Except, I'm kind of struggling to get my guys into boats. I mean, I have boats, but it seems like for some reason you can only put soldiers on some of them. Official transports are what I need, apparently. And it seems some of my armies are too heavy for the boats. I thought about just starving them for a little bit so they'd lighten up, but that doesn't seem to be an option. It's possible I can separate them, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet. Bureaucracy, innit. This is the exact kind of red tape that brings Imperial ambition to a sluggish crawl.
As someone who normally hangs out in the shallower end of the gaming pool with guys like Nathan Drake and Dante, jumping into the depths of Grand Strategy is a pretty sobering experience. Like many gamers, it's a world that's strange, alien and a little frightening to me.
I'm four or five hours in and I've spent most of my time reading manuals. At first I thought I'd try the quick start guide - complete with a walkthrough of a campaign - that Paradox provided. That got derailed when I couldn't find an in-game menu button I needed and realised I had absolutely no idea what to do next.
'No worries,' I thought, 'there was a tutorial option.' So I went back and tried the tutorial. That went OK for a bit, but after a while of doing it you're instructed to invade the Netherlands and, yes, this is the point when I hit snags in trying to get my guys onto ships.
As all this is going on I'm just getting more and more lost. Because I'm ingesting what feels like reams and reams of information, but I don't feel like I'm any closer to actually playing the game. Occasionally I'll dip back into it to poke at things, but I'm just swimming in menus and numbers and military terminology I only recognise from Sharpe and, while the shape of the thing is starting to emerge, I don't feel like I'm getting any closer to a finer understanding of how to make it actually work.
In a lot of ways, it's just like living an information-saturated life in the year 2013.
The Grand Strategy genre is perhaps the most abstracted form of gaming. Everything is reduced down to points on a map and endless numbers. It's nothing but decision-making. And instead of being informed by the kind of context provided by 3D figures, those decisions are served by a much denser symbolic delivery system. It's quite a switch to make when you're used to punching things until they fall over. I can only shiver and guess at what it was like in the days before animated sprites to mark armies and ships.
Honestly, learning to play March of the Eagles has felt more like learning a new job working with a tangled, obscure piece of administrative software than it has learning the sort of game I normally play. Hardcore strategy gamers make the rest of us look like apes walking round with our fingers up our arseholes.
Or maybe it will just leave me a desiccated husk of a man. I'm going to press on to find out, though.
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And to be fair, March of the Eagles, with it's relatively simplified diplomatic and economic options, barely qualifies as a grand strategy game compared to Europa Universals, Hearts of Iron, or Victoria 2.
Great emotion and humour. Good article.
Closing date:30 Jun 2013