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Posted on Jun 5, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Histwar: Les Grognards Interview

By Larry Levandowski

ACG: We understand that HW:LG will display one soldier, for every real one on the battlefield, and that every regiment will be available for orders. This must create a huge information and management challenge for the player in a scenario like Austerlitz or Borodino. How does the game help players fight these giant battles?

Each figure actually represents 10 real soldiers, while each cannon in a battery represents one real cannon. As we’ve already mentioned, an army can include 100 combat units and 11 corps (a single corps can have up to 24 units). This set-up best facilitates command and control. The graphical interface allows the player to stay abreast of each of corps’ actions. For example, one GUI feature displays 11 colored icons indicating each corps’ status, and placing the cursor over each of these icons brings up a display with more icons showing the status of each unit in that corps. A player can, then, easily monitor the state of each of his units; an orange icon, for example, means that this unit is in need of immediate attention, and red will mean that chaos has gripped the corresponding corps or regiments. So, in short, HW:LG‘s interface quickly and efficiently displays the status and position of each unit, allowing the player to avoid the inherent frustrations of managing a huge army in an intense battle.

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ACG: There has been a debate in the wargame community for years about the role of national characteristics in Napoleonic warfare. Were Russian troops more steadfast? Were the British better at musketry? Certainly the armies had different organizational characteristics and this affected their relative ability to move quickly and react to changes on the battlefield. How will the forces of the various nations be different in HLG?

The most important aim of the game’s design concept is to allow players to create a tactical plan and manage the organization of his army. Unit behaviors are fairly standardized, so an infantry unit’s actions will depend upon its tactical specialty rather than its nationality. However, each battalion, battery, and cavalry squadron will retain its own specific traits; for example, speed of movement, artillery effectiveness, and the bravery of the generals leading the corps. Thus, a player can use the Order of Battle editor to create a general pattern of behavior for each nation (to make the Austrians more hesitant, for example). But once they are engaged, each unit will have the same base bravery level for units of a given type; for example, Guard units of each nation will have a higher base morale than militia units.

ACG: What about the differences in the troops themselves? Will hussars have different capabilities than lancers and dragoons? Will skirmishers skirmish? In short, how will HW:LG portray the different troop type’s capabilities?

The game includes 30 different unit types across the three main combat arms (infantry, cavalry, and artillery). For example, for infantry, there are general types — elite, light, and line, plus a few more. Each unit type will have a distinct combat value (both at the individual firefight and corps level) and a distinct morale value. The latter variable, of course, determines how easily it will break and flee. For example, the French Imperial Guard can sustain 50% causalities and stay in the fight, while line units will cease to be combat effective starting at 20% losses. (These values, by the way, are based on extensive studies of this era’s loss rates.) In order to simulate certain atypical cases, the player can at the beginning of a scenario opt for more fanatical units that will sustain higher losses. Furthermore, cavalry units are given certain attributes that will affect their combat value, speed, and fatigue levels. Skirmishers are also modeled in HW:LG; in this first version, a regiment can detach the equivalent of one company per battalion.

ACG: HW:LG will focus on battles between the French, Austrians, Russians, and minor allies. Are there any plans to add Prussian and English forces?

Fifteen nations are represented in this first version. The English, Spanish, Portuguese, a select number of Prussian units, and others will appear in the following version. This next version will also reflect the evolution of tactics during the Napoleonic era – it will model, for example, the heavy English emphasis on line and reverse-slope tactics. It will also include an operational AI that will manage forces on a map as large as 700 square kilometers. Commanders will be able to deploy entire light battalions in skirmishing order in this next installment.

ACG: The game will come with 10 battles. Just as important as these famous engagements is a set of scenario editors will also be made available. What will the player be able to do with these tools?

This game will come with three editors:

a) A Map Editor, which can create random or user-designed maps. The players can also determine meteorological conditions, the season, and the time limit of the engagement.
b) An Order of Battle editor, which draws upon an extensive historical database. This tool can also randomly generate armies.
c) A Doctrine Editor, which a player can use to set the regiment’s reactions to a pre-set list of events.

This collection of editors will ensure a long life for HW:LG, and I’m quite sure that all of the battles of the early 19th century will be re-created and re-fought on computers worldwide. Anyone familiar with Battlefront’s Combat Mission series will understand how much fun these types of tools can be.

ACG: Please tell us a little bit about Multi-player capabilities you are implementing in the game?

The multiplayer game has three features that are interesting to describe:

a) On a given field of battle, each player will take charge of part of an army or corps. For example, an army comprised of three corps could have four players. One player could be the army commander, and each of the remaining players could command a corps. However, even in an army with an overall leader, each corps commander remains in charge of his own part of the army, so he can choose a command structure that best suits him (more historically-minded players will choose more conventional organizations).
b) During the game, orders are not executed immediately. Instead, there will be a delay, one that is a function of the corps’ distance from the commander, its commander’s rating, and the number of units within its organization — a smaller corps will react more quickly than a larger one. These delays and inertias are something a player will have to learn to master. In multiplayer, the engine can also replicate the time delays that resulted from messages that had to be delivered by courrier. As I’ve already mentioned, HW:LG will include graphical tools that will allow players to draw battle plans (with lines and arrows) on a 2D map. These plans can be sent to other players and recorded on their maps. This mode of communication faithfully reproduces the way generals had to exchange messages — and, quite significantly, it forces them to interpret orders. As history shows us, the interpretation –and misinterpretation — of orders could be decisive.
c) In multiplayer, a single player initiates an engagement; other players can ask to join that session, not only at the beginning of the session, but at any point during the engagement. This allows for greater stability since the game can continue even when disconnections occur.

ACG: Finally, we have to ask… Is there a good chance we will be able to put HistWar: Les Grognards on our hard-drives sometime this summer?

The release date. Hmmmm, now that’s a good question, one that requires a clear response considering the passionate fans who are waiting so patiently. No date is set in stone simply because HW:LG can only come out when it’s operational, and that will depend on how long it takes me to iron out some issues. Happily, these issues are steadily becoming less and less numerous.

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2 Comments

  1. I have seen now on a few websites a release date for this game ,one for 31/12/08 and another for the 12/12/08..is this true ?
    as we have now been waiting over 7 years now for this game to see the light of day .
    Just have a look round the net and you will see .

  2. GOD sakes man …bring it out..please

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