If you held a sawn-off hackbut to my head and forced me to compile a list of my ten favourite computer wargames, somewhere in the second half of that list would be a Byzantine Games creation. For thematic and campaign system reasons, said creation would probably be Sengoku Jidai or Pike and Shot: Campaigns not Field of Glory II, but ancient aggro sims don’t come more gripping, lively, challenging or compendious than this currently-£0-on-Steam corker.
Doubtless, Matrix/Slitherine are hoping the giveaway encourages a few newcomers to invest in one or more of the game’s expansion packs. The regularly tweaked/improved FOG2 now boasts half-a-dozen adjuncts, all of which are generously discounted at present. If any reader is in a position to proffer “Buy DLC ‘X’ first” type-advice, please do. Having sampled just two of the six supplements, my “Get Wolves at the Gate because it includes Vikings!” recommendation is of dubious value.
One of FOG2’s best features is its absurdly well appointed skirmish generator. Using this it’s possible to engineer over a dozen types of engagements on twenty varieties of randomly generated battlefield. Even if you’re DLC-less, you get to populate these standalone scraps from a 48-strong selection of factions. Want to pit Scots against Sassanids… Roman slaves against Roxolani… Visigoths against Vandals? FOG2 won’t stand in your way.
The game is just as flexible when it comes to custom campaigns. In less than a minute a unique campaign up to 15 engagements long, involving any two factions, can be shaped and launched.
As I pointed out in a 2017 Flare Path, FOG2’s designer Richard Bodley Scott understands that it’s impossible to simulate ancient scraps properly without depriving the player of control from time to time:
“Bodley Scott simulates battlefield chaos masterfully. While cruel ‘activation’ dice rolls never leave portions of an army idle for the duration of a turn, units locked in melee or excitedly chasing routed foes, are temporarily uncommandable. Morale failures and the linked auto-pursuit mechanism create some of FOG2’s most exciting and resonant episodes. When a unit decides it has endured enough and takes to its heels, its flight can disconcert nearby comrades. Fierce, hot-headed pursuers sometimes create cowardice cascades or run into trouble as they surge forward. One minute you’re looking at a neat log-jam of clashing warriors, the next a weak or overstressed section of the tussle matrix has given way, and new threats and/or opportunities are everywhere.”
If, like me, you relish rather than resent chaos in martial diversions, you’re bound to adore Field of Glory II.