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I started a Blog for Total War in China

MaxTWMaxTW Posts: 3Registered Users
Hi everyone,
Last month, I was sickened by the ignorance of some naysayers who believe a TW game set in China would be as boring as Shougn 2. So I searched some texts from the Warring States period and translated them into a faction preview:

The response was unexpectedly popular. To push it further, I decided to write a Blog, Total War Eras in China, introducing eligible eras in China for TW game, from Spring & Autumn to Imjin War.

My goal is to open up discussion between Total War players and fans of Chinese history. So if you have some thing related to Chinese history or war games worthy of sharing, send it to me and I will post it to the blog. Even if CA will not set their next title in China, which is unlikely, we can still learn a lot Chinese history from each other.


  • daelin4daelin4 Senior Member Posts: 13,418Registered Users
    edited May 12
    I read that blog before. Interesting from a historical perspective, but honestly not from a gameplay perspective. And ultimately, from at least the first post, it really is ultimately playing out like Shogun2- same unit roster but with a few stat buffs between factions. With Warhammer the bar has been raised much higher where separate races operate in asymmetrical style of gameplay.

    The fact that your lists of the states' respective powers have no hearing on actual unit or gameplay style contradicts your assertion.

    A huge portion of playing Total War is managing settlements and units. If there was a drawback to Shogun2, it's that ultimately no matter where you start, you play the same thing. You miss the point of what people say about (Warring States) China being boring like Shogun2.

    You may notice that a lot of the feedback revolves around things like adding unique races like Xiongu, presumably because they want diversity.

    The fact that it's "all about China" is itself a problem- it can't really be about diversity, because it needs to also be about China becoming China, which means homogeneity. At least in Shogun2 it's established fact that everyone plays around the same stuff...and hardly without its drawbacks,.

    You'd have to make up a lot of plausible differences among the factions to make them separate experiences from eachother; different starting locations and a few buffs here and there won't be enough, not with what Warhammer's given us. Games with great scale but little depth are tremendously difficult to get through this hurdle, because the scale of diversity is exponentially greater because everyone's Chinese, or in the case of Empire, everyone has line infantry and cannons. This was no different even in Rome2, where Oathsworn were effectively Gallic legionaries.
    I mean let's take the Flaming Bull unit: it's just going to be flaming pigs suicidal unit thrown at the enemy, and historically was used in a night attack against an enemy camp. That's hardly analogous to a patched battle.

    If anything, the biggest advantage of a Warring States game is that you play with as few factions as possible, in similar manner to Shogun2. If you could play 14 factions but they al operate the same, it's indeed boring. CA knew this and only had like 7 major clans that fight minor clans as first phase of the campaign. Naturally this means simply not having some of your aforementioned states as playable factions, either permanently or as DLC later on, considering CA's modus operandi.

    There's apparently an early access game called Oriental Empires that seems practically a ripoff of Total War- very similar style of gameplay and even UI.

    China may offer huge map and lots of factions and indeed was not homogeneous in reality...but none of that matters when trying to make a videogame. The historical context of Rome2 was certainly large and not homogenous...but gameplay it turned out that way.
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  • Ephraim_DaltonEphraim_Dalton Senior Member Posts: 7,053Registered Users
    A diverse China Total War experience would be Southern Song period, Ming period or the "Twilight of the Dragon", the 19th century. All of these times had the Chinese mix up with other countries which would avoid the stale Shogun2 mode of "colour vs different colour".
  • MaxTWMaxTW Posts: 3Registered Users
    To daelin4:
    1."The fact that your lists of the states' respective powers have no hearing on actual unit or gameplay style contradicts your assertion."
    I don't have any ability on modification. A faction review is the quickest way to pique people's interest. I can't write a looooooong post, bore people on Reddit to death and expect them to read all. That's why I'm writing this blog. Step by step, I will explore the options to make the TW game of each era appealing. You can't say I contradict myself if I haven't tell you everything.

    2. "The fact that it's "all about China" is itself a problem- it can't really be about diversity, because it needs to also be about China becoming China, which means homogeneity. ."
    Thing is, China wasn't a homogenized culture to begin with. Those who say so are unfortunately uninformed. the State of Chu(楚) was a culture of its own origin, for example. Later on, China had more racial conflicts in the later eras, particularly in the Age of 16 Kingdoms, roughly the same time when Attila the Hun rose in Europe. This is a time when the Han Chinese and the immigrants of 5 nomads mixed up their identity and spurned each other. There're Chinese warlords who believe they're nomads and slaughtered other Han Chinese and nomadic emperors who did the opposite. Also, I haven't touched the Mongol Invasion and Imjin War yet! Those were true international conflicts, where the diversity of unit roster and vicotry goal are bound to be have.

    3. "....because the scale of diversity is exponentially greater because everyone's Chinese, or in the case of Empire, everyone has line infantry and cannons. This was no different even in Rome2, where Oathsworn were effectively Gallic legionaries."
    That comes from CA's end. In Rome 2, they wanted to give each faction a little of everything to cater the multiplayer side of the game, which was reversed when you saw how Slavic factions were removed of melee cavalry in Attila. Now you see how they give each faction in Warhammer I & II a unique roster and a special goal for victory.
    CA is undoubtedly learning from its past.
    Take Warring States for instance, the State of Zhao(趙) was the first among 7 states to discard chariots and heavy infantry for cavalry. CA can make them almost indistinguishably nomadic as King Wu-Lin intended, and thus separate them from other 6 states. It can be done. The question is how to do it.

    4. "I mean let's take the Flaming Bull unit: it's just going to be flaming pigs suicidal unit thrown at the enemy, and historically was used in a night attack against an enemy camp. That's hardly analogous to a patched battle."
    Sure, you can argue against it with me, but good luck on doing that against millions of Chinese who grew up with that story. Cimbri women only fought against Romans once, and yet CA made a unit of them any way. If you want diversity, something's gotta give in.

    4. "If anything, the biggest advantage of a Warring States game is that you play with as few factions as possible, in similar manner to Shogun2. If you could play 14 factions but they al operate the same, it's indeed boring. CA knew this and only had like 7 major clans that fight minor clans as first phase of the campaign. Naturally this means simply not having some of your aforementioned states as playable factions, either permanently or as DLC later on, considering CA's modus operandi."
    Thanks, I'll bear that in mind in the future. I only showed 7 major powers in my Reddit post and had no intention to add any further, maybe add the powerless Emperor of Zhou for joke sake. I'll remain concentrated on major powers in my later articles.
  • daelin4daelin4 Senior Member Posts: 13,418Registered Users
    edited May 16
    You contradict yourself when you make a statement about a subject, but when discussing said subject don't talk about it. There can only be two reasons: you forgot, or you don't have anything to say about an actual Total War game about China. Because really, you ahve not. Just history points.
    MaxTW said:

    Thing is, China wasn't a homogenized culture to begin with. Those who say so are unfortunately uninformed.

    I studied Chinese history. Neither are relevant to saying a Total War China would work. You need to make a game out of it. Talking about the state of Chu, Shu Han's rivalry with Wu and Cao Wei, and Qing campaigns against Taiping rebels mean nothing when can't even brainstorm up a game that would feature them. That was my point. What you need to discuss are things like whether Qin is a state that specializes in cavalry, as some history books claim, or they have great archers, as movies like Hero claims.
    MaxTW said:

    CA can make them almost indistinguishably nomadic as King Wu-Lin intended, and thus separate them from other 6 states. It can be done. The question is how to do it.

    A question that everyone trying to pitch a China themed TW avoids. No wonder there isn't a game for it: no one knows what to demand, because no one knows what they want.
    MaxTW said:

    Sure, you can argue against it with me, but good luck on doing that against millions of Chinese who grew up with that story.

    If CA makes such a unit they won't care. Samurai were portrayed terribly in Shogun2, and even if millions of Japanese complained, end of the day they made a game unit that worked in the game.
    MaxTW said:

    I'll remain concentrated on major powers in my later articles.

    What you need to concentrate is what this game would actually look like, what units, how settlements operate, how diplomacy works, etc.
    Literally anything else people can look up on wikipedia. You're designing a game, not giving history lessons. Something's gotta give as you say; sometimes that means some historical accuracy.
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  • MaxTWMaxTW Posts: 3Registered Users
    edited May 16
    Thank you for your insight. I have been troubled by the blog's low popularity. Maybe I need to write more tangible clues on "How it would be in the game" for the readers than "How it was". I have to hasten up on gathering data to reach that capability.

    Lastly, apologies if I offended you by saying naysayers are uninformed. It's just frustrating to see most people I met in the past shake their heads, deny my presented historic facts, yet suggest nothing constructive when I asked for help. I feel sorry for making that foolish assumption on you.
  • daelin4daelin4 Senior Member Posts: 13,418Registered Users
    edited May 18
    I think you are right in that, though many are enthused via the "how it was", there ends up being very little discussed in how it would actually look like. I think that is the main difference of perspective between the two groups, where one can see how great the idea is, but have no imagination to its reality, and the other only sees the reality and ask how would it actually work. I'm more of the latter.

    On the issue of cultural homogeneity (or not); it doesn't matter if it's something like writing, cuisine or clothing, because ultimately this is a Total War game where the difference is unit roster and, potentially, skills. Shogun2 there was minimal differences, the only difference besides starting position was that Mori had a buff to naval units, whereas Shimazu had a buff to Katana Samurai. Besides that, everything else was identical; even the main characters, all historical, were essentially the same.
    But even then there were implausible liberties with history taken for same of game design: the idea of 120 samurai troops using only swords fighting together in a field is honestly unthinkable. Even the sub-differences of the caste were not present- poorer samurai did not feature, or look like having, lesser armour.

    Moreover, most of the finer details like armour and sword design and introduction of firearms, occurred in periods outside of the more popular epochs. Warring States and Three Kingdoms are most recognizable periods of Chinese history, but it wasn't until like 800 years later that gunpowder was invented. Naturally, you either have to fill that in with, say, crossbows vs bowmen, AND have to have significant tactical implications between the two (ie longer vs shorter range, unit cost, flat/ arcing trajectory, etc.).

    EDIT: I dug up an old book called First Emperor of China, which obviously focuses on the Qin and the first emperor, but also gives (general) information of particular details like certain states' dispositions relative to eachother. For example, Qin was originally a fief with the purpose of raising horses for the Zhou; naturally, this was attributed to their advantageous development of cavalry over chariots, and their geography also gave them relative protection from strategic attacks. Statesmen were described as of good pedigree, and their development of an independent state went hand in hand with conflict with barbarians, whom they constantly fought and absorbed their land and culture, giving them a great initial edge as they eventually conquered the other states. One critical factor in their success as a state were agricultural reforms which resulted in greater resilience to attrition and attracted both peasants and intelligentsia to the state. Their adoption of Legalism brought many beneficial (if not controversial) changes to how the early Chinese operated; success was greatly rewarded, but failure was easily a fatal mistake.
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  • daelin4daelin4 Senior Member Posts: 13,418Registered Users
    edited May 19
    Having read a bit more into the specific details of several states (and tryign to navigate multiple book's varying romanization of names!), I've scrounged up a framework of how a Total War game based in China might look like:

    Several classes of faction categories:
    -Northern Chinese factions: hybrid of Central and barbarian elements, ie cavalry and military based
    examples would be: Qin, Yan, Zhao
    -Central Chinese factions: conventional Chinese elements
    -Southern Chinese: hybrid of southern and Chinese elements
    Chu, Wu, Yue
    -Northern Nomads: Mongols, other horse-based factions, etc.
    -Southern Tribes: Indigenous southern cultures

    -Move the period earlier to Spring and Autumn, so that you play at the beginning of the states' forumation of power rather than in the middle; this allows for longer development and, in a sandbox game, can greatly differ in forming a Warring States scenario

    -Alongside the seven main states, a myriad of minor NPC states provide political and military context outside of the major states' warfare against eachother. Some of the mare minor Chinese contenders caught between the major ones; others are non-Chinese factions that bring about different approaches via their own rosters and methods of fighting (ie mounted archers).

    Wu Qi in the Osprey book "Ancient Chinese Armies 1500-200BC" is stated as summarizing some of the states' military as follows:
    Qin: brave but undisciplined (bonus charge bonus, but penalty to morale?)
    Chu: good armour and weapons, but lacked expertise in their use (technological progression, but increased costs?)
    Yen: stupid and honest, defensive and lacking in strategy (ignoring the blatant bias, distinctions could be defensive-oriented bonuses, ie increased siege duration time, combat bonuses when defending)
    Han, Wei, Zhao: well-organized but war-weary, lacking loyalty (ignoring the blatant bias, far too broad and general in description to be of use for thinking up a faction for a game).

    -non-Chinese factions occupy the borders of the campaign map; northern Mongoloid factions form the typical nomadic barbarians, offering different unique rosters and relationships with neighbouring Chinese factions; northern Chinese factions, for example, can be differentiated by hybrid rosters including more nomadic elements like increased emphasis on cavalry units (there is mention in the Opresy book's illustrations of Tien and Wu warriors, but given the inconsistent Wades-Giles romanization used in the book it's nigh impossible to figure out what the heck these are).

    Some interesting ways to spruce up the campaign situation:
    -the factions of Han, Wei and Zhao start as vassals under the mega-faction Jin; like England in MTW2's Kindgoms: Britannia campaign, the purpose of the relationship is that playing as either three states has you try to handle the precarious relationship, or attempt to split away early and rise to power via independence. There can be benefits for retaining the vassalage as long as possible like access to special resources, whereby you can progress and develop yourself far enough until confident in breaking away, or you can make things exciting by splitting away early. Relationship with the other factions could also determine whether this is possible or is forced upon you.
    Historically, the Jin state comprised all three until it fragmented; this partition marks the end of the Spring Autumn period, and thus begins the Warring States period.

    Details on individual major factions (seven main states)

    Qin state is tucked safely in a corner of the north western portion of the Zhou dynasty's territory; in many ways it is like the Dwarfs and Greenskins in Warhammer: tucked at the corner of the map, they have only one direction of attack for invaders, its flanks guarded by mountains and rivers. Adoption of barbarian cultural elements is commonly referenced in books, particularly matters of cavalry; irrigation developments also allegedly improve it's advantageous position over other states, offering population growth and thus ability to support larger armies. It gained the disdain of some other Chinese states due to their willingful adoption of barbarian elements, but frankly these elements allowed them to eventually conquer the rest.
    Qin faction could be designed as such:
    -Bonuses for cavalry (common northern trait)
    -Starts at war with neighbouring barbarian factions
    -Diplomatic penalty to other Chinese factions via cultural aversion (common northern trait)
    -Reduced attrition
    -Bonus to population growth
    -Greater morale bonus when winning; greater morale penalties when losing battles
    -Unique Unit: heavy lancer cavalry?

    -Chu achieved independence from the faltering Zhou dynasty very early in its history; at the start of the campaign, it can be a virtual rival power in the way Carthage was to Rome; it's relationships with other states has been characterized as antagonistic, expansionist and a virtual bully, leveraging it's larger size and greater resources to coerce other factions' affairs.
    As such, it can be designed to have poor diplomacy with other Chinese factions, and holding a firm thumb under some of the minor states, but makes up for it with some strong starting dispositions. A major part of the gameplay, then, is about manoeuvring between the various states to produce buffers and vassals among some, so that you can conquer others piecemeal. Of course this means everyone can turn against you quickly, so playing as Chu you're either always at war, with peace being juggled amongst numerous factions.
    Unlike Jin's conglomerate setup, Chu is a single powerful entity- you don't start with vassals or allies, your neighbours are either enemies or neutral. This means you have to manage a lot of territory on your own and need to forge some good buffer states between enemies...or quickly start conquering all adjacent territories for a good head start. More than other factions, aggressive military gameplay will be the focal point of Chu.

    In summary, a Chu faction could look like this:
    -Bonuses to attacking, conquering
    -Starts at war with neighbouring barbarian, Chinese factions
    -Prone to diplomatic penalties due to aggressive playstyle
    -Unique Unit: Chu Armoured Crossbowmen; resilient missile infantry

    Jin states: The states of Wei, Han and Zhao were the fragments of the earlier Zhou-era state of Jin; in a campaign starting earlier than warring states period, this means that one has to design the map where all four states exist, but with a political relationship that allows the three to operate as playable states, but the Jin as an overlord NPC that serves to direct or temper their ambitions against eachother. RTW's Roman factions would be the model to which my ideas for these factions will be based on.
    You got the Zhao which are north, and Wei and Han being central; these three states have close relationships with eachother at the start of the campaign, but you as the player can obviously decide on your own how to deal with the other factions when you begin.
    All three states start as vassals to the Jin, of which can give orders, but also lack power should any of the states decide to head their own way. The way you play these three states could have some similarities and differences. This make for a unique style of gameplay for these three factions, because much of it relies on following or ignoring objectives granted by the Jin, where fulfilling them allow you many and potentially powerful, lifesaving benefits that can compensate for the lack of apparent political freedom.

    Han- small size and surrounded by bigger states; like you say in your blog, the most suitable playstyle would be handling diplomacy to keep bigger factions off your back and having them pitted against eachother. Following under the heels of the Jin's directive, you can bolster yourself without necessarily having to aggressively expand. Given it's relationship with the Zhou dynasty family, an additional unique element of playing as Han is prestige, having better diplomatic leverage to secure yourself against enemies by more easily making allies.

    Han faction could then be designed as such:
    -small size
    -various diplomacy skills, ie starting traits for characters improve diplomacy
    -greater emphasis on agents for politics
    -more reliant on Jin overlord, diplomacy for initial successes
    -few military advantages, but can gain iron access earlier
    -unique unit: mounted crossbowmen? There is mention of crossbows having developed to be light enough to be wielded while on horseback
    -matured development of iron for weapons (in an age where bronze, interestingly, remained common, depending on the book you read)

    Overall, I found Han a bit difficult to craft into a relevant playable faction- it's features are honestly a bit lacklustre and unremarkable compared with the more exotic Qin and Chu; I suppose it can be one of those quintessential Chinese kind of factions that rely on infantry and archers and chariots in a more "classical" fashion..but then again it's been noted by multiple sources of their technological progression compared with other states. I'm tempted to make even more stretches of historical elements to try to make the state interesting.
    Looking over geography I suppose the way Han's unit roster could be designed to be balanced; utilizing equal use of things like chariots, cavalry, and all manner of infantry types, and not having any particular strengths in each class.

    Wei- playing a bit similar to Han but with greater territory. Thus the Wei are less reliant on diplomacy and more open to military options, whether it be conservative Chinese elements like Chariots (compared with Han, a greater part of Wei features flat terrain), or move to adopt more cavalry like that of Qin and Zhao.
    In other words, a Wei faction would, in my view, best be designed as a jack of all trades type of faction, where it can easily gain access to nearly all special and exotic elements in the game, at the cost of not being particularly special with any of them.
    Like the other two states, Wei starts as a vassal to Jin, but unlike Han, Wei is greater leverage to forge its own path thanks to its greater size. Western neighbours being Qin and barbarians allow the faction to expand and acquire cavalry rather fast, and/or make use of chariots to fight against the other plains states to the east. Zhao may pose a problem, but itself needs to deal with handling an even larger territory and wars against more barbarian factions further north.
    Of the seven major states in the game, Wei is right at the centre and so boasts the most versatile playstyle of all, the effective jack of all trades faction.

    -mid sized
    -various diplomacy skills, ie starting traits for characters improve diplomacy
    -slightly reliant on Jin overlord for initial success
    -few starting advantages, but moderate amount of enemies allow for steady increase in power
    -versatility in military units
    -greater availability (or reliance) on non-Chinese mercenaries

    Like Han, Wei is problematic in that there seems to be no specific historical details about them that can be made to differentiated from other states; any specific references to Wei can be applied to a number of other states (such as Wei and three other states being early proponents of cavalry, or Qin and Wei being despised for their usage of Hu tribesmen). The best way I can come up with a unique flavour for Wei would be the above combination, where it's jack of all trades, greater focus on mercenaries from anywhere; it's in the middle of the map and thus often would be in the middle of any action, from war to tech/ civil progress.

    Zhao is probably the most interesting of the three Jin states, because it's the northernmost, and features much like the Qin in their playstyle. Of all the playable states is is arguably the one that's going to be fighting northern barbarian factions the most, and thus their playstyle will be much more a hybrid of Chinese and nomads than the Qin. Unlike the Qin, there is no safe have, so it's practically all about war when playing this faction. While diplomacy can stave off attacks from other Chinese factions, Zhao will almost always going to be about fighting nomads, which the player must put to advantage in order to win. Of all the Chinese factions in the game, the
    Historically the Zhao were initially weak, but after some reforms ended being so powerful they were a direct rival to the Qin before their defeat at Changping. The playstyle I envision for Zhao would thus be about initial weakness, but with great potential to rapidly expand and develop through the early game. Aggressive fighting and expansion will be a central element to playing as Zhao as a result, your typical "best defense is offense" form of play. It is like playing as Qin, but without any of their starting advantages- this is the hardcore difficult faction of the seven, where it's going to be hard straight from the beginning, but if you make it through you're a powerful faction in the map.

    -largest of Jin states
    -various diplomacy skills, ie starting traits for characters improve diplomacy
    -Bonuses for cavalry (common northern trait)
    -Starts at war with neighbouring barbarian factions
    -Diplomatic penalty to other Chinese factions via cultural aversion (common northern trait)
    -greatest emphasis on adopting barbarian elements, ie cavalry and mercenary units
    -Unique Unit: some form of horse archers? the Zhao readily adopted cavalry feature of the northern nomads, including horse archery

    The state of Qi, being situated in modern Shandong, can be designed as the typical defensive faction thanks to it's defensive position on the coast; like Qin, this would give players a rather easier start in the campaign as you're not concerned with being attacked from the east since you're next to the sea. I also envision Qi having an economic edge relative to other states, being the steamrolling powerhouse type of faction that relies on economic power rather than aggressive early expansion.

    -moderate size
    -economy faction; utilize commerce and trade to offset initial military disadvantages
    -trade links to non-Chinese entities (ie trade nodes to places like Japan and Korea)
    -most conservative of Chinese factions- hard to acquire nomadic elements, utilzies Chinese units liek chariots and spearmen much more
    -cultural affinity with Chinese
    -least emphasis on adopting barbarian elements ie cavalry, mercenaries
    -increased research rate
    -unique unit: bullet crossbowmen; there is archeological evidence of crossbows designed to fire clay or stone bullets as an alternative to bolts, and while less effective in conventional battles, are more suitble for low-scale warfare, ie ambushes and raiding. A unit with such weapons could be the Chinese variant of Kisho Ninja or Goblins, stealth and surprise being their main tactical advantage. The bullet crossbows can be recruited among multiple factions, the Qi variant are more resilient in melee, producing a potentially powerful combination of footsoldier that can fight with sword and missiles.

    I suppose Qi could be comparable to Rome2's Carthage, or Warhamer's Dwarfs, where economy is critical element to a successful campaign. Qi-specific military details are sparse in the few books I can find on the subject. One would have to start making stuff up or extrapolating a lot from other related sources to come up with an interesting faction design that's still remotely historically plausible.

    -Yan is the northernmost and easternmost Chinese state of the seven, and given the geography of its location I envision it's playstyle to revolve around chariots, archers and cavalry, a mix of northern and Chinese plains design. Similar to Zhao, nomadic enemies to the north are going to be your constant threat, but unlike Zhao, there is greater scope of diplomacy, so playing as Yan you are more able to leverage barbarians as allies more so than fighting them- Yan is described in on book as trading with Manchurian and Korean polities. In any event, their placement to the upper left corner of the campaign map means an enterprising player can swiftly concentrate expansion up there to consolidate their position.
    Being both northern and plains in unit design I think a unique character of Yan would be greatest use of chariots among the northern states, and like Qi, the coast provides economic benefits. This gives Yan and Qi a sort of miniature commercial rivalry as both major factions will be vying for control of trade nodes and such.

    -NPC factions: Because having just seven factions in the map will be really boring, there ought to be a much alrger number of minor factions serving as buffers or providing numerous distractions for the bigger states to fight with or against. Some will be clone copies of the Chinese states- there will be larger minor states like Zhen, Song and Lu that form major obstacles between some of the major factions, while smaller states like Ba, Shu and Wu are targets for vassals or persistent thorns in the side of powerhourses.
    In addition non-Chinese NPC factions like the various nomads of the north, tribesmen of the south, and even Koreans on the eastern edge of the map can provide additional diversity to the campaign experience: the Chinese states will initially have limited access to cavalry units, and can be overcome by the use of nomadic mercenaries, vassals, or technological acquisition through conquest. Southern tribesmen make for excellent light infantry mercenaries and shock troops.
    Koreans in the form of Gojoseon is a difficult subject, because their homebase is very far off to the east, you'd have to add a huge sea portion just to accommodate a few coastline home settlements. I'm thinking the approach for Koreans is rather a small presence in the sliver of northeastern coastline next to Yan, and their portrayal largely in the form of naval attacks (if at war) or trade (if at peace). Through trade war and even allied navies, Koreans can provide a naval element to the game by being able to buy mercenaries, convince or coerce them to attack enemy factions' ports, or force them off the map early on for initial territorial gains.
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  • daelin4daelin4 Senior Member Posts: 13,418Registered Users
    edited May 20
    Unit Design

    A major problem in my view of designing a strategy game around Warring States period is that, unlike later periods, none of the iconic Chinese elements of warfare existed back then. You didn't have cool rockets or cannons or even repeating crossbows, practically everything was still bronze, despite centuries of knowledge into iron technology, and much of the military knowledge we know of the period have little to do with what soldiers looked like or fought but rather how the political narratives played out.
    The best way to deal with this is to merely find plausible extrapolations, and a bit of reasonable imagination, to come up with unit designs that not only suit the period, but diverse enough that some factions can boast some unique flavour from others; not an easy task given that it's hard enough to even come up with a roster for everyone, let alone one that is interesting for players.
    What exacerbates the problem further is that, in order to make for a good sandbox campaign, you actually have to push the game date further back so that factions are in their infantry rather than in their prime, but which makes prospective unit rosters appear even more primitive. A double-edged sword because while it makes for a larger roster where units go from primitive bronze units to more sophisticated iron weapons, that's even less likely to appeal to players via coolness factor, unless you really want a game where chariots were the tactical equivalent to tanks and that cavalry is largely unheard of.

    Having said that, here's a compilation of units that might fit the bill of historically authentic yet practical for a strategy game:

    Dagger axe units: there's an interestingly large variety of dagger-axe heads uncovered from that period; the early "axe-only" variants, lacking a spearpoint called a "Ge", were early Shang weapons ranging from handheld to polearms; the more iconic "ji", often translated as "halberd", were predominant in the game period, of which were merely ge weapons with the conventional spearhead. Later units can ditch the concept entirely and use typical spears, reflecting an increasingly greater emphasis of large mass, closed ranks formation combat that required a thrusting rather than chopping motions. For simplicity's sake, I'll refer to the latter as simply "halberds".

    -short spear/ axe-style units: dagger axes of relatively short polearm length, as well as short conventional spears of more primitive design are found in modern illustrations of Shang/ Zhou warriors. These can serve as basic militia units
    -middle-length spear units: typical spearmen with both dagger-axe or conventional spear variety, first effective infantry against cavalry units.
    -halberd infantry: the next evolution of spear infantry, this combines regular spears with the hooking capacity of dagger-axes; these can be designed similarly to MTW2's Billmen unit, being particularly effective against cavalry as well as armour piercing, at the cost of poorer armour.
    -pikemen: longer spears and abandoning the perpendicular blades make for increasingly potent defensive infantry, to be used much like pike in phalanx mode in Rome2

    Chariots: one major obstacle for this idea is that chariots are a very prominent element of early Chinese warfare, andthat in Total War, chariots were commonly designed and used like battering rams on steroids; you charge the unit straight into formations and have them run around wreaking havoc with their large hitboxes; Egyptian chariots in RTW are practically the iconic element of "cheese" for the series, and even in Warhammer, Chaos chariots exhibit the same behaviour.
    In both reality in general and Chinese warfare in particular, chariots did not behave in this way; they're used for their mobility to carry warriors close into fighting range, and retreat whenever necessary; having horses carrying you around is much better than running about with your legs, it also means you need not worry about personal loadout, as chariots manned by four horses can quite readily ferry a wooden platform with as many as four-five men riding in the cab. "Command" chariots, where the occupants were not going to be making the forces gallop about performing manouvres, were also more likely to be lavishly furnished with things like drums or sunshades since their roles weren't tactical combat but supporting the army behind the lines. While Chinese chariots are described as having features like scythes on the axles these are clearly designed as deterrents from counterattacks, not as an offensive damage multiplier.
    The good news is that chariots as a result would actually resemble much like real cavalry for the Chinese factions given their roles in combat, so while they are larger, inflexible and used more like faster skirmishers and support units, they still offer unique fighting capabilities that even cavalry units don't provide. A list of possible unit designs are as follows:

    -missile chariots: light to heavy chariots designed to accommodate varying amount of missile firepower; these offer no melee advantage and indeed will falter once caught anything that's not a light skirmishing unit. The variety of these units can rnge from small and cheap chariots with just one archer, to larger vehicles accommodating more archers per unit, providing more firepower despite a larger profile to be shot at by the enemy. Like all chariot unit types, missile chariots remain excellent pursuit vehicles, but like all chariot units terrain and massed formations are their primary limitations.
    -anti-cavalry chariots: this type of chariot unit features spearmen in the cab rather than archers, and are excellent at pursuit and attacking other chariots; however like all chariots they are still unsuitable for rough terrain and against massed formations.
    - mixed chariots: a subtype that blends the capabilities of missile and melee, featuring spearmen as well as archer in the cab. As a result this type is more expensive but more versatile in the aforementioned roles.
    - supporting chariots: these units are not designed to engage in combat, but rather exist to provide buffs to their army's units. Chariots with drums and flags, or the general riding in the chariot, are examples of such units. They are slow and poor in combat, but make up for it with large auras and featuring better armour.
    - crossbow chariots: lacking the damage and range of archer chariots, this variant instead offers increased rate of fire, offering steady volume of projectiles. This could be a unique unit among some factions, given the idea's historically unsupported nature.
    - artillery chariots: chariots with simply a driver who also needs to stop to man the large crossbow installed onto the cab, making this unit require the tactical drawback of not moving in order to fire. I imagine two subvariants, one where the crossbow is fixed facing the front, limiting tactical flexibility, and one which a rotating crossbow "turret" as a unique, elite unit. While large "siege" varieties of crossbows were made during this time, having them in chariots is entirely conjectural. These units trade rate of fire and tactical flexibility for increased range and armour piercing damage, operating similarly like field artillery in previous TW games.

    Artillery weapons: there were obviously no gunpowder or even incendiary weapons used during this era, and any heavy weapons would involve upscaled missile projectors; there were no torsion-based weapons either (ie catapults), the closest we have would be large crossbows mounted on fixed or wheeled frames, sometimes with two or three bowstaves to produce more power to throw the heavier bolts. The very limited references I can find on ancient Chinese artillery seems to be due to the fact that massed ranks of crossbowmen are more practical and flexible in both field battles and in siege battlements, so much of the ideas would have to be borderline fictional; the good news is that any made-up units can utilize more common or iconic names to make them easy to identify.

    - Siege crossbow: also sometimes described as a "triple crossbow" due to three bowstaves, this is merely a gigantic crossbow firing giant bolts; subvariants can be one that fires multiple projectiles at once, and if you want to stretch the imagination, a giant version of bullet crossbows firing stone projectiles
    - Traction mangonels: there are ancient illustrations very close to the period of what seems to be a trebuchet where at least four men pull on ropes to generate power for the throwing arm; Shogun2 features a near-identical unit, though in that game it's practical use was very limited due to gunpowder weapons; this unit can be the game's "mortar", it's primary feature being able to fire projectiles in a higher arc than other weapons.

    Missile infantry: another iconic element of ancient Chinese warfare are infantry armed with crossbows: by the Warring States period proper, they were practically used everywhere and in large numbers. There can be a wide range of unit variants with differing levels of quality in regards to rate of fire, range, (in)ability to fight in melee, and armour.

    -Crossbow militia: basic low-level crossbowmen in the early game, leveraging manpower and low cost to players to field suitable numbers of units for volume of fire.
    -Crossbow levies: a nominal step up of militia, slightly superior in nearly all areas; the most common variety of crossbow infantry in the game.
    -Elite variants: some factions may boast unique versions of crossbowmen such as Qin Palace Guards, featuring good armour and equal match for regular melee infantry, while also boasting the best crossbow firepower available to infantry units. Another variant could be something like larger crossbows, firing deadlier projectiles but even poorer melee staying power.
    -Bullet Crossbowmen: a variety of crossbow that trades firepower and range for stealth, suitable for unconventional factions that may revolve more around subterfuge
    -Bow infantry: to provide an in-game contrast, infantry using bows would have unique properties compared with crossbows, such as having greater quality units in melee, ability to shoot from concealed positions without being exposed, ability to fire projectiles at a higher trajectory, and greater rate of fire. Similar to Shogun2, elite archers may have smaller unit sizes, but are more capable in melee and fire more accurate missiles. Non-Chinese factions like the southern tribes and northern nomads would feature more bows rather crossbows for their mainstay ranged units.

    Missile cavalry: obviously a distinctive element of nomadic factions, horse archers can eventually be acquired by Chinese factions, allowing them to supplement or replace chariot units. For sake of game balance the majority of ranged missile cavalry would be poor in a melee fight, but excellent in pursuit, harass and flanking of the enemy.

    -Bow Cavalry: typical missile cavalry unit, like foot counterparts are more accurate than crossbows and can fire arrows at an arc, and much better accuracy when firing on the move. Elite armoured variants such as generals' bodyguards are more resilient from attacks, but also move slower and are expensive. The northern Chinese states adopted mounted warfare quite early on, and their success compared with chariots practically eclipsed the initial disdain towards using barbarian methods of war. Qin artifacts include some pretty detailed chariot items, though they are presumed to be retained largely for ceremonial or support functions by the time the Qin dynasty was established.
    -Mounted Crossbowmen: there is scant reference of crossbow technology advanced enough that riders can wield them without needing to dismount. While offer greater unit size and volume of fire, this unit's ranged firepower is inferior to mounted archers unless firing in larger formations.
    -Mounted Skirmishers: the earliest Chinese adopters of cavalry seemed reluctant to use cavalry as mainstay, so peasants and nomadic mercenaries were apparently the first riders of cavalry in Chinese armies. These light cavalry could function as scouts, pursuers or otherwise light support for armies, using javelins and speed as their tactical edge.

    Swords were common by the this time period in China, but usage was limited to the short variety as spears and missiles negated any lengthened blade designs, and their much larger usage of metal more or less makes them limited to that of aristocrats and elite guardsmen. Long swords have been unearthed dating to Qin period, it is possible they were more popular later on as resources were more readily available.

    Sword infantry: a number of illustrations in the Osprey book depicts some unique types of warriors that factions can use. --Short-handled dagger-axes lacking spear points, appear to be basic weapons with minimum amount of bronze metal, affixed to short handles,their usage appears to be similar to warhammers, suitable to punching through wooden shields. Non-Chinese units (in the Osprey book, a "Tien" (likely of the Dian Kingdom) warrior from the Sichuan region, south of Qin and west of Chu), feature a weapon looking more like an early battle axe similar in appearance to early Egyptian axes, but with a flared head like that of modern tomahawk designs.
    -short swords: their appearance is described much like the Roman gladius, short thrusting swords with wide double edged blade and short tapering tip, with rounded guards with two rings in the handle for better grip; sword and shield units could be an elite infantry unit, able to ward off missile attacks and counter any other infantry in melee.
    -long swords were a later evolution, narrower and longer taper, used by both cavalry and infantrymen, though their usage seemed limited to the former because of longer spears and inability to wield in larger formations. Infantry with long swords and shield can be an upper-tier elite unit, but featuring smaller numbers per unit, boasting excellent melee stats but slow and vulnerable to missiles.

    -Melee cavalry: There seems to be little information regarding what cavalry wield during this time, but the good ews is that it's open to many speculative unit designs.

    -Pike cavalry: cavalry using long halberd spears are excellent anti-cavalry/ chariot units, but poor melee power when fighting infantry
    -sword cavalry: excellent melee troops with the benefit of speed
    -short-polarm cavalry: shorter spears means they are more versatile compared to other cavalry types
    -dagger-axe cavalry: early version of sword cavalry
    Post edited by daelin4 on
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  • daelin4daelin4 Senior Member Posts: 13,418Registered Users
    edited May 22
    Culture differentiation

    I'd organize the "Race" categories of factions by three: Nomads (northern barbarians) Tribesmen (southern barbarians) and Chinese. There were historically other subcategories but they seem to lack any meaningful differentiation suitable for the game, so it is better off to simply put them in one of the three major groups.

    Cultural mechanics: I envision two possible ways to simulate cultural exchange between factions of different races, the old MTW2 Kingdoms: Britannia style, and the more modern usual culture/ religion mechanics used in Rome2 and Attila.

    MTW2 system: Similar to Rome2's system, culture works like religion mechanics in most TW games: percentage of a settlement can be converted to other cultures, and results in certain modifiers like increased/ decreased public order.
    The unique MTW2 system allowed progressive unlocks for special unis to be recruited based on culture: for example, a settlement with 80% nomadic culture allows armies to recruit various types of nomadic units, ie horse archers; raising it higher to 90% unlocks better variants, whereas if it falls to 70% you lose the ability to recruit certain units. Players with settlements of certain culture percentages are thus given more diverse options to recruit certain units.
    Percentage of certain cultures may have an influence on public order, much like how previous TW titles work, and some factions have bonuses towards certain cultures to mitigate some of the negative effects; northern Chinese factions, for example, have bonuses that negate some of the nomadic culture penalties that other Chinese factions do not. Character traits, retinue, commandments and variety of other ideas can also contribute to players being able to expand and control territories of other cultures without crushing penalties.
    A variant of this idea I wish to make is for a faction to integrate some cultural elements into the faction permanently, with bonuses and drawbacks like increased access to foreign units and features, reduced culture penalties, but with the penalty of diplomatic relations with other factions; a sort of progressive versus conservatism element in the game that challenges players to consider adopting certain game elements normally not available to them, at the expense of other game elements that may have been taken for granted. This simulates the dilemma of a Chinese state adopting nomadic or other barbarian elements for benefit of survival, versus preserving tradition. Shogun2's Fall of the Samurai feature a similar mechanic, though it was largely linear and the benefits of choosing to progress to better technology considerably lopsided: for this game I envision a more pragmatic and balanced approach where the decision to not adapt would have largely tactical limitations: nomads won't do well in the southern forests, and chariots won't perform well in hilly terrain.
    Another element of this mechanic are there being multiple ways to get around these kinds limitations, with their own set of benefits and penalties: adopting nomadic elements is a permanent and wider scale solution for a Chinese state, but workarounds involve simply hiring foreign mercenaries: should I adopt nomadic culture and be free to produce as many horse archers I want at low cost, or imply hire the few horse archers I can find at higher cost and remain friends with other Chinese factions?

    Cultural Integration: this mechanic is similar to technology and Shogun2 Fall of the Samurai's Modernization mechanic: as a faction acquires certain technologies and makes certain decisions, foreign elements are permanent adopted into that faction's gameplay design, ie new structures and new units are now accessible. Some elements can be adopted and discarded for some penalties, and others can only be adopted permanently. Depending on what is being adopted, there will be a variety of bonuses and penalties associated with the decision, such as increased or decreased cultural penalties with public order and diplomacy, army morale (temporary or permanent), effects on general loyalty and unit stats.

    Prospective examples:
    Adopting light nomadic cavalry: unlocks basic cavalry units, cost of chariot units increased
    Adopting medium nomadic cavalry: unlocks medium cavalry units, increased cost of chariots, light chariots no longer accessible
    Adopting heavy nomadic cavalry: unlocks heavy cavalry, further increased cost of chariots, medium chariots no longer available, all cavalry costs slightly cheaper
    Post edited by daelin4 on
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