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Blinded By The Beauty Of Our Weapons

January 12th, 2015 by Troy Goodfellow · 7 Comments · Civil War, Me

It’s probably no secret that I love Ultimate General Gettysburg given how much I raved about it on the podcast last summer. And again in the End of Year show. Rob Zacny put together a nice tribute to it as a surprise favorite of 2014. (For a more cautious but fair recommendation, check out Matt Richardson’s review.)

Richardson is especially on point when he talks about how it sometimes feels like UGG degenerates into blobs with no clearly defined lines. Your troops get all messed up together, and, yes, it can be rough to keep everyone straight.

And god, I love keeping everyone straight.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at my apartment – I am a bit of a slob in many areas – but I really like my soldiers lined up in perfect little rows as they march forward to be shot. In Pike & Shot I will hold up a too-far-ahead tercio because I want my reserve guys to line up beside it, for aesthetics as much as utility. In Field of Glory, I will try to make both my flanking charges envelop the enemy at the same time, and will get quite annoyed when someone doesn’t sit still and let me hit them from behind. A suboptimal road connection in Civilization V is definitely not on. I would probably be a better Combat Mission player if I weren’t so hung up on elegance; I know my Close Combat play suffers from too meticulous attention to building enfilade fire-zones for advancing Wehrmacht.

And don’t get me started on my city-building problems.

Now, historically, some of this stuff would make sense. Civil War rifles were certainly better than most Napoleonic muskets, but the cloudy smoke of the battlefield and power of mass fire still meant that you wanted to stick near your standard and your troop-mates. The near impossibly perfection of Cannae is still studied today because its deadliness is attributable to that amazing beauty of timing, co-ordination and precise planning.

Ultimate General Gettysburg doesn’t give me the tools to keep my lines together or advancing as synchronized units. You drag the unit with your mouse and where it ends up, it ends up, and that often means overlapping the next brigade over and OCD generals across Pennsylvania start freaking out.

In the end, it doesn’t matter a lot for my enjoyment. It’s a great game, and I have been known to find great beauty in imperfect things (people, for example). UGG manages to get by with a lot of other Civil War colour, so my failure to make Pickett’s Charge look like anything other than a bunch of college kids storming a football field can be forgiven. The colours, the maps, the sounds, the various historical possibilities…

Please use the comments to share your own gaming pathologies. I can’t be the only weirdo out there.


7 Comments so far ↓

  • RobC

    It’s funny because we are probably exact opposites. When playing city builders I’m all about utility and I never really take the time to make my city more aesthetically pleasing. It’s all about packing in as many buildings into an area and optimizing service radii. I never waste space on plunking down a building, tree or shrub unless there is some tangible in-game benefit. If it’s location doesn’t matter, I’ll just wedge it in someplace where I couldn’t make use of the space anyway.

    Wargames are different though because there is usually a benefit to keeping troops together, so I’ll make the effort if there is a payoff.

  • Dancrard

    In Age of Empires II, my armies were always very strictly and precisely composed : for example, with Saracens, my army was a cavalry corps (20 cavalry archers, 10 mamelukes, 10 camels) with 5 trebuchets, 5 monks and eventually infantry to protect them, whatever it cost, whatever I faced. I attacked only when those units were ready and, if after a battle I lost some, I waited to replace the losses before further attacking. It was of course very ineffective, and would not at all work in multi-player, but it made more sense to me.

    Also, in Crusader Kings II, after a successful holy war, I prefer to grant the obtained titles myself, manually, to deserving courtiers, friends of my character, bastard sons or members of friendly great houses, instead of “summoning” characters without history from nowhere. It is time consuming, has no utility because those characters will become vassals of vassals, but I love it.

    Rather than gaming pathologies or manias, I think – I hope ? – that this is a “contemplative” way of playing games, in the sense of “vita contemplativa”: not being in power fantasy or fascination for power, but admiring the order, the mechanics of the “universe” created by the game and trying to find a place in it.

    Yes, you aren’t the only weirdo out there.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Rob: Sometimes there is a benefit, but I overdo it. There is, for example, no real point in UGG in keeping things sorted because the AI doesn’t either (or can’t very well) so…magic?

    Dan: Army composition is a special kind of hell for me sometimes, especially in the Total War games. “Yeah, these skirmishers won’t do anything really, but an army has to have skirmishers”.

  • Falselogic

    In RTS games I spend more time time trying to make my base look aesthetically pleasing to me than I do gathering resources or making an army.

    When I do get around to making the army I just make a bunch of the basic units and rush the enemy.

  • A Few Thoughts on City Builders and End Games

    […] Falselogic on Blinded By The Beauty Of Our Weapons […]

  • Mike C

    I have this problem about order too, although it is for what I think is a perfectly legitimate reason. It bothers me when in games there seems little reason to keep order and proper spacing and coordination of units. There should be a reason to do this because realistically units lose cohesion when they get all jumbled up. There is no familiar command structure and not knowing the guys you are fighting next too makes your unit lose effectiveness. A simple “Cohesion” stat or mechanic would solve this problem and offer incentive for coordinating properly and losing the blob effect in most games. There is a game called “Battleplan: American civil war” that does this. While it has flaws, things that it gets right are that when units blob the get disordered, fighting a lot less effectively. Timing, march routes spacing all take on a new level of importance, fixing a problem most games have. It’s all solve with one simple concept. Has anyone tried this game and what are you guys opinion on it?

  • Procyon Lotor

    I’ve been playing Commander: The Great War as the Central Powers on my iPad. Since the turns take a long time to process, I’ve been taking about one turn per day.

    And yes, I take many of those turns on the toilet.

    I find a great deal of comfort and security in the sight of a fortified line of full-strength infantry, backed by the occasional reserve. I recently managed to smash the French left flank in a Spring 1915 offensive. I am approaching Paris, and there are only under-strength garrison units and cavalry in my way. But my army is now in a blob, with the flanks exposed. Worse, the numbers are 9’s and 8’s. And . . . some of them bear the yellow coloring that signifies disorganization.

    My blood pressure is going through the roof just thinking about it. I yearn to pull them back into a line and let them rest and heal up. But that would give the French and British time to form up in front of Paris. I know I need to push forward while the Allies are off balance.

    I keep telling myself that this is what success looks like. This is what I WANTED to happen. But something deep inside of me recoils at the sight of it.