Rise of Prussia – PC Game Review
Rise of Prussia. PC Game. Published by Paradox Interactive. Developed by AGEOD. Suggested retail price: $29.99.
Passed Inspection: Three well-designed tutorials guide you through the interfaces and game play. Good explanations for rules that reflect the period. Individual game mechanics easy and quick to learn.
Failed Basic: Steep learning curve (there’s a reason for three tutorials that build on each other). PBEM is the only option for playing another person. Game interfaces intrude into the game map.
Rise of Prussia has one of the best game mechanics I’ve seen for giving players a good reason to place an inferior leader in command of an army or a corps.
Rise of Prussia (RoP) is turn-based game with area movement, covering the European campaigns of the Seven Years War, 1756-1763. Each turn is two weeks. Normal play is against the computer; the only two-player option is PBEM. Whether playing against another player or the game’s AI, a player organizes his forces, moves all units and provides each unit with its combat orders. Once "Next Turn" is activated, all that turn’s planned activities for both players are resolved day by day by the computer, as are all battles. Battle results pop up on screen when they occur. Messages appear in the message panel, with critical messages in red.
While the mechanics of play are easy to understand, RoP has a lot of details to consider. Units have 32 different values such as nationality, type, number of men, weight (for transporting by ship), police (for gaining military control of a region), discipline, and cohesion. Combat and movement values can be seen on the summary displays as well as on the unit’s detail display. Higher organizations of units have 13 values of their own including combat effectiveness. Leaders, in addition to the unit values, have special abilities, seniority, and political cost values. Areas and cities have their own sets of values.
Information is readily available for every object on the map. Tooltips constantly pop up everywhere you go. Selecting an object reveals detailed information in the various displays on the top and bottom of the screen. You can adjust how long tooltips display but cannot turn them off.
The game’s two-player option involves manual procedures for the host and non-host players exchanging files. To support "real" LAN play these exchanges should be automated.
The three excellent tutorials build on each other and are a must for learning how to play the game. The first tutorial covers the user interface and movement orders. The second covers the command chain. This is very important to game play as units are more effective and easy to control when properly led. The last tutorial covers attacking the enemy. Since the computer fights the battles, the player sets the "posture" and "rules of engagement" for each force and unit.
The information interfaces on the top and bottom of the screen intrude into the map area. The upper right corner has game controls clustered around an ornate analog clock showing the month, year and time of day within the game, e.g., 1756, Late Aug., 9:45. The left corner shows the selected area’s terrain and weather. To the right of that are the values for victory points, national morale, engagement points, national treasury, conscripts available, and war supplies. The bottom left corner has the minimap and the controls for the unit ledger and construction. To its right is the large unit/force panel, which is the message panel when no units or forces are selected. To the right of that panel is the element panel, which is active when a unit is selected in the unit panel. While all this information is useful when needed, does it need to be constantly taking up screen space, making the map feel closed-in and cramped? My preference is for players to control which interfaces to keep on the screen.
Most European wars of the early 18th century were normally fought until one country was exhausted. Rise of Prussia reflects this with the "National Morale" value, which affects units, supply, and revenues, and determines when automatic victory or defeat occur. Players alter national morale by winning or losing battles and by capturing or losing objectives. Scenarios have a maximum and a minimum value for each country’s national morale. Automatic victory occurs when the national morale exceeds the maximum value and automatic defeat when it drops below the minimum value.
The movement mechanics are simple and become second nature quickly. Forces move by the click-and-hold, drag, and drop method. Once a force is dropped into its destination the shortest-time path is shown with the number of days the journey will take. Segments can be removed with the delete key. Cancelling a move simply requires dragging the unit back to its starting location.
Zones of Control are not fixed but calculated based on the detection and hide values of units. Scouting with irregular or light cavalry can present you with opportunities to get information about the enemy without being detected. Patrolling gives you a chance to detect enemy scouts and forces.
How you organize your forces is key in determining whether you win or lose battles. Building higher-level organizations such as armies and corps extend the benefits of good leaders down to the regiments (conversely, the detriments of bad leaders also trickle down). Command and control is one of the trickiest parts of the game and is well worth the time spent learning to understand it. There were several battles where I didn’t have my forces organized effectively and either lost the battle or had a pyrrhic victory.
Plan out your campaign and decide early the combat orders or "postures" and "rules of engagement" (ROE) for your forces. The designers recommend you set your posture and ROE before movement as turns are resolved simultaneously. I learned this the hard way when I sent a force of hussars to scout ahead of the main army. At the end of their movement I changed their posture from "passive" to "offensive." On their journey they encountered an enemy force whose posture was "offensive" and my hussars were forced back without putting up a fight (ROE is "Retreat If Engaged" for passive posture).
Rise of Prussia has one of the best game mechanics I’ve seen for giving players a good reason to place an inferior leader in command of an army or a corps. Most other games I’ve played just mandated the use of inferior leaders. RoP reflects the historical reality that upsetting the "natural order" was disconcerting to all levels of society, so promoting a less senior officer over more senior officers (albeit less competent ones) reduces the national morale, which feels true for this period. I like that the game doesn’t prevent players from placing a more competent but less senior leader in charge of an army, as long as they are aware of the repercussions on their country and forces in the field.
In summary, contemplative players who linger over and like to fine-tune their force dispositions will feel the love. Those looking for a tactical game on the Seven Years War need to look elsewhere, as the computer does the battle resolution. The amount of details necessary to play the game well may deter casual gamers.
Armchair General score: 82%
About the author:
Steven M. Smith has a life-long interest in history especially the Napoleonic and Victorian periods. He started playing wargames in 1975 and has played miniatures, board games, and computer games. He was the owner of The Simulation Corner gaming retail outlet in Morgantown, West Virginia until 1983. He is currently a member of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society and works for Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, Maryland.