Interview – Crown of Glory: Emperor’s Edition
The PC game Crown of Glory: Europe in the Age of Napoleon covered itself in glory in 2005, winning Charles S. Roberts and War Game of the Year awards. In March 2009, Matrix Games will return players to the Napoleonic Age where they can again utilize military strategy , economics, diplomacy and social organization to lead the nation of their choice to pre-eminence in the sequel, Crown of Glory: Emperor’s Edition, developed by Western Civilization. The principal team behind CoG: EE was comprised of Gil Renberg, Michael Zeddies and Eric Babe.
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What changes can gamers expect in this new iteration? Will it live up to its predecessor’s achievements? ArmchairGeneral.com posed those questions and others to Matrix Games and Western Civilization.
ARMCHAIR GENERAL: Crown of Glory won high accolades, including the Charles S. Roberts Award for Best Pre-20th Century Era Wargame and the War – Historical Group’s War Game of the Year. Is there added pressure in creating a sequel when the original game was that well received?
MATRIX GAMES/WESTERN CIVILIZATION: We continue to set high standards for our work, and we were very honored by our awards. There is pressure, but most of it comes from ourselves, simply from our desire to make yet another great game, with brand-new features and game-play options. There are lots of things in Emperor’s Edition that we wanted to include in Crown of Glory from the start, like detailed naval combat and added scenarios like an 1812 scenario, and we really just wanted to take the opportunity to include as much as we could. We’re constantly thinking of the players and fans: would they enjoy this feature? Does it meet the standard for historical accuracy? Will it make the game more fun? So it’s always rewarding to get this kind of feedback from the community.
ACG: Will CoG:EE be covering the same (years, countries, battles, etc.) as the original CoG?
MG/WC: Yes, but we’ve added a number of scenarios and features that we think players will enjoy. The biggest additions in this regard are an 1803 scenario, just before the peace of Amiens broke down, and an 1812 scenario, just prior to the invasion of Russia. We think 1803 is fun, because all the major powers are at peace, and the player is free to make of that situation whatever they will.
1812 needs no introduction: we have faithfully recreated the Grande Armee, poised in Poland and ready to strike, as well as all of Russia’s defenses, in addition to a detailed recreation of the situation in Spain. We’ve added some rules making Russian winters harsher and Spanish supply lines more difficult to maintain, which we think help recreate the operational environment. (By the way, the 1812 scenario features units that are individually named after their historical commanders whenever possible.)
In addition to these, we’ve also provided scenarios that make it it possible to play some of the minor powers just like one of the major powers. In those scenarios, the minor power takes Sweden’s place, and the Swedes are relegated to an AI-controlled player. Depending on the year, you can play Bavaria, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Portugal—and we’ve given Denmark, the Netherlands, and Portugal larger navies that are fully stocked with their historical complement of warships. In fact, all the major powers now feature historically sized navies, with their historical numbers of first-/second rates and third-rates, as well as some fourth-rates and frigates.
ACG: Will social, economic, diplomatic, and military aspects be available, and to what degree for each?
MG/WC: As with the first release, our game features all these aspects, and we’ve made changes to each.
Socially, we’ve added historical events for the player to deal with—some are mandatory, like famines, and others are optional, like the abolition of colonial slavery. Some are random events, but others turn up on a historical schedule. Each nation has its own-the bulk of them are French, but even nations like Sweden get their own small set of historical events. And as a little bit of fun, we’ve made sure each event bears an illustrative graphic almost always taken from a period document.
Economically, one of the biggest features of Emperor’s Edition is a simplified economy, letting the player focus more singly on the art of warfare. However, we’ve left in the advanced economic rules for those who enjoy a more immersive experience. In fact, with the addition of numerous provinces, we’ve had to almost totally revise the economic resources. We also give players who are dedicated to the advanced economy some alternate economic scenarios, providing for sparser or more generous resources, as the player prefers. And we’ve added inflationary effects to the cost of units.
Diplomatically, we feature the same diplomat unit and treaty-drafting options as last time (the latter of which in particular won us praise), though we put a cap on subsidies to minor powers to keep the Attitude system in line. We’ve also changed the ownership graphics on the main map, helping to clearly show what territories a player controls and in what way.
Militarily, we’ve added so many features it’s hard to know where to start! Feudal levy units are more powerful now. Military upgrades are based on an experience-point system generated from battles, surrenders, barracks, and some events, and we now have naval upgrades. We’ve imported the special abilities feature from our US civil war game, Forge of Freedom, giving units access to a huge variety of customizations, providing a variety of advantages at both the strategic and tactical level. At higher difficulty levels, we’ve added March Attrition, inflicting strength losses on units moving strategically. Wars now lapse after a year-and-a-half if players don’t keep up the pressure and commit the troops. We’ve put limitations on AI behavior, making it harder for nations like the Ottomans to deviate from their historical roles. We’ve made it possible to resolve battles instantly-even from within a detailed battle that’s already begun. You can fight battles at the brigade level now as well. And, finally, we’ve implemented detailed naval combat, on a hex grid just like land battle, with new rules and new graphics, which we think players will find a real treat!
ACG: What can you share about any new troop types and their strengths and weaknesses?
MG/WC: We made some changes to a few, most notably to our militia units, giving them more maneuverability, but still restricting them to their national borders. Generals can also be promoted now, and players can get new generals after victory in battle. And when you play the brigade-level detailed combat, you get brigade-sized units, splitting specially equipped brigades like riflemen off from the regular brigades in a division.
Our naval units have also been changed: we now use ship-rating terminology. We’ve got first-/second-rates, third-rates, and frigates, and we’ve replaced transports with fourth-rates. Fourth-rates are about as cheap as frigates to build and can fight other ships-of-the-line head-to-head, but are still much weaker, and lack the maneuverability of frigates.
But the biggest thing we’ve added to units are the special abilities mentioned above-several dozen options to make your units stronger, more maneuverable, deadlier, or more resilient, customizing your entire army if desired, though it will cost your nation resources to purchase them.
ACG: CoG had one of the best morale models for a PC wargame since the Close Combat series. Has it been improved in CoG:EE, and in what way(s)?
MG/WC: Thanks! We’ve added some features that we think go even farther towards modeling the military behavior of the era. Victory and retreat in detailed combat are now determined by a battle-wide Will-to-Fight, which is primarily affected by how many units remain in good order versus how many units have been broken. The value for both players is displayed at the top of the battle screen, along with a graph showing the player’s unit ratios, so the player always knows how close or how far he stands from victory or defeat. We’ve tweaked cascading morale loss in detailed combat, so that its effects are still quite real though not quite as far-reaching. And retreating units can also re-enter the strategic screen with Strategic Disorder, giving them a disadvantage in quick combat.
ACG: Overall, how advanced can we expect the AI to be compared to the original CoG?
MG/WC: We still can’t give away any of our secrets, but we think the player will find the AI even more of a challenge than in the original release, with even more realistic and unexpectedly strong strategic and tactical behavior. The reaction of our beta-testers has been quite positive in this regard. We’ve included all of the AI improvements we made while working on Forge of Freedom, and taught the detailed combat AI dozens of new tactics.
ACG: What’s an element of the new game that you expect will knock the combat boots off fans of the original?
MG/WC: We’re really psyched about our naval combat engine. In terms of tactical detail, it will compare with the systems of much larger products than ours-we’ve got sail states, wind direction, tacking maneuvers, inertial effects, carronade fire, rigging damage, ammunition type, boarding actions the works. We have detailed and historically accurate ship models and realistic waves, as well as well as maritime sound effects. We’ve also taken the time to give each player’s ships their historical names, to the fullest extent we could.
ACG: For players unfamiliar with the original Crown of Glory, how accessible will they find this one to be?
MG/WC: We think they’ll find it even more accessible than the original. We’ve made the strategic map more realistic, with lots of terrain texture and deeper, bolder colors. We allow the player to play with a simplified economy. We’ve added tooltips to nearly everything that has functionality on the screen, whether it’s a button, a statistic, or a menu. We’ve given players the option of resolving battles instantaneously. We’ve provided some of the same advisory tools as we did in Forge of Freedom, including quick-reference city and unit lists, military overview maps, graphs of national statistics, and additional clarity to menus, reports, and advisor screens. We’re revised the manual, top-to-bottom, reorganizing whole chapters, rewriting entire sections and streamlining explanations, introducing the player to the basic game concepts as quickly and efficiently as possible. We’ll be providing a printed manual, as well as an in-game help that features the full text of the manual and illustrative screenshots. We’ve highlighted rules that we feel could use emphasis, and hope to be distributing a file of tips and strategic advice for players after release. We’ve moved a lot of the tables to a separate Appendix and reformatted the combat modifiers list for easy reference. Finally, we’ve also recorded a dozen tutorial films, giving the player a step-by-step introduction to playing the game. And, of course, we’ll be as active as ever in providing our players with support on our game forums, where you can always find us-another thing we’re noted for.
ACG: Will CoG:EE players have to alter their strategies compared to the original if they hope to achieve dominance?
MG/WC: You might have to learn a few new tricks, sure—even basic maneuverability on the strategic map has changed, with the addition of dozens of new provinces and a revamp of the terrain features. New rules like March Attrition and Strategic Disorder can make armies more vulnerable. Naval warfare will probably feel a bit different, as we have given each player fleets of historically accurate size and composition, and have given minor powers like Denmark and the Netherlands the large fleets they historically wielded in the earlier scenarios. If tactical success is an important element to your strategic goals, you’ll need to handle new combat rules like Cavalry Screens, army placement, group movement, standing orders, and reaction radii, not to mention the opportunities we give you to fight battles at the brigade level! And if you’re using the new naval combat system, you’ll find it’s a very different environment than detailed land combat-you’ll have to find your sea legs!
ACG: In parting, how about one or two player tips for aspiring emperors in CoG:EE?
MG/WC: To quote l’Empereur himself: "When you have an enemy in your power, deprive him of the means of ever injuring you, and of course, if you start to take Vienna — take Vienna!"