On a Different Kind of Warfare

I’ve had WarCraft on the brain recently, so I went digging around yesterday for my WarCraft II discs.

It’s strange, revisiting a ten year old strategy game. Age of Empires has one spoiled — the things I take for granted, like queueing up units or finding idle units quickly, aren’t there in this old relic. Fortunately, the campaign mode has three easy missions to get one up to speed on how to play — I really miss the unit queueing, though. :/

I’ve just realized how my play style isn’t applicable in WarCraft II. As an AoE player, I tend toward something akin to the Powell Doctrine — overwhelming force for overwhelming victory. When I talk about multiple columns and pincer movements, that’s how I play — I keep enough forces close to my town to fend off any attacks, I keep other forces on the outskirts of the enemy’s area to keep them off-balance, but when I’m ready to strike it is brutal, and it is overwhelming.

The great problem? One, I tend not to use siege weapons. Two, I need a lot of resources to pull off this strategy. Not only do I need the resources to build my armies, I need the resources to research the tech tree as far as possible. Both cost gold and wood.

What I’d forgotten is how light the WarCraft II maps are with gold.

So it wasn’t pretty when I’d exhausted the map of gold, I’d had an army slaughtered by trolls because I didn’t have siege weapons backing them up, and, oh yeah, I still had to take down the Orc village.

Fortunately, I found one more gold mine, one the Orcs were harvesting, and managed to get enough gold to build a couple of ballistae. Of course, those peons had to march halfway across the map with the gold, but that’s their problem.

The Powell Doctrine just doesn’t work in Azeroth.

I’m going to have to rethink how best to fight the Horde and grind them under my boot.

4 thoughts on “On a Different Kind of Warfare

  1. Could be worse. While WarCraft III has unit queueing, the unit cap is so low that the Powell Doctrine couldn’t work either. (And the closer you get to the cap, the less gold/timber you get from each unit harvested.)

  2. I’d have to go out to storage to dig out my WarCraft III discs, and that’s more trouble to me than it’s worth. 🙂

    Conceptually, low population caps aren’t a bad thing. It forces smaller armies and, thus, more battles and a more balanced game.

    But at the same time, it can lead to a stalemate situation where neither side can deliver the knock-out blow, especially when you don’t have the resources to build the next wave. (And I’d forgotten that the AI won’t surrender in WarCraft II — which means hunting down every last unit and killing it.)

    Of course, I’m judging a decade-old game on the basis of the direction the genre has gone since. I’m sure if I pulled out the original Red Alert I’d have similar feelings — “This just isn’t as good as I remember! Why can’t I do X and Y and Z!”

    Maybe I’ll work some more on the Alliance campaign today.

  3. I’d say more “can’t surrender”; Blizzard’s AI just doesn’t understand the concept, and I expect StarCraft II to continue that trend. 😆

    StarCraft improved on WC2’s victory condition by making it be when all of the enemy’s buildings are destroyed, instead of all of their units. Still, given the age of the game (13 years old now, yes?) I agree that they can be given a little leeway. 😉

    When playing WC3, I never personally ran into a stalemate. I don’t know if that’s because of good AI, good map design, or me sucking as a player. 😉

  4. I played a six-hour game of Age II which was a stalemate for most of the last three hours because the map had been exhausted of gold.

    I’d decided I wanted to go for the relic victory, and that meant laying siege to an enemy’s town center.

    I’d downloaded an AI to play around with, and this AI had walled himself in. And to keep him from attacking me, I walled him just outside his walls.

    And apparently this AI was programmed not to surrender.

    So I’d taken out the AI’s ally, I was laying siege to this heavily armed small town, and it was like the Somme or Verdun or Stalingrad — I was bleeding my army white trying to reach the two relics the AI had captured and were in his church.

    I reached a point where I had no more gold, and I had to wait for the three relics I had to produce enough gold at my church to build another trebuchet to take down one of his towers or a wall.

    And Age II AIs cheat themselves resources. The AI had nothing to harvest from inside his walls and mine, yet he had enough resources to be armed to the fucking teeth.

    Damn, that was a challenge and a half.

    I fought for every fucking inch of that town center. I’d get enough of his wall demolished for me to run in with a bunch of villagers to erect a wall closer in, so I could move my trebuchets closer in. It was World War I trench warfare.

    I didn’t go for his town center. I wanted the relics, and I wanted to be done with it.

    Six hours, and I had my relic victory. And I’d constructed so many walls around his town, as I’d moved inch by inch on his church, that he couldn’t seriously try and make a play for my church to get the relics back and stop the timer.

    As for Blizzard and “no surrender” — given that their universes are predicated upon genocidal warfare, allowing for the AI to surrender when the strategic situation becomes untenable wouldn’t be in keeping with the fictional millieu.

    StarCraft II has me curious. I’m hoping that SC2 will be revolutionary and redefine the RTS genre. But there’s a part of me that’s genuinely afraid that it will be like Command & Conquer from Tiberian Sun onward, proving that you can’t go home again. We shall see.

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