Off Topic: Which Periods Of History Are Imba?

Off Topic: Which Periods Of History Are Imba?

Life isn’t fair. But while interviewing Jamie Ferguson of the Total War: Rome 2 team – expect that interview later – the subject of balance came up. His take is that history often takes care of the balance issue for them – but that’s not always true, is it? Is that why we see so many games from certain periods?

We’ve certainly seen a lot of World War 2 games, and medieval combat games. The weapons of the time do make for a natural balance. A rock/paper/scissors that ensures multiplayer is a problem that cannot be “solved”.

But we don’t see a lot of World War 1 games, do we? Is it purely because it’s seen as a less romantic war? Are there periods of history that are in need of a balance patch? A stealth nerf for Sparta? Seal Team 6.1? One could argue that the conflict would be very short in such a scenario. I tended to think there were many conflicts in which one side clearly trumped the other, but Ferguson’s comments got me wondering why these situations took so long to resolve.

The majority of games under the modern warfare umbrella might provide a challenge, but it’s a few against many. In multiplayer, you’re against foes with similar tech – but in singleplayer, it’s wave after wave of terrorist whack-a-mole. Some missions are even intentional statements about the one-sidedness of war, such as one that involves blasting enemies from great distances in a plane, and this is likely to increase as games tackle drone warfare.

Now’s the time for all that history knowledge. What conflicts, ancient or recent, didn’t balance themselves? What situations didn’t stabilise? And what games could we be missing out on, that might otherwise be cool, but for the fact that historical accuracy renders balance impossible?


    • Sure, because the native americans were so OP compared to the western settlers.

      • I’m sure General Custer would back you up… if, you know, he ever lived past the Battle of Little Bighorn and the complete annihilation of the Seventh Cavalry, and had a chance to write his memoirs.

        But given his well-brushed hair was probably nailed to Sitting Bull’s teepee, we’ll just have to take your word for it.

  • “His take is that history often takes care of the balance issue” Has anyone read any stuff…

  • Even in WW2 games though, the weapons seem to be balanced out within the game. Germany probably had superior weaponry to the Russians (I’m assuming, I’m no expert), but in games the weapons are, by and large, weapons with similar stats and non of the real world problems that would sap the fun out of a game such as one side having weapons breaking more frequently, misfiring or having wonky sights.

    I am happy though that you’re finally putting up some Rome 2 content. Only a month and a half away from release and this is the first article I’ve seen in months.

  • I’d like to see some games covering the Boer War, but the controversy surrounding the war, especially the tactics of the “winning” side, is part of the reason no-one is likely to touch it.
    The other is that it’s far from a well-known conflict in the US.
    World War 1 is a tricky period because of the way it was fought and explosives were a relatively new weapon of war.
    But the most imbalanced conflict in recent years would have to be the Gulf “War”. Good luck getting a game about that.

    • Boer war is an awesome idea. Two completely different sides/tactics. I’d buy it.

    • I think a game set during the Boer War would be pretty interesting, but a game about the war might not be. So something more along the lines of a Red Dead Redemption than a Call of Duty or a Total War game.

      • That would be pretty interesting. I don’t have a complete understanding of the conflict, but it might be interesting to see the point of view of a British soldier who disovers through the story what has been happening and the conflict between his sense of duty and his empathy as his understanding broadens.
        Or an RDR-style game from the point of view of the Boers.

    • I played a Israel-Palestine game from Iran quite a few years ago, it was buggy as hell and I think I was breaking the law but I thought it did have potential to be fun.

  • The secret I think is simply not to worry about balance and the rock paper shotgun mentality of RTS games. The series I’ve commented on before on these boards is the Combat Mission series by Battlefront. CM: Shockforce did a modern combat simulation where the West invades Syria. Of course one has the enormous technical superiority while the other has element of surprise, partisan style tactics at their disposal (IEDs etc) and other factors forcing each player to use their forces differently to succeed. Clever scenario design and realistic portrayal of units and expectations gets you around historical in-balance. For example you would expect a US Marine Battalion to steamroll a Syrian force holding the town right? Throw in the requirement that the US forces aren’t allowed more than 10% casualties otherwise it’ll be viewed as a massacre back home and they lose the battle… then it’s a very different board game.

    If I ever play another WW2 RTS where you can take on a German Panther’s front armour with a Sherman and win…

    • Very good point I think. Ferguson was giving examples of ways the situation balances itself that aren’t immediately obvious. But it’s true, even with massaging the numbers and discounting casualties from PMCs and such, that casualty rate would cause an outrage that might end the whole offensive.

  • history shows that its never balanced
    iron trumps bronze chariots trump foot troops blitzkrieg trumps static defences. war as a general rule pushes technology the strong defeated the weak they strong ruled over them until someone stronger came along and defeated them. in games balance is more important than realism. i would like a civilization type cross bred with total war series start as cave man and take over the world. Human total war!

  • Ancient history knowledge-

    The first wars in Israel could provide an interesting setting for a game. There was a 4 year war between 66-70 AD in which the Jewish people fought the Romans for power to govern themselves, but instead they lost their temple. However, the situation did not balance or stabilise itself here. It wasn’t until 63 years later in the 133AD Bar Kockbar revolt when it actually ended. The Jewish people revolted again and were pushed out and were not allowed to return to Israel.

    There would be no tanks or guns allowed in a game in such an ancient setting but they had lots of swords and other interesting weapons. Their aim to protect their treasures could add another interesting element.

  • If you’re talking about grand strategy games, or combat strategy games like the Total War games, then I think history can sort out the balance issue – in spite of major material or military advantages, countless historical victories have been decided ,at least partly, by chance. The smallest decisions or mistakes can easily transform an obvious win into a complete rout. The defeat of Hannibal strikes me as a good example of this. Strategy and planning is the key.

    Sometimes what seems like an unfair advantage is not, and can be easily overcome by strategy. Periods of colonial conflict could be an exception, but even in those cases, a player (with the aid of distance and hindsight) can exploit what tiny advantage they have for major effect, like environment and lore.

    Completely insurmountable odds (at least in a videogame space) are rare I think.

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