The Wargamer

23 July 2017

Developer Feature: Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar - Logistics

Rob McConnell, lead designer for Hegemony Rome: Rise of Caesar drops off an interesting article on how the game itself interprets the logistics and siege works of warfare in the 1st century B.C.

Published on 28 FEB 2012 3:28pm by The Wargamer
  1. Longbow Games
  2. roman empire, europe, pc

"The history of war proves that nine out of ten times an army has been destroyed because its supply lines have been cut off…. "

                                    General Douglas MacArthur

Alexander the Great once said that if he were to lose a battle he'd slay his logisticians first. Clearly, generals have long known the critical role that logistics plays in warfare, so when we set out to create a new series of historical wargames we wanted to make sure that logistical strategy could play as important a role in the outcome of a battle as the tactical decisions. We obviously weren't the first game company to tackle this subject, but we found that most games on the market tended to focus either solely on resource collection, ignoring some of the most interesting logistical decisions, or were so complicated or obscure that they excluded all but the very serious wargamer. Additionally, being a historical game we wanted to make sure we were able to recreate some of the particular logistical issues of the periods we covered, such as the importance of Athen's sea routes during the Peloponnesian War or Caesar's supply camps in Gaul.

Needless to say, as a small team with fairly ambitious goals, there was a lot of experimentation during development. We decided early on that units would require supplies in order to maintain morale. This allowed us to recreate some interesting and realistic scenarios such as allowing light units to force a larger army to retreat by burning resupply points or harassing them until they've exhausted their supplies. However, we went through a number of ideas for how units would get their supplies, including tethering them to a city with supply lines or using an overlay grid to track supplied and unsupplied terrain. Unfortunately, both of these ideas tended to clutter the map with distracting, continually shifting overlays and proved very expensive computationally for what they accomplished. We were sure there had to be a more elegant solution. Our goal was to let the player focus on the strategic decisions without getting bogged down micromanaging the loading and unloading supplies, but still be true to the logistical problems of the era. So ultimately we settled on a straightforward system where cities had a local resupply range where units could safely fight within while drawing supplies from the city. If a unit moved further into the field they'd automatically fill their internal stockpile from the city which gave them a week or two of independence before needing to resupply. Though it is a clear and almost simple mechanic, it still made “history” possible.

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City-based constraints forced players to make strategic decisions like whether to stick to fast and light troops that can cover more terrain before resupplying or to establish a staging area in hostile territory where slower units can resupply before encountering the enemy. The inclusion of seasonal variation also let players plan an invasion during the harvest where they can resupply from the enemy fields or to siege a coastal city during the winter months when storms prevent ports from resupplying from the sea. Raiding also became a valuable tactic as players could significantly weaken an opponent by sending in light troops to burn the enemy's farms thereby reducing their capacity to campaign.

In addition to what supplies a unit can carry with them, Hegemony also lets you create supply lines between farms, forts and cities that automatically move resources to where you need them. We experimented a lot on the exact mechanism the game would use to route supplies. Early attempts moved discrete packets of food between the cities via ox-cart units, but this proved to be far too slow for gameplay as it could literally take hours to see the results of a player's decision to stockpile supplies in a city as the resources slowly moved across their empire. Alternatively, a more abstract system we implemented could balance supplies so efficiently that units were essentially tapping into a global pool when they resupplied from a city. Our goal was to emphasize the strategic differences between areas that were well supplied via abundant farmland or good trade routes, and remote regions where supplying an army required more planning. So, eventually we found an effective mechanic where cities were essentially greedy and those closest to the farms would take their share first and only pass along the excess. Players had some options for telling cities how much to stockpile before sharing but essentially the cities closest to the farms had priority.

These supply lines enabled players to intuitively impose land or naval blockades in order to starve enemy cities when a direct assault was not viable or just to draw the enemy out into the field where a player's forces might stand a better chance of victory. Furthermore, the limited capacity of these supply lines, in terms of how fast they could move supplies into an area, also imposed realistic challenges to concentrating a large army in a single location.

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All in all, the combination of these few mechanics allowed the first Hegemony games to capture the essence of ancient Greek warfare better than almost anything on the market. Whether it was the initial stalemate of the Peloponnesian War, as the Spartans destroyed the farms of the Attic peninsula while the Athenians retreated to the safety of their walls to receive resupplies from sea, to the eventual Spartan victory by cutting off the Athenian grain supplies in the Black Sea, players got a fresh take on logistics in Hegemony that we were eager to try out in more campaigns.

So when we started researching topics for a new Hegemony game, we were immediately drawn to the Gallic Wars because of the importance Julius Caesar himself put on logistics in his own account of the conflict. Here we could use our existing model to recreate a well-documented, first person account of how food supply affected the larger plan. Repeatedly, Caesar mentions how his strategy was driven by the availability of both his and his enemy's supplies. For example, early in the war Caesar forced the Helvetti to surrender by capturing their baggage train but later on Caesar's own campaign was nearly cut short when a poor harvest forced him to spread his legions out across northern Gaul and the Belgic tribes took the opportunity of more favourable odds to attack his legions one at time.

Although the essential mechanics from the first games are still in use, when we design a Hegemony game we look at more than just changing the map and units. For Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar, we really wanted to capture what makes warfare unique to the period and Caesar employed a number of strategies that differed from his Greek predecessors.

One of his frequent tactics was to heavily load his legions for the march into an area and then build a fortified camp to store those supplies while he campaigned. We've modelled this behaviour with some of the new construction options and marching orders in Hegemony Rome. For example, the player now has the option of building supply camps at thousands of points across the map, and these camps will automatically resupply units in the area and can be connected back to friendly forts, cities or farms with supply lines like in the original game. To make it easier to campaign, we've significantly increased the resupply radius around camps, forts and cities so there's more room for manoeuvring without worrying about getting beyond resupply range. However, we've also made that resupply zone smarter so that it extends further into open terrain than it does across rivers or into mountain passes so picking the best location for your camp is very important.

Another favoured tactic of Caesar's was to outfit his legions with very few supplies so they could move quickly into an area where supplies had already been established. This approach may have been most notable in the winter of 53 B.C.E. when Caesar moved swiftly without baggage to Quintus Cicero's defense after finally receiving notice of his commander's desperate situation. To recreate this in Hegemony Rome, we've expanded the old formation system so that, in addition to defining a unit's arrangement on the battlefield, formations also imply specific behaviours such as how many supplies a unit can carry and how fast they can march. This now allows players to choose whether they want to pack lightly so they can move faster into an already secured area or alternatively carry additional supplies at a cost to combat in order to setup a well stocked camp in a new area.

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On top of the new logistics features in Hegemony Rome, we also tried to refine the supply line mechanics from the original games. Particularly, we've shifted the GUI to focus more on end-to-end transfers to make it easier for players to see exactly where their supplies are going. For example, when you select a city there's a new trade tab in the GUI that will give players a quick list of the farms that are supplying the city and you'll be able to see the route they're travelled on the strategy map.

It's been an intriguing experience adapting and expanding our logistics system to incorporate the strategies of one of the most celebrated generals of all time. Hegemony Rome marks the continued evolution of the Hegemony series and with it our attempt at making logistical decisions in a wargame as critical to victory as the usual tactical or diplomatic strategies, all the while still maintaining the fact that in the end it's a game and needs to be fun. 


Article written by: Rob McConnell, Lead Designer of Hegemony Rome: Rise of Caesar


For more information on Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar, click here for the official website!