Iron War - Official Thread

  • Kind of long winded in my replies, but just to summarize a few points on how I think it might be improved further.

    1. More variation in unit pricing (steel/pus) so that remainder spending encourages mixed builds. x10 Steel so we can vary the steel cost of units into smaller integers, as explained in the previous couple posts. In general trying to make steel a more significant resource by including it as a build requirement for all units, like aircraft, aaguns, factories, and even infantry. This could be done by having the current no-steel units requiring some fraction less than 10 steel after the current totals/costs are increased x10.

    2. More options to send aid (in PUs) from minor powers to major powers, in smaller increments, say 5 PUs to help with remainder spending. More variety in where to send aid, so that there is a strategic dimension to the choice. For example, each nation has at least 2 possible aid recipients (for steel/fuel/PUs), so that the decision is more nuanced.

    3. More +5 build locations that can support a factory buy in contested areas of the gamemap. Especially territories that can be reached by both teams early on. Alaska, Algeria, Benelux, Greece, Okinawa, New Guinea, Madagascar, Sicily etc.

    4. Consider merging faction South Africa to Britain or British Colonies. Feels a little out of place as the lone dominion singled out for special inclusion, when all others are are composed of like two or more nations. ANZAC is Australia and New Zealand. British-India includes Singapore and Sarawak. The British faction itself includes Canada etc. I think the most logical is to make South Africa part of British-Colonies.

    5. Consider merging Iraq and Iran into a single faction called Axis Near East or something similar.

    6. VC spread: I agree that these are fairly well balanced and that achieving 20 seems to time well with one side or the other "winning" in practical terms. However, I think some VCs are currently uncontested and might be moved. Prime example would be trading out the USA Pacific VC from the West Coast US to Hawaii or East Coast US to Philippines. Perhaps Siberia could trade out for Irkutsk, so Japan has more viable VC targets? If the Near East factions are merged, one of those VCs could be moved elsewhere. I think the main goal here would be to set things up such that Axis have a way to win that doesn't necessitate the crush Russia/India first strategy. Or similarly that Allies cannot win simply by being ascendant in one theater while ignoring the other.

    7. Pace of play, entertainment and overall balance: Right now I think that the balance probably favors Allies FtF, but that, of the two teams, Axis is more fast paced and entertaining to play. This is mainly due to the fact that the Axis have more build options and more opportunities to determine the basic expansion pattern. For the Axis team there is no shortage of "places to go next", whereas the Allies are mainly holding/liberating, with fewer opportunities to build factories as they go. I think a few more production lilly pads for the Allies would help jump start the action for their team.

    8. I think one way to enhance the experience for both teams would be to have more target Neutral, Pro-Axis Neutral or Axis starting territories at +5. This would allow the many Allied factions to compete for their control. The Mediterranean region and Japanese pacific islands in particular could see a few bumps up to +5. Another approach might be to make some of the many +5 Pro-Allies territories into just regular Neutrals, so that the Allies have a way to occupy them more directly. I can imagine for example USA spending their first few turns activating neutrals, by occupying Mexico or the Central/South American neutrals. USA feels a bit cash poor considering all the ships they have to build, and this might help with that a bit. Actually I'd consider just eliminating the Pro-Allies Neutral faction altogether as unnecessary, and going with direct occupation if the Allies want to access those resources. (Its basically what they did historically during the actual war hehe.) Since there are no specific gameplay mechanics associated with the neutrals, I'm not sure having Pro-Side neutrals really adds much interest. Their main function right now seems to be as a way to bury team resources further afield, or to prevent one team or the other from doing a neutral crush in a particular region. I get it, but I think it might be just less confusing overall, for resource tallying, production and movement considerations (esp. fighter landings) if all neutrals were treated the same way. I'd just have them for bonus resources, rather than starting resources, and shift the starting resources from neutrals to home territories as necessary. In any case, if we really need a different kind of neutral, then I think just having Pro-Axis is probably enough to get the job done... Pro-side neutrals are more of a hindrance than a boon to the team (e.g. often you are better off allowing the enemy to capture them, so you can then re-capture them and take direct control, rather than trying to defend them in the first place. If that makes sense.) Sorry a bit long winded there again, but basically, because all the player-nations are belligerents from the outset, I think Iron War is more like a global domination game within a World War II setting. Which I honestly prefer for this sort of game, as opposed to like G40 with a bunch of complex declaration and neutrality rules to try and model the actual politics/timeline of the war. Having neutrals in there is a nice nod to the historical situation at the start date, but beyond that, I don't see any real need for players to check themselves when it comes to stomping on neutrals if they want to.

    9. Nukes/Endgame: Although I've yet to play an FtF game into the nuclear era, I wonder if Germany getting access in late 1945 is a bit premature? In practical terms its probably going to take the USA at least one round to move their nukes into position, so the ability of team Axis to respond immediately with nukes of their own might be a bit much. I'd push it till like 1946 at the earliest before G gets them.

    10. Single Player vs Hard AI. I think this map works really well for a solo against the machine. There is enough going on to keep the newb pretty engaged and it can be a lot of fun to try and expand until you hit monster status. I think some suggested settings adding to the AI's bonus income would be cool. Probably 110-133% for a moderate challenge, or 150% and up for a more difficult challenge, depending on which side you choose and how familiar you are with the map. Right now the main issue for the AI is in managing fuel, and especially fuel guzzling aircraft (which they like to buy in abundance.) So it might be nice if we had a way to give a bonus for fuel independent of PUs/Steel, in which case I'd just set the AI nations to infinite fuel or like 999%, so it's no longer an issue for the machine.

    I think that's all I got. It's a solid game and I like the latest build. Will undoubtedly keep playing it hehe

  • So I'm still thinking that the x10 steel idea is the cleanest way to open up the unit roster in a way that allows for more pricing variety on the ground and for aircraft (as well as the other current no-steel cost) to start costing at least some steel.

    Been ruminating a bit more on the Med region as well. Read up a little over the holidays on French Algeria during this period, and the Algerian war of independence that followed in the late 50s, and I think it makes sense as a +5 tile. Unlike other colonial territories in the neighborhood (like Tunisia say), Algeria had a unique status administratively and was considered part of France proper.

    I think the main gameplay interest for Algeria in the early rounds would be as a forward target in Africa for Germany, since it mirrors Vichy, and could serve as a springboard towards W. Africa or into the Atlantic. In later rounds Algeria probably makes sense as a secondary objective (after Morocco) for an Anglo-American "Torch" push. It likely takes a bit of time/energy to crack Italian Libya, so Algeria could act as a camping spot for the Allies in North Africa, while they try to make a breakthrough to take the main Axis VC in North Africa (allowing France back into the mix in the process), or conversely it might be a spot for Germany/Italy to make a last stand on the ground before they get rolled back to the Libya VC.

    On the other side of the Med, I still like Greece for a +5, since it could go to Germany, Balkans or Italy early on, and then later serve as a toehold for the Allies if they want to go with a Churchill style plan for a second front in Europe. I think that would create a nice spread where you have 3 factory locations running along both the top and bottom of the Med, with some good options for a back and forth depending on the naval situation. Like if Allies control the Mediterranean or Aegean sea zones, but Axis control the Tyrrhenian or Adriatic sea zones, you could have amphibious actions into/out of those territories, without requiring direct fleet to fleet engagements.

    Sicily at +5 would be cool too, again mainly as a late game target for the Allies (I'd just drop Italy a few PUs to make that happen.)

  • Admin

    @Black_Elk I agree with almost all 10 of your points. I think the only one I still struggle with is #2. I think its actually better to have less options but have them be very difficult choices and make them somewhat historical and based on what nations supplied each other. I also still think in most cases there should be a cost for sending supplies as some will be lost in transit. Right now there are too many obvious choices and I feel I'm just clicking the same things each round. Also I think there should be less really small options like sending 1 Iron. I'd rather have minors need to stockpile a few rounds then send a meaningful amount then click the button every turn.

    So for example for many of the minors replace "Send 1 Iron to X Major for Cost of 1 Iron" with "Send 3 Iron to X Major for Cost of 5 Iron". Now I have to think as the minor should I instead try to use up the Iron or stockpile and pay the fee to transfer it to my major. Presents a more interesting solution. Or as USA instead of "Send 20 PUs to USSR for Cost of 20 PUs" instead make it "Send 15 PUs to USSR for Cost of 20 PUs". Now I really gotta consider is it worth the fee of 5 PUs to support USSR or should I just use it to build my own fleet.

  • Typing from my phone since the internet is down at my spot for some reason.

    Historically the flow of aid works better with some nations than others depending on the tineline. The US and Britain both sent aid to Russia. The US, Britain and Russia all sent aid to China. For the various factions that make up the British Empire here the situation can probably be whatever we want, since the divisions are sort of artificial and don't really graft onto any historical political/economic reality of the time. Thematically I think of it like the dissolution British Empire, where those factions vaguely correspond to what the Empire devolved into following the war, but even that is kind of a stretch. The aid situation for a place like Australia could reasonably flow to/from the US as much as Britain I'd think. France and Brazil likewise seem like we could probably do whatever feels good for the gameplay.

    The issue right now that I see is that the flow is too one directional, basically from the US/Britain to everywhere else for PUs/Oil, and then the reverse situation for steel. That's all on the Allied side though. The Axis weren't really integrated economically in anything like the same way that the Allies were. So sending aid from Germany/Japan elsewhere is more of a game thing in my view, to make that team play in a somewhat comparable way.

    Part of me thinks a simpler approach might be to detach the Aid money from the regular economy and have it be like a once per round decision for each team.

    So for example, instead of the USA sending its own regular cash to one of the other nations, maybe its just a prompt at the end of the round for entire side like... "Allies have 55 PUs, 22 fuel, 33 steel in aid, shall they send to Britain or Russia?" maybe the following round the choice is between China or Australia, later on it might be between France or British Colonies, whathaveyou. Basically a larger amount of money/resources, but where you have to make an either/or selection about where it goes. Then you could just have like a historical blurb accompanying the prompt that provides some kind of rationale for what is happening that round...

    Like on the Allied side in 1941, maybe its "Flying Tigers" aid to China vs "Free French" aid to France. On the Axis side in 1941 it might be aid to Near East (Golden Square coup, pro-Axis government installed in Iraq) vs aid to Balkans (Yugoslavia dissolved, pro-Axis governments installed in Croatia). Or whatever makes sense thematically for that round, where the choice is kind of a toss up, between two similarly compelling options. What I mean also is that something like aid to Russia should be the sort of thing that maybe only happens like once every 3 or 4 rounds, with another good choice always set against it so the decision is trickier, like having to choose between aid to Russia or aid to India in the same round (when both are likely under pressure). That sort of thing.

    In gameplay terms that would make the whole aid thing rather less tedius, but still provide some dynamism where the team can choose a different focus in each game depending on what kind of overall strategy they have in mind.

    Basically instead of a bunch of smaller hard choices between "should I keep the money/resources, or send along, maybe get taxed etc" it'd be a choice like "do we want a beefy Atlantic fleet for Britain, or a bunch of Russian tanks this game?" On the other side of the map maybe, "do we want to be all deep in China this time, or do a wily Australian bounce about?" hehe. You know something that is still a hard/consequential decision, with a bigger chunk of change involved, but where the choice is broken down on a round by round basis, instead of turn by turn, if that makes sense.

    If you wanted an opt-in/out, you could do it where where every nation can chip in to the overall aid pot for their team in smaller increments as a way to push the remainders, but then have the potential aid recipients go on a rotation (based on whatever round it is.) So maybe in the early rounds it makes sense to have certain pairings of aid nations come up, whereas in the endgame other pairings make more sense. Or you do it in blocks, where 3 nations are up for aid in a given round, but you can only choose 1 to actually receive it.

    Maybe you could have additional players called
    Axis Aid and Allied Aid, whose purpose is just to bank. So each nation could send aid to their teams aid bank at the end of their turn (similar to the way it works now), and then at the end of the round those Aid players allocate the total aid received in a specialized phase with the either/choices for that specific year.

  • Messed about vs hardAI Allies at 180% using the pre-release 1.10.13840. At that point the income boost starts to overcome most of the AIs deficiencies just through sheer weight of the numbers, so its mainly about just staying alive into the nuclear age, trying make a break out somewhere to get the 20 VCs. The AI still runs out of fuel though. I think the best thing for the solo map would be a way to give the computer unlimited fuel, because then you could likely come down on the PU bonus a bit and still face a challenge if all the fighters and ships and such could move. Or easier might be a field a flat bonus to fuel the way you have for PUs, so the player you could enter 999 fuel or whatever for the machine. With the fuel/movement thing handled for the AI, I think it would be easier to set some standard HardAI difficulty levels just in flat PUs... like maybe 10 for an easy game, 20 for moderate, 30 for hard etc, giving the smaller guys a sizable relative boost on income, but where the larger powers like Russia/USA wouldn't be quite as nutso hehe. Anyhow that's my thought, a basic prompt at launch that lets you set the AI's fuel resources in more detail the way it currently works for PUs.

    elk vs hardAI Allies 180 Germany round 13.tsvg

  • Or any chance we can get a tab in Edit Mode to "change resources" the way you can change PUs?

    Because that would be a good workaround for testing different starting reserves and the like, without having to add more oil drums (which is the only way I can think of to do it right now.) I was going to try running this one where I added 99 oil drums for each of the AI Allies to the American capital... which amusingly enough is probably not too inaccurate for world oil production at the time. But anyway I'm curious to see how the machine's play improves when it can move all its mobile units, ships and aircraft around. Since I'm not sure it needs a large cash bonus provided they have enough oil so their transports and aircraft don't get stuck.

    Iron War HardAI Allies 99 fuel Germany round 1.tsvg

    Here it is after a few rounds. Even with the Axis crushing hard into the center south, the AI is pretty slick about getting its fighters to India and England. It just needs the gas to get the job done hehe. But its pretty entertaining. I think you could go with a much more modest difficulty bonus in cash and still get a fun challenge once the computer has a solid fuel reserve.

    Iron War HardAI Allies 99 fuel Italy round 4.tsvg

    Allies made some nice counter attacks leading into 1943, in the Atlantic with a strike on the German fleet and putting on a bit of pacific press with the US and Anzac...
    Iron War HardAI Allies 99 fuel Germany round 8.tsvg

  • Admin

    @redrum Could maybe answer about the in game edit off resources, like PUs.

    The problem about giving the players as much fuel as the AI needs is that the amount would be way too much compared to what a human player would need/should have access to. The AI players play/move as if fuel did not concern them. It has no priorities when moving, about what move is more important and a "must do now" and what move is a thing that could wait until there is enough fuel. Humans as as of now are often forced to do this. This is the intention.

    One thing that I have not done as of yet in Iron War (as I remember), and would like to do is to give fuel drums a relatively high tuv (Total unit value) setting. Perhaps this could motivate the AI to capture oil a bit more. @redrum Is it correct that it is first a unit's buy price (even though the unit can't be bought) and then the same unit's tuv setting that is a prime motivation for the AI to attack/capture the enemy? And also motivation to protect own units?

  • Yeah I agree, its better if there's a way to boost the AIs access to fuel without the human being able to exploit it in game. That's why it would be nice if we could do something at edit/launch to just tweak the fuel reserve directly for the AI, instead of the hackjob thing I did editing adding oil drums onto the one Allied capital that's the hardest to reach hehe. But the AI does pretty well for itself once it can ignore fuel for movement.

    The human newb can still get a feel for what's involved with fuel (since the fuel movement mechanics still happen on their end) while they battle an AI opponent that's a little more challenging.

    Anyhow, I think the AI is a useful tool for learning the basics of the map. Its gameplay won't match what happens PvP, but we can still having it doing some fun stuff and showing the people the ropes, while allowing them to explore various endgame conquests and such.

  • Admin

    @Black_Elk Yeah, being able to edit amount of non-PU resources would be a very good feature request 🙂

    @Frostion You could consider doing something like trigger some extra fuel drums if a player is AI as even if I do eventually give them more logic around using fuel, it will probably always be something they struggle with more than other resources. I know @panguitch does it with some useraction or something in some of his maps to identify if they are a player or AI.

    I actually don't think fuel drums cost or TUV will matter as the AI doesn't check non factory infra unit value at the moment when capturing territories. But the TUV unit parameter if set always overrides purchase cost when valuing units for the AI.

  • Admin

    @redrum I am surprised that the AI is not affected by the tuv setting of some units. Would it not be an obvious way to have the AI be "guided" towards prioritising and capturing for example resource generating units, units that are in some way critical for a win or in other complex way important targets. If the AI can't see or figure out the real value of a resource generating unit, could the AI not just use the tuv?

  • Admin

    @Frostion Yeah, ideally the AI would take into account the value of any capturable units in a territory. But since I wrote the AI mostly based on revised/v3, those maps don't have anything besides factories. So right now I think that TUV only matters for units that would be involved in battle or can be purchased. But its something I'd like to add.

  • Admin

    @redrum 👍 I hope it is then added to the list of AI to-do stuff 😁

  • Admin

    @Frostion Added it though that list tends to grow faster than things are checked off these days 😕

  • Went another match vs the HardAI using the extra fuel and adding 110% on top of that. The AI Allies have been doing pretty well massing fighters in Russia despite having England knocked off early. Germany had a half backed plan to take South America and West Africa after Sea Lion, so the Russians got a bit of a reprieve in the west, although Japan is laying into them from the other side now. Japan made a brief escapade into Australia before getting turned backed there, only to see Anzac even make a late game revenge strike to take Tokyo! They snaked it for a round while I was preoccupied defeating India, after Britain cleared a path with their fighters. In general AI Allies playing much stronger with the air and ships hehe.

    Iron War HardAI Allies 99 fuel 110 pu Germany round 10.tsvg

  • Admin

    @Black_Elk Yeah, giving the AI essentially unlimited fuel and then probably a 20-30% income bonus should give a pretty interesting game.

  • For sure 20-30 can pretty engaging. The small guys get a few more tanks on the board over time, and for the bigger dogs they're picking up 2 or 3 more hitpoints a round at least. I think for a new person interested in trying out Iron War I'd suggest playing as the Axis. You can get a pretty good feel for how steel dictates purchasing decisions and how fuel informs movement decisions (definitely with fleets) by beating up on the AI first before trying your hand at PvP. All the resource stuff that might not seem like a big deal in the first round becomes way more critical down the line, esp in rounds 3-4. Japan and Italy quickly have to make tough decisions about how to use their steel and about allocating fuel for movment, and if Germany builds any kind of sizeable fleet then fuel is hugely consequential for them as well. When you get into the higher numbers with ships, or carriers with aircraft, often your fleet/air has to park it for a round or even two rounds, if they need to make a big movement across two tiles to attack/defend a key spot.

    Part of me is still not entirely sure how I feel about fuel from a gameplay interest standpoint, since it remains a tough thing to track intuitively (in terms of what the opponent can do with a given amount of fuel), and sometimes it comes up more frustrating than exciting (when you realize you don't have enough fuel to move everything you thought you could haha), but its still pretty novel. Different enough from the standard A&A experience, that I think a newb can definitely benefit from seeing how it works vs an AI opponent. Either taking just one power or the whole team. I like Axis for that since their game is more straight forward and their expansion pattern to gain new production lillypads offers a lot of different options. And there's something to be said for the endgame crush where you are painting the whole map with your colors, or getting yourself off (as Hepps might say haha) on total victory vs the AI, into the depths where a human opponent would almost certainly have bowed out and gone to bed already long ago.

    For the playing as the Allies, I think the difficulty bonus probably needs to be higher in the 130-150% range to provide a comparable challenge. Mainly because the first round combats are so consequential. Either that or you can probably give the Axis a conservative scripted opener for G1/J1 with a smaller bonus to get at a similar feel.

    Either way though, for the AI to do its thing and muddle into a decent attack plan during the mid-game it needs way more fuel to function. I think for the learning curve its more practical on the fly to assume that the opponent can always move or hit you with any units it has on the board, rather than thinking about whether they have enough gas. Having unlimited fuel for the AI just sort of reinforces that basic gameplay caution, that unless you're willing to crunch a lot of numbers and prognosticate constantly about what your opponent can do with their fuel every turn, you're probably better off assuming they can just get there and defend accordingly.

    Its pretty rad right now, but I'd still like to see a rework on the unit costs, esp the double digit steel thing to bring aircraft into line. I think at present airpower makes it too easy to ignore steel as a resource. The fact that they are relatively cheap makes them simple to mass, but they are also fuel hogs at movement (you need all slots available in fuel 4 per unit at combat move), and without a steel cost up front to cap them, you might not realize until you're way into the purchasing game that half the fighters you spent all that loot on have to stay on the runway. I think everything in the roster could have a steel cost if you moved over a decimal and broke it up a bit at the low end.

  • Admin

    @Black_Elk I think you just wrote an intire critical review of the current version of Iron War 😁
    Concerning Iron resource and unit prices, I have given it a lot of thought for some time. I am thinking of making alterations. It will not be a x10 resource generation thing as I think this would be strange when oil, as, colonial etc. all produce only 1 resource per unit. But I thought about adding like x3 number of iron units to the map, most of them placed on top of the all ready existing units. Then changing unit prices to need more iron. Small units less iron, large units more iron. What do you think?

  • Sounds pretty solid to me. I think it gives a nod to the name too, where the iron war to take control of the resource producing spots will be closer to the way it feels now for fuel (totally essential to winning hehe.) Speaking of fuel, the main thing I notice in the current build is that Anzac is pretty thirsty. Its tight right now to the point where they can't really make naval movements or field a carrier group (even if they have the air/cash/steel to do so.) I think they'd definitely benefit from a US aid option for fuel.

    In general the movement cost for fighters on carriers creates a kind of gamey situation where you are really much better off having a friendly nations fighters parked on your carrier deck rather than your own fighters. So for example an Anzac carrier with US Fighters, a British-Colonies carrier with South African fighters, or whathaveyou. Because then the carrier can move around and retain the defensive fighter bonus on the water, but without the huge cost in fuel. Its a considerable difference when the carrier deck is stacked with your own fighters since it sucks up a dozen fuel slots. In practical terms it means that the carrier is the most likely unit to get stuck in place due to fuel shortages. I think it matters less in the Atlantic because those decks tend to stay in place over the same sz for several rounds anyway, but in the pacific where Japan can make big moves on the water, it can make it a real challenge to bring the US and Anzac fleets together if a carrier is involved. I think that's where the fuel aid thing of like 15 barrels could really come into play, forcing the US player to think about it in advance, if they need Anzac to move on coverage.

    Another option if you want to bring the air fuel thing down, would be to increase the oil totals and then increase the movement cost at the low end. Like maybe lighter land/naval units cost 1 per move, and the heavier land/naval stuff cost 2 per move. The fighters at 4 or bombers at 6 might seem less slightly less fuel intensive relative to the other fuel units.

    But yeah, anyhow, I dig the steel idea. I think a x3 increase to the totals would definitely open it up at the low end, where you could have more cost 1-2 steel units without upending the relative cost on the heavier stuff.

  • Admin

    "Its a considerable difference when the carrier deck is stacked with your own fighters since it sucks up a dozen fuel slots."

    I actually though that this was changed in the engine some time ago. But it was probably just a part of a discussion. I think it would be great (and logical), that if you move your carrier (with planes in the same zone) and thereafter the planes follow the ship's path and stop at their mother carrier again, then the move should be free of charge/fuel should be paid back, no matter combat or no-combat. Just as the conditions for any allied planes. Of course the same rule would apply if you select and move carrier+planes at the same time to the same path and destination.

    I don't think that I will change Iron War rules and unit stats based on these circumstances. Who know how engine rules might change in the future.

    When looking at iron resources and cost, I will keep an extra eye on ANZACs fuel situation 🙂

  • Admin

    @Frostion If you move the fighters along with the carrier then you shouldn't be charged any fuel for the fighters.