat, which would ruin much of the appeal. Then again it is Firaxis… so one can hope. I am sure this will be mentioned in a future episode… can’t wait!

    Fallen Enchantress, if it graces our presence will also be worth checking out. X-Com and Master of Magic are some of my favorite games of all time so this could be a great year.

    It also irks me whenever I hear people get so excited about Scrolls when my game JollyGrim gets no attention at all. Thats the meaning of Indie life I suppose.

  • Nikolaj

    Reading the comments, I have to agree with Mitya. You guys need to play Histwar. It’s come a long way since release. It can also be played in 1st person, although I personally don’t enjoy that much.

    I was doing something else while listening to the podcast, so maybe I missed something, but did anyone mention Fate of the World? It’s not exactly the greatest game ever (but neither is any of the other games mentioned), but I found it quite enjoyable.

    To be honest, I don’t think 2011 was a great year for strategy games, which is kind of underlined by the games discussed on the podcast, in my opinion. Not that I’m complaining, since 2010 left me with a number of games that I’ve yet to play in earnest (I finally started getting into War in the East, a few months ago, thanks to Bruce’s AAR on Qt3. Thanks Bruce). Thinking about it, I have to compliment Rob on managing to make almost every episode of the past year interesting, considering the lack of good games to discuss (again, in my opinion).

    Anyway, great podcast guys, and great to hear the old crew back together again.

  • tareq

    This was a great podcast! I love the panel and im happy to see the old crew back. However, I wish Rob was there too but it’s okay, he deserves a week vacation. Thank you all for an amazing podcast and can’t wait to listen to the next 150 podcasts.

  • Josh

    I think that strategy game enthusiasts are sometimes trying too hard to classify every game as a strategy game, similarly to how maths enthusiasts love reminding people that everything can be derived by mathematics. Strictly speaking, many games have strategies but not every game can be a part of the strategy genre.

    Minecraft is a Sandbox game with RPG elements. One of the core mechanics of Minecraft is the acquisition of increasingly more effective equipment and inventory items through the use of dungeon crawling, the main hook of the game being that you can morph the terrain inside a randomly generated world.

    The tenet of a strategy game involves primarily the navigation of different linked events in order to achieve a desired outcome. The player chooses the actions that they assume will achieve the desired outcome and then enacts a plan, utilising whatever tactical tools are at their disposal.

    The tactical features of a strategy game should not be more significant than the importance of pursuing a given objective.

    For example, Civilization is a strategy game because all of the features such as cities and combat are incidental tactical features that, through linked purposes, add to the goal of winning a game.

    In Chess, the actual act of moving a piece is not as significant or important to the game as the outcome given from its repositioning. In essence, the player is enacting physically what they have already perceived in their own mind. The mental component to a strategy game is a vital aspect as, woe befalling, he who forsakes both consciousness and instincts plays only with their hands.

    For other game genres, the genre definition often simply overrides the importance of any strategic or tactical element which, although an inherent element of any game, becomes minimal to the experience.

    A First Person Shooter, from a genre naming perspective, is not inherently a strategy game because the desire to shoot people from a First-person perspective outweighs the significance of any strategy or tactics that a FPS might contain. From a gameplay perspective, an FPS never really extends beyond the use of tactics to achieve a goal because these types of games are not designed with the pursuit of long-term strategy in mind.

    I don’t think a strategic shoot-em-up is impossible (imagine Battlefield games online but with fleshed-out resources management) but, given that FPS games are often focused on fidelity and, be it graphics, sound, responsiveness or even thematic setting, the introduction of strategic elements or divergent gameplay, even the concept of abstraction, can result in a less defined or honed experience which could alienate players from the sense of familiarity that many FPS titles use as a genre convention – we all see from a first-person perspective, after all.

    I can see Minecraft as a prototype or test-bed for an RPG game or MMO, not unlike Ultima, where the player can morph the world and build their own house/structures, something that every player has always wanted to do in any given MMO.

  • Sam

    This made me go pick up Atom Zombie Smasher. Wow what a great game. Hilariously the police chatter that goes on in the background is from Sydney, Australia.

  • Rob C

    I went and picked up Atom Zombie Smasher too and was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t win the campaign on my first try, but did on my second. It seems like a game that I will play every once in a while when I want something quick to play.

  • Peter S (Mind Elemental)

    Agreed with the praise for Shogun 2. I don’t remember the early part of the decade very well, but it’s certainly the best strategy game I’ve played in years.

    @Darren – Distant Worlds is excellent with the Legends expansion, but for me it scratches a different itch to Shogun 2. Shogun is a tightly plotted _game_, something I play to win; Distant Worlds, like EU3, is more of a Will Wrightian sandpit, something I play to see what happens along the way.