More Free Stuff!

My favourite computer game, Field of Glory II, has consistently – like its sister games Pike & Shot and Sengoku Jidai – delivered wonderful free content in addition to the base game and ‘official’ expansions.

Latest in the list of freebies is Paul Adaway’s TT Mod. This addresses the tendency of the base game to re-use standard unit graphics – e.g. for Hellenic pikemen – in a number of different armies. Consequently, to expand this example, Alexander’s pikemen would look the same as those used in a Ptolemaic or Pyrrhic army. The result was a certain ‘sameness’ in the look of some of the armies.This wasn’t a huge problem as it was basically a cosmetic issue, but it was certainly one of the few underwhelming aspects of the game as originally published.

Paul has addressed this by replacing the ‘ubiquitous vanilla versions’ (as he puts it) of Pikemen and Cavalry units – among others – to ensure greater diversity and a more accurate reflection of historical differences.

In addition, Paul has created greater diversity in the army lists by splitting them to reflect the detailed granularity of the table top version of the game (hence ‘TT’ or ‘Table Top’ mod). So the Pyrrhic list has been split into a ‘Pyrrhus in Italy’ and a ‘Pyrrhus in Greece’ list; and the Gallic lists have been split into ‘Lowland’ and ‘Hill Tribe’ variants for each period. These are just a couple of examples from what is in actuality a huge list – click here to access the full list.

There are some excellent new unit types in the latest mod as well, such as the Tarantine Light Cavalry and the various new flavours of Phalanx and Hoplite units – Iphikratean Hoplites, Seleucid Argyraspides and Chalkaspides etc. etc.

I love the fact that FoG II and its sister games have such a fantastic community of gamers and modders. Finding this latest upgrade today is rather like waking up to find that the Wargames Fairy had delivered a hundred new miniatures armies to my doorstep overnight…

Big thanks to Paul for his sterling work!

Pyrrhic Army with Tarantine Light Cavalry
Pyrrhic Army with Tarantine Light Cavalry



China My China

Chinese Zhou Dynasty Chariot

In the haze of the morning, China sits on eternity… 

Christmas really has come early this year…

When I powered up Field of Glory II this morning and saw the ‘new user content’ icon flashing, I assumed someone had added a custom battle or a small campaign. Instead I found a major add-on put together by Jomni, the guy responsible for the Sengoku Jidai expansion to Pike & Shot.

This time Jomni has added the Chinese theatre of war to the primarily Western and Near Eastern areas covered by FoG II and its first official expansion.

And what a splendid job he’s made of it. Options include five variants of the Chinese, covering the period from 1046 BC to 23 AD. Their opponents include a number of ‘barbarian’ tribes  – the Di, Donghu, Beidi, Qiang and Xirong.

The Chinese can also, as part of the Silk Road theme, go up against armies already covered in the main FoG II game and its Immortal Fire expansion – including the Indians, the Macedonians, the Graeco-Bactrians, the Skythians/Saka, and others.

Jomni has modded the graphics to produce some fine new troops. Here my Chinese take the field to face the Qiang, in a small/medium sized ‘sandbox’ battle from the later Zhou period:


I’ve stacked my left flank with chariots and cavalry to overwhelm the enemy and envelop his right and centre, while hoping to hold him off with my infantry elsewhere.

Here my chariots and horse prepare to engage the foe:


Meanwhile, over on my right, raw recruits are tasked with holding the line for as long as possible against the approaching barbarians:


My simple plan works, but the outcome hangs in the balance for a while, even though I’m fighting this battle at a pretty low difficulty level.

It’s clearly going to take time for me to learn exactly how to handle these Chinese troops!

Here, my left flank mounted – cavalry and chariots – see off the enemy:


They’re only just in time to save the day, as my right flank has all but collapsed and my centre is starting to buckle as my infantry begin to break and run:


All in all it’s a very satisfying first game. The new armies look good, and add a whole new theatre of war to the existing options.

And that’s just the skirmish/sandbox side of Jomni’s mod.

In addition, he’s added a full-fledged ‘Silk Road’ campaign:


This enables you to pit any of the nations mentioned above against any other, in a series of conflicts spanning nearly a thousand years.

Not bad for a free add-on to an already excellent game!

I’ve got a pretty shrewd idea of how I’ll be spending much of the holiday period…


Oh Those Persians!



Field of Glory II has been running almost constantly on my computer since its release a few months ago. It’s an excellent implementation of tabletop ancients wargaming, combining nice graphics with a tough AI, sandbox skirmish mode, and a built-in campaign system.

The base module released with the original game – Rise Of Rome – covered the period from 280 BC to 25 BC, featuring 75 army lists spread across 48 nations.

Now the first of what I expect will be many expansions has arrived.

Immortal Fire covers the armies of the Persian Empire, the Greek city states, Alexander the Great, the Diadochi, and a few neat extras like the Lydians, the Latins and the Etruscans. Not bad for the princely sum of just £11.99!

The Achaemenid Persians are my favourites so far. They come in five different period flavours, reflecting the changes in their army composition as their empire expanded and then eventually contracted in the face of Macedonian aggression. The Persian Immortals and Sparabara – both new units in the game – give the player the opportunity to pit ‘medium’ infantry armed with bow, spear and shield against the redoubtable Greeks and Macedonians. They’re a lot of fun to use. Here they are defending a hill against a determined assault by Greek hoplites:


Persians03 Infantry


The Iranian Armoured Cavalry provides the Persians with another powerful option, giving them more mobility than the Greeks can muster. These bow-armed heavy cavalry, supported by light horse archers, can run the Greeks ragged while the Immortals and the Sparabara provide a solid infantry line for them to fall back on as needed. Here my Iranians surround a couple of isolated hoplite units, and prepare to pick them off:


Persians02 Cavalry


In addition to the new nations and armies, Immortal Fire also adds some ready-made campaigns to the existing roster.  There are four historical campaigns: Xenophon, Philip of Macedon, Seleukos I Nikator, and Seven Hills of Rome. Xenophon and Seven Hills of Rome (which covers the rise of the young Roman Republic) are particularly intriguing. So too is the additional ‘What If’ campaign that’s included in the package – this allows us to explore what might have happened if Alexander had not died at the tender age of 32, but had instead gone on to continue his conquests.

Along with the ready-made campaigns, the new army lists can also be used in sandbox mode to create new campaigns on the fly. Doubtless more community-produced campaigns built using these lists will also emerge in due course.

But for now I’m going to stick with my sandbox campaign, pitting my beautiful Persians against the brutish Greek barbarians.

Thanks to Richard Bodley Scott and his team for providing us with another excellent, immersive computer game!



Odd Horten, the eponymous hero of the wonderful Norwegian film O’Horten, fully lives up to his name. Perhaps my empathy for him is down to the fact that I’ve always been a bit of an oddball myself.

This has been brought home to me over the past week as I’ve dipped a toe into the seductive waters of online multiplayer wargaming, only to withdraw that toe in short order and thoroughly towel it off.

Here’s what happened. I was taking part in a discussion on the Field Of Glory II forum about whether a prospective buyer should invest in the game, and up popped the question of using Slitherine’s PBEM (Play By Email) facility to play against other ‘real’ players – rather than just the AI. I pointed out that the AI provides a challenging opponent already, and that ‘multiplayer’ (‘MP’) is really not for everyone. As a result, I was invited to give MP another try. Not one to shirk a challenge, I’ve now played around a dozen MP games, and the results have been interesting.

I’ve discovered, or re-discovered, the simple fact that I don’t much like the competitive side of myself that is brought out by taking on a real live opponent. It actually spoils my enjoyment of the game. Maybe that’s why, in recent years, my tabletop gaming – when it isn’t solo – has been restricted to amicable games with close friends and (more recently) with my partner.

In the rush to gain a competitive edge, my focus on (a) having fun, and (b) immersing myself in history, both get lost. The experience is very different, and actually feels a little bit unhealthy. A simple game, and a trip into the past, become something else. Something less enjoyable. Something that has more of an edge.

And there’s the rub. I suppose that edge is what other wargamers enjoy. It seems, somewhat to my own astonishment, that I don’t.

Odd? Certainly. But I daresay it’s another reason why solo wargaming has been my ‘go to’ mode for so many years.

Now this is a purely personal thing. And I’m not, for one moment, suggesting that it’s necessarily a good thing either. It is what it is. But I wonder if maybe it’s another reason why some people prefer the less competitive, more immersive experience of solo gaming to the rigours of facing a human opponent across the battlefield?



Elephants in the FoG


One of the many good things about the recently released computer game Field of Glory II – Rise Of Rome is that it covers so much more than just the Romans and their enemies. Right now I’m fighting an Indian civil war campaign against the game’s challenging AI, which boasts a total of six difficulty levels.

I’m fielding a classical Indian army against Mountain Indian opponents. Think lots and lots of elephants, heavy and light chariots, field artillery, and swarms of massed bowmen. The army is bulked out with massed javelin infantry, light archers and horse archers, and some horribly ineffective cavalry (at least, they’re ineffective the way I use them).

For this game, designer Richard Bodley Scott has gone for a completely different approach to campaigns from the one used in his earlier releases Pike & Shot and Sengoku Jidai. Instead of map movement, the player faces a series of linked challenges which can throw up different types of engagement. Although most battles are standard head-on confrontations, from time to time you may find yourself protecting a baggage train in a forested region, or facing an enemy rearguard with your reserve troops.


The game keeps track of casualties and reinforcements, while you have to regularly detach troops for garrison duty, thereby depleting your field army as the war progresses. You can choose to stick to one difficulty level throughout the campaign, or you can opt instead for a gradual increase in difficulty, which will allocate more troops to your computer opponent. As your army gains battlefield experience your troops gain in elan, so that by the final cataclysmic confrontation – if you get that far – you may be fielding an army of tough veterans, but face a much larger enemy force.

There are a number of very good pre-loaded campaigns that come with FoG II, enabling you to relive the careers of Julius Caesar, Hannibal, Pyrrhus of Epiros, and Mithridates of Pontus. But the ‘sandbox’ option gives you the ability to play out a campaign with any of the armies included in the current release. And the first of what will doubtless be many user-generated custom campaigns have already been produced, in the shape of Paul59’s Antiochus the Great campaign and DasTactic’s Euteubor Campaign (Graeco-Bactrians vs all of their neighbours).


The scope for such campaigns is immense. There are a total of 48 nations and factions in the base game under the following broad headings – Romans, Hellenistic Kingdoms, Carthaginians, Syracuse, Spanish, Numidians and Moors, Celts, Illyrians, Thracians, Spartacus, Jewish Kingdoms, Skythians/Saka, Sarmatians, Parthia, Armenia and (of course) Indians. Within these categories there are further choices to be made. For instance, the Hellenistic Kingdoms allow you to play Macedonians, Indo-Parthians, Western Greeks, Seleucids (in four different flavours) and so on. There’s no shortage of options to maintain interest, which makes for great replayability value.

The AI is a huge step forward compared to the original Field of Glory computer game, providing a viable (and at times quite unforgiving) opponent. Gone too are the quirky OTT combat results and the frequent sight of your (or your opponent’s) units breaking formation to randomly charge an approaching enemy. The graphics have improved too, whilst retaining something of the ‘toy soldier’ feel of the original game.

Anyhow, must dash. My howdah has been re-upholstered, Nellie is getting restless, and the next battlefield awaits my tattered but proud Indian army…




Pike & Shot – Game Review

Pike & Shot

Pike & Shot is the latest title to be marketed by Slitherine Games. After my underwhelming experience with Slitherine’s earlier offering Field of Glory – nice game, lousy AI – I was wary about parting with more of my hard-earned cash. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, from a solo gaming point of view the trajectory of computer games in recent years has been distinctly underwhelming, unless you’re satisfied with games set in the American Civil War or WWII (neither of which are personal favourites). Early classics like Age of Rifles seemed to herald a golden age, but the reality didn’t match the potential. Unless you’re a fan of ‘real time’ wargames, the genre has appeared to be moving backwards rather than forwards. So it was with some skepticism that I posted a few questions in Slitherine’s Pike & Shot forum prior to the game’s release. The answers I received  left me feeling intrigued, and I decided the game was worth a punt…

Let’s cut to the chase. I think the game is a blast, and has the potential to become a real classic. Both Field of Glory and Pike & Shot are based around rules authored by Richard Bodley Scott, whose CV includes a number of classic tabletop rulesets. But the difference with Pike & Shot is that RBS has done the bulk of the development himself this time around, using the Battle Academy architecture as its basis. Fancy graphics have been eschewed in favour of reflecting the way the period was depicted by contemporary artists, and – crucially – the AI has been developed to the point where it provides the human player with a real challenge. The developers have taken the trouble to faithfully model many of the specifics of the period, for example the alarming tendency that cavalry had to pursue fleeing enemies right off the field of battle, and the ways that the various pike and shot formations morphed from war to war and from nation to nation.

Pike & Shot is a turn-based, battlefield-level simulation of the period, and includes scenarios from the Italian Wars, the English Civil War and the Thirty Years War. There are a number of different difficulty settings, and the usual tranche of adjustable on-screen options. Crucially there is also a ‘Skirmish’ facility, which enables the player to generate endlessly varied random scenarios from all three of these wars; within this you can either trust the computer to select your forces for you, or you can select your army yourself. Size of battle and terrain can be customised, as can the type of battle – Attack, Defence, Open Battle, Reinforcement and Flank Marches. The type of battle selected will influence the AI’s behaviour.

Even better, there is a built-in editor, and this is likely to ensure a steady flow of new scenarios, as well as providing enthusiasts of the period with the chance to build their own battles. I suspect this will be taking up a fair bit of my time once I’ve got into it… It’s even possible to edit the technical parameters for various aspects of the game, and online discussion has already taken place where people are looking into doing this, either to personalise the feel of the game in line with their own interpretations of history, or in order to adapt it – alongside customised graphics – to represent different wars altogether.

The other positive feature has been the close involvement that RBS has had with the online discussions, and this is ongoing. It’s rare for a game designer to have this kind of engagement with his customer base, and he’s clearly open to suggestions about future tweaks and developments. Indeed, the question of “where next” with this very adaptable game engine is one of the big questions, with suggestions ranging from the Samurai Era to the Lace Wars, or perhaps a move back into the medieval or ancient periods. Field of Glory could certainly do with a challenging replacement, and from what I’ve seen so far RBS and his team have developed the skills and the toolsets to address this gap.

In the end, it’s the solo potential and the modability of a computer game that guarantee its commercial and popular success, as the history of games like Civilization and the Sim series has shown. While Pike &Shot is unlikely to ever have that size of audience, the potential for a wargame of this calibre, and for further releases covering different eras, is actually pretty big. If RBS and his team focus on that, they will have a long term winner on their hands.

Now, enough of this blogging nonsense – I have to get back to the battle of Cheriton!

Useful Stuff About The Game

Wars covered: Italian Wars, English Civil War, Thirty Years War.

Battles included: Seminara, Fornovo, Ravenna, Novara, Marignano, Bicocca, Pavia, Ceresole, St Quentin, Gravelines (Italian Wars), Wimpfen, Lutter, 1st Breitenfeld, Lutzen, Nordlingen, Wittstock, 2nd Breitenfeld, Rocroi (Thirty Years War), Storming of Bristol, Relief of Nantwich, Cheriton, Marston Moor, Lostwithiel, 2nd Newbury, Naseby (English Civil War).

Video of game demo/walkthrough:

Screen shots: Go to  and page down to the end. Or just Google!

Last but not least, you can get the game here:


I know this whole post sounds unlike my usual curmudgeonly self, particularly when it comes to discussing computer games. But frankly, dear reader, I can’t help myself. Although it’s early days, I’m currently chuffed as could be to have found a PC game that addresses an era I love, and does it in a way that doesn’t require you to check your brain at the door. I can honestly say that I have no connection with Slitherine, or indeed with Richard Bodley Scott – on the one occasion we’ve met over the tabletop (at the annual Berkeley Hordes convention), he handed my arse to me on a plate…