Rambling on City Builders

I wanted to dust off my article article about City Builders but between the WTC training and life I never had time to do so.

So here it comes! First off we need to define the what a city-builder is, and for that we’ll need to make a bit of a list I’m afraid.

 

Simcity series and SimCity-like

Though the genre was established with the release of SimCity (1989) this game series hardly has anything to do with other city builders except for the fact that you build a city that has, well…buildings. Simcity is actually a genre by itself, and games that are part of this genre are SimCity, CitiesXL and Citybound. It’s good to note that the genre pinnacled in 2003 with the release of SimCity 4 and was somewhat dead for years until the release of CitiesXL (2009).

I guess this type of city-builder could be called “Modern-era city building” and in these games, the population is just a data, or sometimes it’s even some sort of score.
As you probably know the game focuses on building a larger and larger city, increasing density and/or wealth/tech level. No warmongering interaction of any kind. No set objective either. These games are mostly macromanagement games, and micromanagement exists almost only in the mass transit path creation and budget sliders optimization.

Sim City 4 layout example

Sim City 5 layout example

 

City Building Series

Then there is a second type of city builders which appeared in 1993 and with Sierra’s Caesar series. It is often refered as City Building Series and contains the games Caesar I to IV, Pharaoh, Master of Olympus and Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom. Immortal Cities is also part of this list as well even though it is really different from the other games of the series and Medieval Mayor too, but this game still doesn’t have a release date.
Out from this series but still in this genre you’ve got Grand Ages Rome (2009).As for the SimCity series this series peaked in 2002 with Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom but it is now mostly dead in terms of excellent games.

Classic residential block design for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom

Classic residential block design for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom

In this type of games your goal is always to build a city but you need to attend to specific chains of production in order to have your population increase and evolve in “ranks”. Also the city designs are very different with residentials blocks and industry/commercial blocks being separated and somewhat isolated. In these games war is always a defensive option (as in, you’re gonna get attacked). There is always a campaign (usually a historic one) although you can make some sandbox game if you wish. The campaign will often ask you to build huge monuments that require lots of resources and manpower.

Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom's large palace

Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom’s large palace

 

 

Anno series

The Anno series started out with Anno 1602 in 1998 and keeps on going to this day with Anno 2070. There isn’t much to say about Anno, in my opinion the game kept on evolving and was refined opus after opus and Anno 2070 is as close as it gets to a perfectly tuned game, with good games mechanics, pretty graphism and an overall excellent game feel.

Much like City Building Series game in Anno you have to tend to your population. There are four tiers of progress for your population, and each tier will unlock new buildings and chain of productions which are needed to take your inhabitants to the next tier. Of course progressing through tiers requires more and more commodities off of more and more complex chains of productions.

 

Anno 2070 production layout example for Communicators commodity

Anno 2070 production layout example for Communicators commodity

But with Anno there is also a pretty in-depth military gameplay using boats and armies (and now air units with Anno 2070). It uses the good old rock-paper-scissors game balance. You can use your military power to either complete quests or wage wars against your opponents. Also, and contrary to the previous game we talked about, Anno can be played in multiplayer and the last version allow for both versus and co-op.

 

Stronghold series

The Stronghold series started in 2001 and is a bit of a mix between the two series I talked about earlier. In these games population is not just an overall score but you have to give them food, shelter and a job. Then build a castle and walls around them to protect them and train armies. Then much like Anno there is macromanagement and micromanagement in both the economic part of the game and the military part of the game, though in Stronghold military take a way more proeminent part than in Anno.

In my opinion only Stronghold 1, Crusader & 2 were good with Stronghold one being really the best one.Its strength relies on the fact both Economic and Military part of the game are well designed, so it’s fun to have your city start and expand but it is as fun to just defend your castle from ennemies by igniting pitch under their feet and watch them burn with the rest of your land 😀

 

City under siege on Stronghold: Crusader

City under siege on Stronghold: Crusader

Die Siedler | The Settlers series

Another truly awesome German series of building games! Started in 1993 and still going to this day with a newly announced game The Settlers: Kingdom of Anteria which should be released in 2014. The game is on closed beta right now as far as I know.

Settlers 7

This game series evolved quite a lot in more than 10 years of existence but what remains is that it’s some sort of “very long RTS”. The pace of the game is slow, and you build your city and expand your territory slowly. The pace of Settlers 7 was rather quick in MP games but they decided to slow it down, which resulted in killing the versus community of the game.

In terms of pure game mechanics it’s pretty much the same as Anno with a different tiering system. So you make your chains of production, your population grows and then you use it to levy armies and punch your opponents in the face. Depending on the scenario you play there are possibilities to achieve economic or military win or both.

Tropico series

For me this starts with Tropico 3 as Tropico 1&2 were meh. Tropico 3 was released in 2009 and the series is still ongoing since Tropico 5 was released in May this year.
Tropico is really a refreshing series since it takes a bit of every other city builders and mixes it with its own humorous tone and I have to say it really works.

As a dictator your main goal is to stay in power! But when your place is secured you really have to build up your island economy and here you’ll have to take into accound your island fertilities/ore deposits. What’s really cool here is that there are more production chains available than room and resources available for you to use them. This means you have to make choices and it really improves re-playability. In this games military is only used defensively, either to defend against U.S / U.S.S.R invasions or to prevent a coup d’état and you can’t micromanage it.

There isn’t too much micromanagement in the Tropico series, even though Tropico 5 brings a new Manager system to improve buildings, the only source of micro-management comes from the upgrades you can chose to buy for your buildings.

 

A tropican island at the end of the game

A tropican island at the end of the game

Other games

Many other games exist that don’t belong to any series like Banished, Kenshi or Towns which all bring their point of view and specific mechanics on the genre that is City-building which, have you probably understood, doesn’t mean anything in itself…

 

So this article is already longer than the previous one and we don’t even talked about anything really interested so I’m just gonna stop it here and publish this and I’ll take about in-depth game mechanics as well a more general view on the future of the genre.

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How I failed at being awesome

I’m back on the blog after a lot of different tournaments!…But not the WTC unfortunately since I wasn’t deemed worth it, booh booh. The last weeks have been pretty hectic as there were lots of tournaments, and pretty important ones at that.

I talked a bit about the La Garde tournament in my last post but there was the Lyon Summer Master in September where I almost managed to snatch 1st, which would have given me wins at both the biggest french tournaments. It’s okay though, 2nd isn’t that bad and that puts me on the map for the next WTC selections too hopefully.

 

But the important fact is that those two last months gave me pause to think about Warmachine in an entirely new way, and I believe I learnt more in 2 months than I learnt in a year. This has a lot to do with the number of tournaments and tournament-like games I did and quite frankly I’m impressed by my performance. Sometimes I still think it’s a great deal of luck but in the end I managed to win 3 tournaments this year and went 2nd to the most important one….

…Which brings me the real topic of today: how to gain experience. Unlike in RPGs gaining experience requires a lot thinking, and not just killing mobs/chaining games. At least I need to think a lot about my games to really improve. There’s an old saying that goes like: You learn more from losing than from winning.

Learning from your mistakes

First off I’d say I quite agree with that BUT, to me, you only learn if you really wish to understand what went wrong and improve. Many people -and I was one of them at one point- will attribute this defeat to dice, and that defeat to a poor match-up and so on. Sure sometimes you’ll get dice raped and that happens, shit happens, but most of the time if you’re whining on round 3 it’s because YOU made a big mistake on round 2, and your opponent is just bashing your skull in because YOU let him do it with your mistakes. Excuses like “He charged me with his heavy and bashed mine but he was like one tenth of an inch in, what a luck” can feel very reassuring but that’s just self deception really.

On the French master finale I lost because I activated Orin before my sirens, went for a chain lightning on Blackbane’s raiders with pSkarre feat on and, thinking about their armor 18, I thought “It’s no use” and declared I was gonna null magic. The Null Magic bubble then just prevented me from using 2 sirens and 2 venom from 2 arcnodes with pDenny. At the end of the game I was at an advantage on attritrion but lost on scenario because I couldn’t clean the Blackbanes fast enough any more.
Of course all my friends taunted me on that mistake but in the end, my mistake was to not understand the real extent of the problem. If my mind had caught that this was a fatal mistake, I would have moved pDenny behind Orin and just killed him to go on as planned.

As Illidan would say, my one true mistake was not to be prepared. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that with more training I would have known that I needed to kill Orin myself. My point is that -had I been prepared- I would have given myself time to think about the consequences of my mistake. One mistake in a whole game can be enough to make you lose and if you made a mistake, you need to be able to detect it fast enough to mend it.

Learning from your wins

Just because you won doesn’t mean that your list/gameplay/plan is perfect. I do believe winning requires the same kind of thought process to help you improve your game. It’s important to understand what made you win and what mistakes from your opponent your exploited to win. Did you play the whole game according to the original plan? Did you change your plan and why? Did you have lucky roll at some point that put you back in the game? Did you take advantage of a big mistake from your opponent? Do think your target priority is spot on?

All those questions are very important if you wish to step up your game, as answering these questions will force you to go over what you did and how you won. It will probably force you to talk about it with your opponent or to check out some of his models profiles to come to a decision.

Thoughts on Adversity

There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time. -Malcolm X

If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost. -can’t remember who 😡

Although Warmachine/Hordes is just a game, I really believe those two quotes are spot on. I believe adversity is the key to “going on to the next level”. It is when you are pushed in a corner, seemingly out of options, that you have the best chances to learn. Going back to how you handled that situation is a very good indicator of your current skill level. Sometimes, and it’s especially true with someone like me, you can only think outside the box when you are under a lot of stress. It’s important to be able to play the game again in your mind and to detect the thing you did that got you out of a seemingly impossible situation. 

That’s why you need to play against what you think are strong opponents/hard match-ups. From my experience it’s very hard to go to an opponent you think/know will crush you. But in the end if you don’t go out of your comfort zone at some point, you’re bound to stagnate as a player.

These days I’ve had the chance to train against the best french Skorne and his anti-cryx Mordikaar list, as well as the best french Legion player and his anti-pSkarre list (she’s going rampant in our meta). I lost most of the games I played against them but it was extremely entertaining and I really feel I learnt a lot. And I do believe they learnt a lot too because we talked about it during hours, and that kind of exchange is, in my opinion, very positive.

That’s all for today, with a shorter post than ever before, woot woot! Next time we’ll talk about my next caster, which is gonna be either eDenny or Scaverous. Or I might come back with a new shooting list for pDenny, but maybe we’ll talk about Mortenebra. So many interesting casters, I really love Cryx, I feel like I’ll never be done with this faction.

 

o7

pSkarre ramblings

It’s been quite a long time since I last posted ! No lazyness here, just a case of severe lack of time and choices to be made, in the direct line of this post.

When you throw in the fact that I’m creating my own company, it kinda spiraled out of control and the blog rather died. Well, people seem to keep coming and reading so I’m trying to update stuff a little bit.

I’ve been rather active on the warmachine scene since I last posted in early March. Actually I’ve won a number of tournaments and I feel I’m getting better at this game. This appeared to me quite clearly on my last tournament at La Garde, France at the Dreamweavers Tournament: The Knock-Out where I managed to secure the 1st place with my usual pDenny list coupled with a pSkarre list.

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Uchronies Games 25pts Tournament Part 1

Here we are again for another tournament battle report. This tournament took place in Paris at Uchronies Games. It’s a nice store, rather small but in Paris it would cost a fortune to have anything big anyway. The store is slowly starting to dedicate more and more time and manpower to warmachine/hordes, and that’s very cool! Continue reading

Meddling with higher powers

I know this title sounds all mystical and stuff, but we’ll be talking about warmachine again today.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t post much in February, and that’s because I’ve been working almost every single day of the month on Masters of the World, and with my usual “should I play or should I paint? Oh crap I’ve got to call my girlfriend  -syndrome” it didn’t help my writing.

Anyway I’m back now and I’m here to talk abooooooooooooooooooout : meddling with the established system of Warmachine. Let’s put up the background here. Continue reading