Chris King from Paradox – Q&A Session on March of the Eagles

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Paradox Interactive is set to release the first entry in a new strategy simulation game for the PC soon known as March of the Eagles. The game puts players right in the middle of the Napoleonic War that takes place from 1805-1820. Paradox Interactive describes the game as: “March of the Eagles is a wargame covering 1805-1820, when a Corsican boy used maddeningly clever new tactics to bring all of Europe to its knees. The Napoleonic War is brought to life in this war-focused strategy game and players will take control of any one nation in this geopolitical bar fight, dispatch armies and envoys, raid supply lines, form coalitions and get with the times, already. Because one thing’s for sure- Napoleon’s Grande Armeé is coming, and he’s not interested in second place. Though he might have to settle for it, if he’s just one guy in a multiplayer battle where the rules of the fight and everyone’s allegiances shifting with the seasons. It’s strategy as mud wrestling, that’s what it is.”

Check out our full Q&A with game designer Chris King below for all of the latest details on March of the Eagles. Make sure to also check out our hands-on preview right here (once live) to see what we think of the game and how it shapes up!

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David Jagneaux: Paradox Development Studio is very well-known in the strategy game community with franchises like Crusader Kings and The Europa Universalis. What do you think are the key characteristics that set this game apart from some of your other offerings from perspectives of both setting and gameplay?

Chris King: March of the Eagles differs in two key ways to the games you mention. Firstly it is not an open sandbox since we have scripted victory conditions, and secondly it has a strong focus on war. So although March of Eagles will have a certainly familiarity to fans of our previous games, it will play very differently.

It takes place in a short time period and the game is all about warfare with set victory conditions. But just because the stage is small, that doesn’t mean the performance can’t fill the house… Internally we talk about March of the Eagles as a love child with a lot of parents. It has the war focus from Hearts of Iron, the time frame and visuals from Europa Universalis, and victory conditions similar to those you’ve seen in Sengoku.

DJ: Why did you choose to focus on one region of the world and such a small time window (1805-1820) for this game?

CK: With March of the Eagles, we want to recreate the ambitions of the European counties of the era. The fluidity of alliances and coalitions that constantly change, all to take down the dominant power or strengthen one-selves. If we were asked to describe what this game was about, except for the obvious answer (Napoleon!), we’d say that March of the Eagles is about how war changes nations and the revolutionary power of conflict. You lead a nation and it will be transformed in a short but chaotic decade. This will be a new way of experiencing the wars of this era, with a deeper understanding of how Napoleon’s brilliance and France’s new mass armies forced the rest of Europe to catch up.

And I also personally feel one of the biggest dangers for any developer is overreach, a situation where you could have very impressive goals for a game, but then fail to deliver. The main reason why we chose the region and the time frame was we felt that we could then deliver what we promised to fans of the game and give them a new gameplay experience.

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DJ: How open-ended are the choices and routes of conquest in the game, specifically compared to some of your other franchises?

CK: Obviously hard coded victory conditions make the game less open ended than our other sandbox titles, but we still naturally have openness with our victory conditions. The focus of March of the Eagles is definitely on the major players. You can play as a minor state if you like – but if you do, the best you can usually hope for is to end up on the winning side of the great war raging around you. As one of the eight great powers, however, you have the chance to establish your dominance at sea and on land, making yourself the most powerful nation in Europe.

As you know, most of our games are very open ended and you as a player set your own goals in what you want to accomplish. We have two exceptions among the games we have developed. The Hearts of Iron series that is very open, but still has the goal to win WWII and Sengoku, where we first introduced set victory conditions – which meant that you as a player had the overall ‘goal’ of uniting Japan.

In March of the Eagles, we are introducing set victory conditions inspired by the games above. But the ‘goals’ is not as simple as winning a war, because people are making and breaking alliances all the time, switching teams and so on. So what we have done is that we created a ‘Domination’ system. Your goal is to become the dominant land and naval power in Europe, and there are several ways of making this happen.

You can play as any country in Europe, but there are only eight countries that can really ‘win’ on their own. It’s very similar to the set up in Hearts of Iron, where you can only really win the war if you’re part of the Axis, Allies or Comintern. In the Napoleonic era, you have eight countries that can win the game on their own, and they all have different ways of winning. The following countries have victory conditions. France, Great Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sweden, Spain & The Ottoman Empire.

To acquire Land Dominance, you need to hold 7 key land provinces out of a possible 11. To acquire Naval Dominance, you need to hold 7 key port provinces out of a possible 11.

Each of the majors starts a with a different number of victory provinces already in their possession at game start, giving some countries a leg up when it comes to victory. This also gives the majors a differing level of challenge when you come to play them. Only one country can be dominant in each category at the same time. This means that even if you meet the other requirements, you need to make sure the current holder gets defeated and loses its status as dominant country in order for you to become dominant.

Each major power has different key provinces needed to achieve dominance, creating different natural enemies for each great power at the beginning of the game. This also allows countries to cooperate with each other, for a while, while still advancing yourself towards victory.

At its most basic each great power has two lists of 10 provinces which are the victory conditions, to win it must control at least 7 of each and no other great power should control at least 7 in either list. The 7 of 10 means you can ignore 3 provinces each time you play and can choose to ignore 3 different provinces each time. This allows you to try out different variations for the same great power. Also each great power has different provinces as target so each great power has different choices. Thus March of the Eagles still offers a lot of variety.

DJ: Could you expand a bit more on the “idea system” and how that integrates with and affects gameplay?

CK: At the start of the game everyone went into battle with brightly colored uniforms and smooth bore muskets and at the end of the period everyone went into battle with brightly colored uniforms and smooth bore muskets. So from that perspective there is not a lot of technological innovation during the time period. However there were advances in for example military organization. So ideas replace the technology system that you see in our other games. You gain idea points naturally through time, but also for fighting battles. You gain even more idea points when you lose and the more badly you lose the more you gain. Thus you learn more for defeat than you do from victory.

Ideas give different bonuses to your country, ranging from increasing the effectiveness of your infantry’s attack to increasing your tax income. Selecting Ideas allows you to further customize your country and choose the areas where your country will excel. Idea Points are gained each month but can also be gained from events and winning battles. All Ideas are good to have, but you should choose Ideas wisely, because you need to dominate both on land and sea to win the game outright. Some Ideas will be crucial just to keep from getting steam-rolled by more advanced nations, while others will let you unlock powers that give you a crucial advantage.

There are eight major powers in March of the Eagles, meaning that they can win this game without having to rely too heavily on any other country watching their back. To further distinguish them from their minor brethren, the major powers each have Unique Ideas, unavailable to other countries.

To gain a new Idea you need to invest Idea Points into them. Idea Points are gained each month at a steady rate, and, more importantly, when you fight battles. If you don’t fight against your European neighbors, you will never be able to advance quickly enough to turn the history to your advantage. Think of this as learning from failure, since much of the time you will be sending thousands of men to be killed or wounded. By fighting, your generals don’t just acquire traits – they also bring back knowledge of how to do things better the next time around. This is reflected in Idea Points.

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DJ: I understand that there will be mod support, how extensive will that be and will it be fairly easy for players to implement mods into their games?

CK: Our gamers have a strong mod community and we want to give them the tools to customize and mod March of the Eagles just as we want them to mod all our games. As with all our games from  Paradox Development Studio, we try to put as much information as we can into open files for players to play around with. So March of the Eagles should be as easy to Mod as Crusader Kings II. If you want to see what you can do with that game, look at the Game of Thrones mod.

DJ: Finally, if you could live during any time period in any country/region in the world, where/when would it be and why?

CK: That is a tough question; I think I would like to live in Victorian Europe, providing of course I wasn’t too poor. This was an era where people had faith in technology and progress was unshaken and sheer number of discoveries meant the world changed radically. It sounds like a great time to live.

Are you excited to dive into the world of March of the Eagles? Let us know your thoughts on the Q&A and this game in the comments below!

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