I first saw this title documented over at the Real and Simulated Wars blog, run by Chelco/Wodin. I was intrigued. I read all I could about it, but couldn’t quite get a handle on whether I’d like it or not. It seemed to revolve around the economy/logistics side of waging war – I wasn’t sure whether it could be classified as a ‘fun’ title to enjoy, or whether its primary aim is an educational tool for budding Army Officers.
I mulled it over, and threw caution to the wind and purchased Future Force over at HPS Sims. Having played it a couple of times, I thought I’d share how it plays by running an AAR – then folks who are curious might have an easier decision, one way or the other.
Let’s take it slowly and verbosely to begin with. Since its not graphically all that interesting, I may summarise the later turns in the game. For now, whilst we’re familiarising ourselves with the game, I’ll dish it out a chunk at a time.
The objective of the game is to rake in Victory Points, by securing key Areas of Operation (AO’s). You have to manage your force, in terms of deployment, withdrawal, creation, and transformation. You also have to manage your budget and the investment in high level operations such as strategic/tactical and counter intelligence, troop transport capacity both to and from the AO as well as funding for research and development in technology employed by the various troop types. You have to plan ahead, and react throughout the process. As far as I know, the game scenario is randomly populated and it lasts a constant 20 turns, before the winner is declared based on accumulated Victory Points (VP).
Here’s the initial screen, very colourful if a bit sparse and clinical. It’s all about summarising the information for you – so you can make your decisions. There are no troops moving around a map as such, there’s no identifying information, its Blue vs Orange, in a very generic and sterile kind of hypothetical conflict. The Unit pools (New, ARFORGEN, Available) are at the side on the Home Territories and the five Areas of Operation (AO) are listed in information boxes centrally, from A through to E. The small scrolling information window is tucked away in the top left corner. Lets do this thing. We are Blue taking on the evil Orange OPFOR.
As I click the New Phase button to start the New Game, the initial Intelligence cycle begins. As can be seen, I’m successful at Strategic and Counter Intelligence, but the Tactical side has let me down. Presumably some informer on the streets has been taken out.
The Strategic Intelligence has opened up the Value of each AO to the Orange nation. This is represented by a 5 bar “Volume-like” scale. I think Value determines a measure of how important the area is to the Orange AI and how much of a multiplier is exerted upon the Victory Point calculations for the Nation holding the area. The Value figures allow us to plan choice AO’s we want to make sure we hold, and also ones which may want to spoil for the Orange Nation to affect their VP gains over the turns.
Taking in the information, AOA and AOC are important to Orange, whilst AOD and AOA are important to us. There could be some vicious contention for AOA with our overlapping priorities.
Each AO is also assigned an operation type, Major Combat Operation (MCO), Peacetime Military Engagement (PME) or Irregular Warfare (IW). The operation type determines what sort of forces are required to be successful in that area – although I can’t find anything in the manual that reveals what does what. From what I’ve gleaned via a snippet from an article on TSJOnline.com it states “There are a limited number of brigades to allocate among the areas, and each unit type has different strengths (a heavy brigade is better for an area in a state of major combat, for example, while an infantry or Stryker brigade is better for irregular warfare). ” – so Heavy armour for MCO, Infantry and Strykers for IW and presumably PME is a combination of the two.
You can see the initial deployments you have to play with, as well as the unit types available for deployment in this turn.
The success of the Strategic Intelligence not only gave us a peek into the Value of each AO, but we also get to peek into the infrastructure and composition of the new units being built, the units in ARFORGEN being readied for deployment, and the units available to be deployed by the Orange side.
The first phase we encounter is the REDEPLOYMENT phase. The ability to pull units from the AO’s and into the available for deployment pot. I figure I’ll pull an Armour Unit (Heavy Brigade Combat Team – HBCT) and a Mechanised Infantry Unit (Stryker Brigade Combat Team – SBCT) from AOB, since its a Peacetime Military Engagement and I could probably use them elsewhere (somewhere with a higher Value to the Blues).
The next phase encountered is the DEPLOYMENT Phase where you get to apportion your available troops to the AO’s. You have a quota of Strategic Movement capacity indicated in the info box with the SM value. Each unit takes up a fixed amount of SM points to deploy. For instance a HBCT unit takes up 5 SM, and SBCT takes up 3 SM. I think I’ve read you can fund Research and Development to reduce these costs – but obviously doing so, and being successful will also cost you hard cash. You can also push money into Strategic Movement itself and increase the capacity (ie. total SM points available to use each Deployment Phase).
I decide to push forward two Armour units HBCT3, and HBCT4 into AOA to deal with Major Combat Ops. I also throw in a Stryker Unit SBCT18 for good measure.
Eating up my SM points rapidly, I order two Infantry Units (Infantry Brigade Combat Team – IBCT) – IBCT24, IBCT25 and a Stryker (SBCT20) into AOD – boosting the Irregular Warfare going down in our most valuable Area. I feel we NEED to hold onto this one, if nothing else!
I use my remaining 5 SM points to deploy an Armour Unit HBCT5 into AOC. My logic in this deployment centers around the green gauges displayed on each area, depicted the levels of each of the three types of Ops taking place. There seems to be two pips in the MCO on a Peacetime Military Engagement Area. Perhaps we need some Armour in there, in support? I don’t know – its just a hunch, I’m using as I try to fathom out the logic of this game.
We now progress onto the COMBAT RESOLUTION phase. Each Area is evaluated one by one, and the information window scrolls out the results. I’ve composited the results here for easy interpretation.
The flags in the middle indicate at a glance who won. We scraped a win in AOA and AOE, and managed a fair win in AOD. Orange took AOB and AOC. The magnitude of the Victory Points is an indication as to how well you did. You’re also given a Ratio of the force strength in the area. If there were losses, they will be listed under each area’s conclusion. The key to the whole game is to maximise the VP’s gained in sectors you win, and minimise the VP’s lost in sectors Orange win. Its a continuous Victory slide, and wins to Orange, are losses to Blue and pull the Victory indicator further to the right.
I’ll quickly mention the Stability rating of each Area, essentially after the budgeting phase (coming up) each Area is assessed for the chance of the operation type to change. Higher Stability means less chance to flip. A flip will probably influence the types of troops you’ll want to station in an area during the next turn.
Now we move onto the BUDGET MANAGEMENT Phase. This is where we take the Billions we get each turn and we allocate it to a number of actions.
You can push funding into Intelligence (Strategic shows you enemy infrastructure and the Valuations of area, Tactical shows you actual troop composition in the Areas, and Counter Intelligence shows you/spoils spy attempts). Or you can try and boost your Strategic Movement rating (and have more capacity to shift troops back and forth).
I figure knowing whats on the ground is a major bonus, so I stick $2bn into Tactical and I want to be able to move more troops so I stick $2bn into Strategic Movement. [It took me a while to understand that OPTEMPO is the cost of your troop operations. The more troops you have out in the field, the more upkeep money you have to spend and the less you have in Available funds.]
You can also build new units here, with the cost and the year that they will become available detailed. I’m not sure about how to go forth with this, so I order an Infantry Unit to be on the safe side. It will show up in 2 years time.
You can also reset a unit in the ARFORGEN pool and push it into the Available pool for the next turn, but it costs you. The last resort is to Transform a unit, which basically disbands it and gives you the cash in dollar value. I think this is a drastic desperate measure. Virtually clueless here, I reset a unit or two for the future.
The last funding option is to pump money into Research and Development, and this allows you to make troops types or certain costs more efficient. But there is a chance that the R&D department will fail and the money invested here will be wasted. This isn’t a guaranteed upgrade path, it has a risk.
I stick $1bn into improving my Armour units HBCT’s.
With the funding choices done, the next phase is the INFORMATION phase.
First up is the assessment of each AO, to see if the ops type has changed. Luckily none have changed this turn.
Then you are notified of upgraded units (which I think means units which have moved between New->ARFORGEN-> Available at your Home base). Then you’re told of units that have been reset and are available.
You’re notified about your Research and Development efforts, sadly the R&D failed badly for improving the HBCT’s!
Finally, you’re told your Defense Budget figures for the next turn.
The cycle now starts again. Join me next time to see how we did with our intelligence and whether we can start and shift some of those Victory Points our way.
I should point out, that the Victory Point track was later stuck at an odd figure – 9.999985E-02, even though I suppose it should have been zero for the majority of the turn. It gets back on track later on. I think the early VP calculations just land on a very small number. Maths *shudder*.