Modern Major Generals: Total War


The Total War Series
RTT/Grand Strategy 2004-2013, developed by Creative Assembly


A general is an organizer of warfare. They take the rough and ready stuff of violence and sort it into ordered aggression, directed at specific points and with (ideally) an objective in mind. In this piece I would like to look at the representation of generals, and how they are conceptualized, by the Total War games. Total War was, when it came out, almost unique (not totally unique, I have fond memories of the pre-total war real time tactical game “Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat”, which was objectively bad, but made a lot of the same design choices as Total War: Shogun). Total War offers the opportunity for a player to take the role of a general, and invites the player to think of their battles in tactical and historical terms. In many ways Total War games represent whistle stop tours of military history of the time period they choose to represent. They actively attempt to get the player to think in terms of the tactical choices open to commanders of the time period. The importance of the General, and their role upon the field, changes from game to game, and the ways in which they do so are fascinating.

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Modern Major Generals: Total War

Dread None : Atlantic Fleet



Atlantic Fleet
2015 Simulation/Turn Based Strategy, developed by Killerfish games


Atlantic fleet is a wargame with an emphasis on the machines that people use to fight a war, rather than the people who use those machines to fight them. It is a game for those people who love and know a lot about fighting ships of WW2, but not necessarily for those people who want to experience every intricacy of war at sea during the nineteen thirties and forties. It is a game which values the player’s time, and knows that they will be popping in and out, and further it is that rarest of things, a wargame which knows how to be both accessible and complex. Recently released on steam as a mobile port, Atlantic Fleet places the players in the boots of an admiral of the Royal Navy or the Kreigsmarine during WW2. I am not exactly sure how to classify Atlantic Fleet. On the one hand it is a detailed and rich historical wargame about the battle for the Atlantic between 1939 and 1945. On the other hand, it is a mobile/tablet game, which is in some ways reminiscent of Worms or Scorched Earth. The game has three primary modes of play, a skirmish mode, a set of linked scenarios dubbed the “campaign” and “the Battle for the Atlantic” a turn based strategic mode, in which one is free to dispose one’s ships around the Atlantic as one chooses, getting in scrapes with enemy ships that happen to be floating past. These scrapes are presented in a surprisingly good-looking 3D engine which, while not as pretty as World of Warships, does a good job of rendering the steel leviathans in all their gun-bristled beauty (esspecially when they explode).

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Dread None : Atlantic Fleet

Castles of Neon: Reassembly


2014 Strategy/ Space Shooter developed by Anisoptera Games


The joy of playing with Lego was, for me, always tempered by the fact that whatever monstrous fighting machine I ended up building (and it was, inevitably, a monstrous fighting machine I ended up building), never actually did anything. There are games now which cater for the disappointed evil engineer in all of us, and I would like to talk about one of them and the surprising lessons it has to share, here.

Reassembly falls into a genre which is difficult to pinpoint, but which I will be calling “engineering” games. The important thing about an engineering game, is that the player makes virtual machines to influence the game world—and that making these machines is integral to the gameplay. The general category encompasses a wide variety of games like Space Engineers, Factorio and Kerbal Space Program. Engineering games generally tend to fairly open ended, with a good deal of space for player experimentation. They are also, for the most part, not really about anything other than the machines and mechanisms that one builds. They have of course, semblances of story lines and settings, but this is almost always a simple narrative scaffolding. The real interest of these games, their important themes and their best story arcs, are all about the player coming to understand the game world in which they are situated and using the materials at hand to try and influence or control that world.

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Castles of Neon: Reassembly

Beneath the Sunless Sea.


Sunless Sea
 2015 Roguelike/rpg developed by Failbetter Games


Sunless Sea’s steam tagline is “LOSE YOUR MIND. EAT YOUR CREW. DIE” which, while all these activities can all be partaken of in game, is really somewhat misleading. A more accurate tagline might read “SAIL AROUND. GET LOST. SHOOT AT BIG FISH”.

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Beneath the Sunless Sea.