Design Philosophy Behind Faction Playstyles

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Design Philosophy Behind Faction Playstyles

Unread postby easyBreeze » Tue Dec 27, 2011 12:31 am

I prematurely ended the Gallop/Star campaign scenario just now out of extreme frustration. I was very close to getting a perfect BV (without spending any prestige) but ultimately lost the scenario due to an unfortunate turn of events. What made me close the game in frustration was not my loss but the recurring differences in Axis and Soviet playstyles that are present in the game.

When I played the Axis campaign, I had an absolute blast. Crushing my opponent's armies, whether tank or infantry, with my panzer spearhead and following up with specialist infantry to hold the flanks was extremely satisfying. I got a feel for the Axis 'playstyle' and it seems like it was very well thought out from a game design perspective. Each specialist step has a very specific purpose and use. Want to dislodge a stubborn dug-in defender? Use engineers. Want to create a margin of safety for your supply line? Use recon. The specialist steps work very well with how I (and I assume everyone else) plays as the Axis.

Playing through the Soviet campaign and scenarios however has been extremely frustrating. I understood that I couldn't simply transplant the way I had played as Axis and use the same playstyle with the Soviets. I realized very quickly however that it wasn't a matter of the Soviets having different advantages and disadvantages but pure disadvantages across the board. The entire faction seems like it was made with the intent of it being played by the AI as an opponent to an Axis human player.

It feels this way because of the huge defensive playstyle I am forced to use even when I am the player and have to attack. The specialist steps, for example, seem to be suited much more for defensive purposes. Artillery and Katyusha rockets provide no attack bonus which is a little weird from a game design perspective as well as from an historical point of view. My attempt at Gallop/Star is a very good example of how I am forced, almost by an invisible hand, to play in a defensive way. Attacking with my infantry (with useless artillery) is counter-productive. I am forced to use my tanks which hit like wet toilet paper. Compared with the way I played Axis I barely do any frontal attacks and find myself having to envelop and surround my opponent's armies and only when they are fully out of supply can I safely attack them. This may seem interesting and even refreshing from the way most of us play Axis where we bulldoze everything with the double vet panzers but after a while it just isn't fun. The Soviet faction isn't "better" at anything than the Axis. The faction seems to be playing catch-up across the board. A reinforced Soviet rifle corps with expensive specialist steps is about equal to a half-strength German infantry division without any specialist steps. Meanwhile a decked out Axis army with engineers and recon has an answer to anything a Soviet player can throw at them. Although I haven't played multiplayer yet, I foresee balance problems there because of this.

Don't get me wrong, I am very satisfied with this game. I am however wondering whether I am missing something when I play as the Soviets.
Last edited by easyBreeze on Tue Dec 27, 2011 5:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Design Philosophy Behind Faction Playstyles

Unread postby Spooner » Tue Dec 27, 2011 3:39 pm

Actually, rockets can always be used in attack and artillery can be used in attack before the unit moves. The problem with them is that they are entirely ineffective against city hexes, and could cause them to become ruins (increasing the defensive value from a -2 to -3 modifier).

The critical problem with Soviet specialists is that they lack engineers, which are absolutely critical, since they immediately negate the effect of the two most difficult defensive bonuses (city/river). Not saying they should have engineers, but that not having them available is a serious disadvantage.

These two weaknesses, along with Soviet tanks being reasonably powerful in the open, but completely ineffective at attacking cities, means that one side are completely ineffective at breaking enemy defences except via siege (seeing a German mechanised unit move in to defend a city hex is pretty much a cue to reload the scenario).

Your comment that the Soviets have no advantages at all is a good one. You'd expect the Soviets to have some sort of advantage over the German forces, be that superior numbers or defensive moral or less crippling weather penalties, even if they were generally weaker in combat. Although they often outnumber the enemy in terms of steps, they are rarely able to bring those units to bear effectively because there is a stacking limit (7+1 step limit per unit greatly benefits the Germans because their steps are just better). After all, they did defeat the Nazis in the end, so they must have had something going for them!

Please realise that in making these statements, I'm stating the facts of how the game plays, not saying that that is unrealistic or unhistorical (I have very little knowledge of the battles involved and not a lot generally about the Eastern Front).

Regarding multiplayer, the soviets do gain the ability to more cleverly use their strength in a way that they generally squander it as an AI (for example, tanks can make attacks, then hide behind infantry, so they aren't immediately destroyed by the German counter-attacks). However, on the other hand, the stacking limit is more of an issue in MP, since both players will attempt to reorganise their armies to 7+1 step units (at least for their "killing pieces").

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Tomislav Uzelac
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Re: Design Philosophy Behind Faction Playstyles

Unread postby Tomislav Uzelac » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:52 am

@easyBreeze: I agree that the Soviets have a less balanced set of options to play with. However, we have a historical mandate here rather than that of perfectly balanced factions. In that sense, going on the offensive with the early-1943 Soviet army should feel frustrating. For example, operation Gallop failed historically because the Soviets were unable to effectively command and supply such an ambitious "deep operation".

For artillery: what Spooner said.

@Spooner: regarding artillery and cities, this is again about right historically. You can always encircle and destroy... if there's potential for a strong defender in a city to disrupt your BV schedule (which is what I think you're getting at) then you need to plan for that in advance.

We will be adding Soviet engineers for campaigns from 1943 onward, and I'm also thinking about making the engineers slightly less awesome in general (negating 3 shifts for river/entrenched combo is a bit too much maybe). Also on my mind is your proposal to limit experience shifts, but I'm still unsure which exact variant (of those discussed) to use.