March of the Eagles is an interesting middle-ground strategy title, but not without its problems.
By Adrian Forest on March 8, 2013 at 9:50 am
March of the Eagles is Paradox’s take on the Napoleonic Wars, with a very specific emphasis on the ‘war’ part. It’s not a game for grognards (although it does, ironically, have grognards in it).
‘Grognard’ comes from the affectionate nickname Napoleon supposedly had for his Old Guard, elite veteran soldiers. It means “grumbler”, and Napoleon’s grognards had the privilege of expressing their complaints freely. These days, ‘grognards’ are old-school tabletop gamers, especially those who complain about games being simplified or “dumbed-down”.
If you’ve played a Paradox strategy game before, you might be expecting a comprehensive game covering every aspect of diplomacy and empire-building, or at the very least, every tiny detail of wartime strategy. But this is a wargame, focused on the operational level. If you’re a fan of the Total War series, you might be expecting something like that series’ campaign game. But March of the Eagles is not that game either: it’s an old-school wargame, which means a whole lot of complex stats and systems to master.
Paradox have pitched March of the Eagles somewhere between these two poles. You’ll raise armies by the brigade, form coalitions with other major powers, but you’ll be fighting across Europe for very specific goals: dominance of land or naval territories. This is a game you can win, unlike the sandbox approach of other Paradox strategy titles, but much like a tabletop wargame.
The problem is that in aiming for the middle, March of the Eagles alienates both camps: it’s far too complicated for the casual strategy gamer, but it doesn’t have the depth the grognards demand. The UI is packed with so much information you’ll often have to hunt for the relevant statistic, but despite its depth, it’s lacking in a lot of the kinds of big-picture perspectives an aspiring Napoleon needs to run a war at the operational level. In general, March of the Eagles is simultaneously both too simple and too complex.
The saving grace is multiplayer, which seems to have been Paradox’s primary focus with March of the Eagles. A campaign across Europe with a full complement of human players is a wargamer’s dream. The victory conditions ensure that whatever alliances you might make, only one player can ultimately win, a foolproof recipe for backstabbing and treachery, guaranteed to ruin friendships.
However, finding a full roster of grognards willing to learn the game’s systems and commit to a campaign over multiple sessions might be a challenge. Even having found them, March of the Eagles’ network connectivity is a bit retro, with LAN play, direct IP connections or Paradox’s metaserver lobby being the only options. All of these require fiddling with firewalls and port-forwarding, so getting everyone connected can be tricky.
Once connected however, the game runs smoothly — and real-time play means no waiting for other people’s turns, so many players might find it worth jumping through the necessary hoops for a memorable multiplayer experience.
March of the Eagles might be a good starting point if you want to get into more complex strategy wargames, but it won’t hold a veteran’s interest. This middle-ground of depth, though, suits it particularly well for multiplayer (if the technical obstacles don’t get in the way).
- Tight focus on war at the operational level
- Relatively approachable for less-experienced strategy wargamers
- Compelling multiplayer experience
- Insufficient depth for veterans
- Too complex for many occasional strategy fans
- Primitive networking hamstrings multiplayer
Paradox have given us a six bonus copies of March of the Eagles to give away! If you’d like one, leave a comment on this review before midnight tonight (Adelaide time) with the word “grognard” in it. Six people chosen at random will get a PM tomorrow from us with a download code in it. Enjoy!