Field of Glory II: Medieval Review - Miniature wargaming in a digital framework
Field of Glory II: Medieval (FoGII:M) is a turn based tactical wargame set during the High Middle Ages—between 1040 AD and 1270 AD. Designed by tabletop gaming legend, Richard Bodley Scott, it takes the best aspects of miniature wargaming and wraps it into a digital framework.
Published under the Matrix/Slitherine banner, FoGII:M is a standalone expansion to 2017’s Field of Glory II (FoGII), which focused on warfare in the ancient world. As we mentioned in our feature on FoGII:M late last year, the expansion doesn’t stray far from the series’ winning formula. Ultimately, it’s a new set of factions, new army lists, new graphics, and some new mechanics to better reflect the medieval battlefield. Indeed, fans of the series will know what to expect. But given the positive critical reception of the original FoGII, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, there really isn’t much to fault with FoGII:M, the game has a clear vision of what it wants to be, and it executes that vision well.
The game has a few ways of getting the player onto the digital battlefield. Players looking to jump straight into a random battle can hit the ‘Fight Now’ button. On the other end of the spectrum is the Custom Battles mode. It allows the player to select combatants, individual force sizes and compositions, the size of the map, the number of turns and the style of terrain before facing off on a randomly generated battlefield.
The Custom Battles mode also allows the player to select a scenario type. These provide the player with differing battlefield objectives and victory conditions beyond two forces marching into each other. The ‘Remove the Head’ scenario grants victory to the first side able to kill the opposing army’s general. Escort missions charge the player to move their baggage train across the map whilst defending it from enemy attacks. Rearguard scenarios have the player hold out as long as possible against waves of enemy assaults. In all there are twelve scenarios to choose from which significantly change the way you approach a battle, its objectives and the battlefield rules.
Sitting somewhere between Custom Battles and the completely random ‘Fight Now’ mode are Quick Battles. Here, the player selects two factions (that historically fought a war against each other), along with the general size of the armies. The battle than takes place on a random map. The developers describe this mode as representing the smaller actions that took place between opposing forces during the various wars of the period.
If you are looking for set piece engagements, there are twelve historical battles, called Epic Battles, which taken together, represent a nice mix of engagements from across the European continent.
There are also four premade campaigns covering the establishment of the Angevin Empire by King Henry II, the Northern Crusades of the Teutonic Order, the exploits of Alexander Nevsky, and a campaign covering the Mongol invasion of Europe during the first half of the 13th century.
Campaigns string together multiple battles and offer some light strategic elements to the gameplay. Strategic decisions are presented to the player between battles and differ based on the outcome of the previous engagement. Ultimately, they boil down to a choice between two or three options which then impact the recruitment points used during the following battle. These are basic choices such as whether to wait for reinforcements, retreat and regroup or press the attack before the enemy can form into a larger force. Do you garrison troops in a newly captured territory and if so, which troops do you leave behind? It is all very high level and vague.
This is not meant as an admonition against FoGII:M, but players shouldn’t expect deep strategic gameplay or a branching campaign narrative—in the vein of say, Fantasy General II. Ultimately, the systems that are in place (together with the light historical narrative), give your battles some context and flavour, nothing more.
FoGII:M also includes a sandbox campaign mode. This takes the customisation options found in the Custom Battles mode and strings it together into the framework of a multi-battle campaign. You pick factions, define the size of the first and last battle, select the number of battles constituting the campaign and the difficulty level.
Both campaign modes allow you to have a core group of units which follow you from battle to battle. They gain experience, elan and eventually can be promoted. Losses are also taken into account at a high level, affecting your recruitment points at the beginning of each battle. Ultimately, campaigns are fun in that they give your battles purpose and persistence with the outcome affecting future engagements.
With the exception of historical battles, combat takes place on randomly generated battlefields. Consequently, things don’t play out the same way each playthrough—even when you replay a historical battle or a campaign mission. It adds a layer of replayability to the game but also forces the player to be more reactive to the map in conjunction with the battlefield situation. Do you form up behind a river, attack an enemy up a hill or hide a unit of crossbowmen in a forest on your flank to counter enemy cavalry. These choices differ each battle based on what terrain is available to use to your advantage.
In terms of AI, I personally found the computer opponent competent even at lower levels. However, the usual caveats apply here, the AI is no substitute for a human opponent. Generally speaking however, units behaved logically and didn’t sit around waiting to be mowed down by heavy cavalry. Archers stood in front of armies and fired volleys until the opposing force closed, then they retreated. Units tended to form battle lines rather than separate from the main army and light cavalry understood how to harass the enemy and fall back.
Custom Battles and Epic Battles can be played via multiplayer: using Slitherine’s PBEM system. This facilitates asynchronous gameplay and allows players to easily manage multiple games in client. If you have played another Slitherine title which uses the system, you know what to expect. It takes care of saving, uploading, and downloading the necessary files to play out a turn and offers players a lobby to organise public/private matches. A local play hotseat mode is also included.
There’s a lot to like about FoGII:M especially for the player that wants to replicate a tabletop miniatures experience. The rule system is deep, but not so complex that you are forever consulting the manual or online forums looking for answers. It still takes into consideration a number of factors such as a general’s command range, unit morale and cohesion, zones of control, flanking, formations and unit ammunition (for archers and crossbowmen). In-game tooltips offer the player clear, concise information about combat resolution. But for those players wanting to know the specific factors used to calculate combat results, there is a detailed tooltips toggle in the settings menu.
Factions play differently and employ different tactics based around their unit compositions. The Mongols are hard to tie down into melee combat as their light cavalry has a propensity to evade attacks. The Danes lack solid spearmen but their Huscarls pack a punch. The Teutonic Knights have a penchant for heavily armoured cavalry and well-trained spearmen.
FIELD OF GLORY 2: MEDIEVAL VERDICT
FoGII:M consistently creates memorable battlefield moments. Winning a critical melee that collapses an enemy line and turns the tide of battle. A cavalry charge that unexpectedly smashes through an enemy flank. On overzealous charge that ends up in the rear of the enemy’s lines, isolated and vulnerable. For those looking for a more strategic experience, FoGII:M will fall flat. If you want tactical battles or a digital tabletop miniatures experience than FoGII:M is for you. The only thing missing from this digital tabletop experience is painting your army.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Winning a critical melee or cavalry charge that breaks an army’s morale and changes the tide of a battle.
Engaging tactical battles
Easy to pick up, understand and play
lots of options when setting up battles
outside of tactical battles there's not much else
About Leon Georgiou
Leon is a freelance journalist, history fanatic, armchair general and TCG tragic. If it’s a strategy game, chances are he’s played it.