DGS Games

Home of the Wargamers Report: “Clear and Present Gaming!”

Distant Worlds Universe and Other Imminent Matrix/Slitherine Releases meet Grogheads

An overview by Boggit

Following on from Home of Wargamers 2014, there has been a flurry of activity from Matrix/Slitherine regarding their new releases. Distant Worlds has only just released on 27th May, and is to be closely followed by Pandora First Contact: Return of the Messeri Expansion, Close Combat: Road to Caen, and Qvadriga on Steam.

 

Distant Worlds Universe

 

You can start straight away with a pre-set human campaign, or mix things up with a custom game

You can start straight away with a pre-set human campaign, or mix things up with a custom game

For those players who haven’t got Distant Worlds, it is a massively scoped game that conventionally focuses on making broad policy decisions to guide your race to success. Essentially, you represent “the state”, but much of the game is heavily reliant on your private citizens. These private citizens trade, colonise, and exploit much of the universe’s resource potential. Distant Worlds Universe can be an incredibly deep 4X game (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) – if you want it to be. You can micromanage as much, or as little as you wish, although micromanaging carries the risk of your head exploding given the multitude of activities you can engage in!

In many ways the game allows you to focus on what interests you most. Is diplomacy your thing? Building the economy? Ship design? – or War? In alternative gameplay, you can even assume, for example, the role of a starship commander, or a bounty hunter and just concentrate on that – simply press ‘L’ to lock it on screen and you are away! I kid you not – It’s all there, and you can get involved as much – or as little, as you wish in the building of your empire.

Distant Worlds Universe is essentially the Distant Worlds Platinum Plus edition. It now contains the base game, and the three expansions -Return of the Shakturi, Legends, and Shadows – but also it adds a new expansion – The Ancient Galaxy. This ultimate version of the game adds further general improvements to gameplay, and greatly extends the modding features in the game.

 

Warnings about the Shakturi Dominion in the north of the galaxy! I didn’t realise the galaxy had compass points. Let’s team up with the good guys and give Shakalaka Boom-boom a good kicking!

Warnings about the Shakturi Dominion in the north of the galaxy! I didn’t realise the galaxy had compass points. Let’s team up with the good guys and give Shakalaka Boom-boom a good kicking!

One beauty of the game is that it’s just so customisable, that you can play it the way you feel most comfortable. Prior to Universe the game was very moddable, and this has been enhanced further in this release, so virtually every key feature is now customisable. Code Masters – the developer – have also released a free modding guide for the game that will be indispensable to both veteran and noob modders, which is supplied with the game release.

Baldilocks of the Kiadian League isn’t being very friendly. Doesn’t he know with that giant brain of his that we Terrans make just GREAT allies?

Baldilocks of the Kiadian League isn’t being very friendly. Doesn’t he know with that giant brain of his that we Terrans make just GREAT allies?

I have a great starting empire. The question is whether I’ll keep it?

I have a great starting empire. The question is whether I’ll keep it?

The theme of the Ancient Galaxy – is essentially a pre-set scenario dealing with established space empires set in a time before the “classic” age of Distant Worlds, with long lost technology. It all creates a different game experience to the standard game. The Ancient Galaxy can be played as either of two ways – as a pre-set universe, where you play the Humans – as the Terran Federation, or as a custom game. I would have liked to see more than just the human as the pre-set side, but there is the custom game option. With a custom game the player gets to choose – amongst a host of other things – the race of life-forms they want to play.

 

So the Yo-ho-ho’s want more than a few doubloons, and a barrel of rum. OK, we’ll humour them and sick ‘em on our enemies for a bit of spite. We’ll crush them later at our leisure! – Good ol’ practical space politics…

So the Yo-ho-ho’s want more than a few doubloons, and a barrel of rum. OK, we’ll humour them and sick ‘em on our enemies for a bit of spite. We’ll crush them later at our leisure! – Good ol’ practical space politics…

In the custom game you don’t even need to play a specific life form. You can play as a pirate, with special rules for the pirate life as introduced with the Shadows expansion, and this provides a totally new dimension to what is an incredibly customisable game. The Ancient Galaxy scenario follows the theme of being a space empire within the Freedom Alliance facing off against the evil Shakturi Axis. It’s a familiar tale of good vs evil, but still great fun all the same.

 

Checking up with the Boffins I learn that the Resonant Graviton Beam ignores shields and armour – nice! – for me

Checking up with the Boffins I learn that the Resonant Graviton Beam ignores shields and armour – nice! – for me

 

Pandora First Contact: Return of the Messeri Expansion

Moving on we see Pandora First Contact get its first expansion released on 30th May, with the Return of the Messeri. The Return of the Messari introduces a new alien faction which plays an important role in the later part of the game. The Messari are an ancient civilization that disappeared from Pandora, and now return to re-assert themselves.  They are a serious and aggressive enemy with powerful capabilities that will add alien invasion to the internecine war between the factions, and survival in Pandora’s hostile environment. One of the interesting aspects of this expansion is the effect the Messari are likely to have on the balance of power in the late game, as they will target the stronger factions as a priority, so creating more uncertainty in the outcome of a game.

For those unfamiliar with Pandora First Contact, the game gives the player an opportunity to play a colonising faction on an alien world. Survival depends not only on your ability to handle other factions, but the flora, and fauna of the alien world itself. Said to be the spiritual successor of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri – a game I played to death back in the day, Pandora has a big act to follow, especially when you consider that Alpha Centauri’s expansion Crossfire added so much more to the gameplay. Pandora might even be described as akin to Civilization in space, having similar gameplay, tech tree, city building and so on. I’m hoping that the Return of the Messeri will give the same level of meat in the expansion as Alien Crossfire did for Alpha Centauri.

 

Close Combat: Road to Caen

Close Combat: Road to Caen launches its offensive on 7th June 2014 celebrating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day battles. I had the benefit of seeing Road to Caen at Home of Wargamers, and it looked a nice, solid game.

It’s a classic Close Combat game set in Normandy from 26thJune- 1st July 1944. The game represents the fighting of the first of several battles for the Odon area – Operation Epsom. Here the British VIII Corps and supporting elements of XXX Corps faced off against the 2nd SS Panzer Korps. It was a bloody four day stalemate that despite German counter-attacks, saw the Germans commit the last of their reserves. The operational area consists of some thirty maps, based on research of the battlefield at the time, so a player gets a real sense of what the battlefield terrain was like.

Slitherine introduce Road to Caen at the Home of Wargamers 2014

Slitherine introduce Road to Caen at the Home of Wargamers 2014

 

Burning vehicles are a big warning that bad, nasty stuff is nearby. “Bring up the PIAT!!!”

Burning vehicles are a big warning that bad, nasty stuff is nearby. “Bring up the PIAT!!!”

A nice feature in the game is destructible terrain, and visibility effects created by the terrain. This is reflected with cornfields blocking line of sight whilst they are still growing – but an artillery barrage can change that!

 

Never fear! The jolly old RAF is here! If only all airstrikes were so reliable!

Never fear! The jolly old RAF is here! If only all airstrikes were so reliable!

Also buildings ruined by fire combat, destroyed vehicles etc., remain on the battlefield, so you can initially fight in a village with standing buildings, and later return if there is heavy, see-saw fighting to the same village as a pile of rubble. The weather plays a role, with wet weather creating muddy conditions that limits movement, and increases the chance of vehicle break downs off road.

 

MEDIC!!! Large calibre mortar rounds can really take the shine off your day…

MEDIC!!! Large calibre mortar rounds can really take the shine off your day…

The maps I saw at Home of Wargamers were very nice, being 32 bit graphics that show up much sharper that the earlier 16 bit Atomic games releases that I used to play. There are further nice features to the game like the ability to dig in and camouflage tanks and guns, making them harder to spot. For the first time in the series we see rolling barrages, which adds a new tactical situation to the battlefield.

As you’d expect there are new units to reflect the different forces, such as the Churchill, 17pdr Firefly, and the M10 Achilles tank destroyer for the “new” British forces. In fact, Slitherine say that a total 65 vehicles, 36 infantry units, 77 weapons put in an appearance at some stage of the campaign, so you get a decent variety of weaponry.

Although you can play individual firefights, the meat is in a dynamic campaign game. To win the operation as the British you have to seize the Germans supply base whilst maintaining your own supply lines. As the German you have to prevent this. If you’re expecting some great departure from the rest of Close Combat games stable you’ll be disappointed. There are no great surprises, but it’s a good, solid, addition to a tried and tested game. If you like the Close Combat style of games you’ll probably enjoy this. I liked what I saw. It has enough detail for a grog to enjoy, but it isn’t so complex that it will kill the enjoyment for a new player.

 

Qvadriga

Racing to the end of the article – Qvadriga will be out on Steam around 13th June. Qvadriga is a fun chariot racing game set at the height of the Roman Empire. You get to run in races, and manage your team from humble beginnings in the provinces of the empire, until you get enough money and prestige to face off in the Circus Maximus of Rome. For a fuller explanation of the game check out my flash review here

Steaming ahead, Green makes a dash on the straight… It’s the corners you really have to look out for….

Steaming ahead, Green makes a dash on the straight… It’s the corners you really have to look out for….


Discuss this article in our forums >>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *