Forge of Freedom Review
Failed Basic: Steep learning curve
Forge of Freedom is a gaming rarity in two respects. First, games focused on the American Civil War tend to be few and far between. Second, the selection of games in general for a serious wargamer interested in the "Grand Strategy" scale is rather slim. Removing 4x games such as the Civilization games, which are not exactly of the grognard variety, someone looking for grand strategy games is oftentimes stuck in the 1930s to 1940s with few notable exceptions. It is this list of notable exceptions that Forge of Freedom can be added to.
Boasting a manual of over 200 pages, Forge of Freedom should keep the most detail oriented, realism-demanding, wargamer happy. The developers have put together a tremendous amount of research to provide a historically detailed game that takes into account a massive scope covering technology, economy, generals, governors, cities, specific weapons, and of course, tactics.
To help in the task of getting a grasp around this mountain of features and data, Forge of Freedom comes with flash tutorials that guide players through the basics of the complex interface and introduce some of the basics of play. This is enough to give an idea of where to find the important controls, but ultimately it’s still an extremely complex game with a steep learning curve.
To attempt to mitigate some of this, the player is able to slowly add rules to increase the complexity across games. This provides the advantage of allowing a new player to ease into the game on the whole to some degree, along with allowing for a more experienced player to remove rules they do not necessarily enjoy, or that they want to disable for the sake of experimentation. For example, what differences occur when allowing the North and South to engage Europe in diplomatic talks versus leaving them out of the picture completely? Or how much better does the CSA fare when low population affects are reduced?
Unfortunately, despite some attempts to ease a person into the game, this will remain a title for the hardcore gamers who are happy to spend a month’s learning the ins and outs of a game system. Those who do stick with the game to learn all of its nuances and features will be rewarded with a game of great depth and detail.
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