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Posted on Apr 15, 2013 in Electronic Games

March of the Eagles – PC Game Review

By Jim Cobb

March of the Eagles. PC game review. Publisher: Paradox Interactive. Developer: Paradox Development Studio. Game keys can be purchased at various places for $19.99 but must be played on Steam.

Passed Inspection: Great graphics, fine AI, interesting historical detail, good multiplay and modding systems

Failed Basic: Steep learning curve, small font, minor play balance issues, scattered documentation.

Paradox Interactive explored the Napoleonic era with its Napoleon’s Ambition add-on to Europa Universalis III. The add-on worked within the framework of the series but dynastic, economic and political facets were equal, if not superior, to the military side of the game. Paradox’s latest Napoleonic effort, March of the Eagles, represents a militarization of the structure, keeping non-military aspects to a minimum and subjecting them to war aims. Never fear, wargamers, the energy taken from some aspects of the system was loaded into the military side with a vengeance.

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Graphics Tell All
This game moves the use of graphics as an interface up a notch. Ten kinds of zoomable maps show hundreds of provinces covering from Norway to the Sahara, from the Atlantic to the Caspian Sea. The information they provide include weather, terrain, political boundaries and relationships, revolt risks, supply, and manpower. Clicking on a province brings up an image of its landscape, its nine variables, ability to build improvements, brigades and ships, and its structure levels. A panel around the mini-map allows players to find obscure provinces and bounce to their capitols.

Zooming in, armies are shown as marching or battling figures in appropriate uniforms. Zoomed out, units appear as icons with the national flag and the number of brigades in the unit. Clicking on the unit brings up the first level of detail showing leaders in portraits, leader abilities and sub-leaders of the flanks, center and reserve. This panel also yields the number of men by arms type, morale, attrition and ten possible orders such as enter ships, avoid battle, split off a brigade and force march if possible. A tab shows the next level of detail with each brigade described along with possible tactics for use in battle. When battle is joined, two figures duel with losses floating away from them. A panel allows players to watch morale drop and casualties mount. Sieges are displayed similarly but with images of three stages of fortification destruction.  Naval units and battles are shown similarly but with less detail. Tooltips provide even more information.

As always with games using the Europa Universalis/Clausewitz engine, bars on the top show resources such as money and manpower. Another bar delivers options in overviewing game status, finances, military power, technology and philosophy—called “ideas”—available, and diplomacy. Each of these has submenus with various play choices. Messages describing events pop up during play with four different levels of immediacy, giving players options of when to read them. Message types can also be filtered through options. Muted, but helpful, sound effects signal when events occur and how important they are.

Concepts as numerous as this require documentation and Paradox Interactive provides it, albeit in a scattered state. Ten on-screen tutorials are very good with the basics and the 108-page PDF covers most of the details. A nice touch is a link to the forums right below the main menu. Here, plays can download Quick Start, Beginner, Player and Multiplayer guides while accessing a very helpful community.

Survival through Management
The game starts on January 1, 1805 with players choosing from eight major powers or clicking a minor county on the map to watch the world go by—or over—them. Winning is defined in two ways: each major power must control seven of ten land provinces and seven of ten sea provinces, with provinces unique to each power. Alternatively, the power with the highest prestige, gained through victories, wins in 1820.  The two titans are France, dominant on land, and Britain, ruling the waves. Alone, each is stalemated by the other, so players must plan for a long war.

Key to a long war is coalition building through diplomacy. Inviting a country into a coalition is an option from the diplomacy tab, along with thirteen others such as ask for or give military access or subsidies, insult, sue for peace and declare war without a casus belli. Diplomacy is limited by relations with the target country and the number of diplomats available. AI-controlled countries conduct their own diplomacy but the ways thereof can be strange, such as Persia granting subsidies to Austria. Coalition units have an odd habit of simply wandering around the coalition leader’s territory. Useful diplomatic moves toward a coalition partner are a “Call to Arms,” whereby the partner actively moves against the enemy, or asking for an expeditionary force controlled by the player.

With diplomacy started, players review their country’s weaknesses. Infrastructure can be improved by building depots, forts, ports and other facilities. France needs to increase her navy while choosing to recruit some of the eighteen brigade types available to her. All this costs money. Revenue can be increased by raising taxes and fees or extorting subsidies from satellite countries. Loans can be taken out at the cost of interest. Leaders should also be assigned to squadrons, corps, flanks, center and reserves. Assigning these men is a simple matter of clicking on an empty portrait and selecting an unemployed officer from a list; pay attention to the officers’ ratings for maneuver, offense, defense, experience and number of traits.

I’ve Got an Idea
“Ideas” help with different aspects of play. Major powers have ten broad categories of “ideas” covering economic, political and military issues. Nine of these are common to all but each major power has a unique category. Minor countries are limited to nine categories. Each category has five locked subsets. Activating an idea cost points, gained through battle and game events.

With initial preparations set, play can begin in earnest. The RTS scale is one day. Play can be sped up greatly, but players may miss important events. For example, mighty France is vulnerable in Holland, Italy, the Mediterranean and the Spanish peninsula.  Having the game move fast means the French player must have reflexes like a fighter pilot to meet threats; better to take things slow and maintain control.

Units are moved with a right click, with a yellow arrow snaking to the destination. Land units suffer attrition while moving and naval units are at the mercy of storms. The best laid movements can come a cropper through neutral countries being in the way. Gaining military access will cost a diplomat with no guarantee of success. A declaration of war costs the same with the possibility of making even more enemies. However, beating up a small country can be a cheap way of gaining idea points, tribute and satellites. The “Sue for Peace” diplomatic option allows for levels of victory, with truly crushed opponents subject to annexation, although the risk of revolts is increased.

Battles and Sieges
Battles occur when two forces that are ready to fight meet in a province or when a force trying to avoid battle is cornered. Players can deal with battles in three ways: simply wait for the result message with a narrative of the battle, click on their force and watch the morale and casualty numbers change while schematics detail troop maneuvers or they can pause the game, click on the detail tab and give orders to the center, flanks and reserves. These nine orders include hold, refuse and counter-punch. The ability to give these orders may depend on conditions such as the presence of certain types of troops. Other modifiers are leader ability, brigade frontage, initiative and a die roll representing random factors. Events can also occur that affect combat. Naval combat is simpler and depends largely on leaders and morale.

Sieges represent the defeat of city garrisons. The usual modifiers apply to the ability to lay or withstand a siege. Besiegers can wait and bombard a city until a breach is made, but this tactic takes time and involves attrition and supply problems, not to mention the possibility of a relief force arriving. Assaults are quicker but much more costly in terms of men and ammunition. Port cities must be blockaded before assault is even an option.

After a victory, leaders may receive traits randomly. Land leaders have nine traits including offensive, defensive, marching and discipline. Naval commanders can have seven traits, primarily relating to ship types but initiative and sailing skill are also options. Each trait has three steps—something not documented in the rules.

Play in this game is deep and detailed, although the play balance may be tipped toward the British navy. A clever AI on any of the four difficulty levels makes for a fine solo challenge, but the multi-player systems allow a return to the old Diplomacy-style games. Players can choose either to exchange IP addresses or log into a metaserver and find a game there. Modding is made easy through the popular Crusader Kings II system. A mod that begins in 1792 is already available, as is a more detailed version of the base game. Mods are brought up via check boxes so the base game is not overwritten.

This game does not come to a quick conclusion. The eagles may march, but they don’t fly. Coalitions rise and fall; events require scripted decisions like dissolving the Holy Roman Empire; war exhaustion saps a nation’s morale; allies turn against each other. Player scramble not only to deal with threats but to stay one step ahead of other powers. In doing so, they must balance diplomacy and finances to achieve the optimum military structure. March of the Eagles combines depth of play with diversity of nations and cultures to provide a grand strategic Napoleonic game that is second to none.

Armchair General Rating: 87%

About the Author
Jim Cobb has been playing board wargames since 1961 and computer wargames since 1982. He has been writing incessantly since 1993 to keep his mind off the drivel he dealt with as a bureaucrat. He has published in Wargamers Monthly, Computer Gaming World, Computer Games Magazine, Computer Games Online, CombatSim, Armchair General, Subsim, Strategyzone Online and Gamesquad

18 Comments

  1. What kind of sentence is this?

    “Players can deal with battles in three ways: simply wait for the result message with a narrative of the battle, click on their force and watch the morale and casualty numbers change while schematics detail troop maneuvers or they can pause the game, click on the detail tab and give orders to the center, flanks and reserves.”

    This review needs to be rewritten….

    • Your reply needs to be re-written.

      • Wrong.

        Rewritten : “past participle of re·write”

    • Sorry, but I found that sentence perfectly parsable. The clauses were only as long necessary and certainly nicer than a list with bullet points.

      Might be challenging if English was not one’s first language, however.

      • The sentence needs punctuation, badly. It’s also poorly worded and it’s a runaway sentence.

        I’m not surprised though. it’s obvious this writer cares more about quantity while sacrificing quality.

      • completely understandable to me also… Talk about nitpicking, anal retentive…

  2. I tend to write for people with passable English. Imagine how much longer the sentence would have been in German!

  3. I didn’t find the review all that bad, although its a bit too obvious in some places like, “Units are moved with a right click, with a yellow arrow snaking to the destination.”

    Try not to write a tutorial Jim. Write a review.

    • David,

      I always describe mechanics. We vets may think something is obvious but a rookie may not. Also, mechanics are not all the same: we have right-click, left-click, click-and-drag and others – all for movement.

  4. Looking at the screenshots I am immediately reminded of “Crown of Glory” the Napoleonic game from Matrix/WCS. Wondering how similar the game systems are????

    • Barry,

      Great question! CoG has more infrastructure and culture but less military-oriented diplomatic options. CoG covers a wider period but mods are fixing that for MotE. CoG has a slightly deeper economic game.

      • I loved the optional tactical battle system in CoG and the fact that you don’t need steam :D

      • Quite right about the tac battles. I admit to be ambivalent about Steam. I know the arguments against it but I like the auto updates and the easy DLCs.

  5. how this game scales compared to civil war?

    • The ACW game is basically operational and MoE is strategic with more emphasis on the navy, diplomacy and domestic affairs. I assume you meant the AGEOD Civil war game.

      • The civil war by Empire interactive (Paddy Griffith),should be a 1986 game. i don’t think any info available over the internet anymore due to its age. that was my favorite strategy game , whichever other games i’ve played never came close to how much i liked the civil war :/

        Also thank you for ur review on March of the eagles.

  6. Ah, a fellow old timer! :).

    Strangely, I can’t remember the Empire Interactive game. Maybe Good Ol’ Games (GOG.com) will revive it.

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