King George II will have our guts for garters. In the space of a couple of month-long turns we’ve lost 8,000 of his finest redcoats and wrecked Britain’s chances of kicking the Frenchies out of ‘New France’. Like an idiot we’d assumed our mega-stack of crack riflemen, grenadiers and artillery could stomp round Canada like a Godzilla-sized grizzly bear. We’d forgotten that AGEOD games don’t work that way.
During the War of Independence, the French and Indian War, and the other American musket-era rumpuses recreated in this peach of a TBS, the most dangerous enemy was often the bitter winter, the rugged terrain, the broken supply line, and the dunderheaded general. BoA2 has the guts and the wit to acknowledge this. Keep forces in the field for too long, route them thoughtlessly, or lead them with poltroons, and the wolves will grow fat on your foolishness.
If you played the original BoA this will sound reassuringly familiar. The engine and pattern of play have changed little since 2006. The player still spends the majority of his time plotting army movement on a handsome cellular map of North America or combining and splitting forces via an elegant drag-and-drop interface. Turns are still simultaneously executed, battles dashing to their bloody conclusions without human intervention or graphical fanfare.
What’s changed is the scope, the fidelity, and the richness. Robin Pirez’s cartographic masterpiece now stretches from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Carolinas to Missouri, meaning AGEOD’s scenario crafters can explore fascinating campaigns like Galvez’s demolition of the Brits in Florida in 1815. Inherited scenarios have been overhauled with new unit types, events, settlements and personalities. Cohesion appears for the first time: you can no longer rush a force hundreds of miles cross-country and expect it to perform martial miracles the day it arrives.
At times battles felt a tad desiccated and distant in the original BoA. A suite of tactical directives (all-out attack, feint, hold at all costs...) improves things, but if you’re after fine control and the spectacle of tomahawk cleaving tricorn hat you’re still better off with something like American Conquest (or hang on for Empire: Total War). BoA2 is primarily a strategic delight, a point underlined by the beefed-up big-picture decision-making. Using a system borrowed from AGEOD’s Napoleon’s Campaigns, points earned through victories and control of the sea-lanes buy broad foreign and military policy shifts. With so many facets, some manual rummaging is inevitable. As long as you buy expecting the occasional bout of mystification, a few oh-my-god-I’ve-just-allowed-5,000-men-to-freeze-to-death moments and the odd snicker (hurrah for the Kickapoo Indians!) BoA2 won’t disappoint.
Aug 27, 2008