GWJ Strategy Club Game 4: Imperator Rome COMPLETED

I think I may try Crete this week, to get away from the Republic complexities.

Egypt goes well with more than one speed bump. As tempting as the magnanimous and egalitarian narrative choices might be, one does not wear the purple wisely by ACTUALLY trying to make everyone happy.

Case in point - Pop management - In an attempt to resolve research point efficiencies, I chose a few ethnicities to promote to citizen in the hopes of improving output. Of course, this had the consequence of infuriating my existing integrated cultures and steeped me in decades of local revolts. I was able to ease some of this with cultural decisions. It is a bit aggravating to have a tiny window of opportunity between when a province nears disloyalty (30%-40%) and then the long tail of <30% where there's little or nothing you can do to prevent an actual uprising.

One other thing I've noticed about the new system: Civil wars (especially as a Great Power) seem more common yet haven't yet been fatal. I remember my last pre-2.0 game as Rome ending in spectacular Crusader Kings fashion as half the empire closed ranks behind a Roman rival with Carthage on the ropes but still looming. This left me with the feeling that every attempt to bring a disloyal character to heel could flat out end my game. Now it seems more organic and maybe a bit more on par with cultural revolts (i.e. : Annoying but easily crushed), albeit with multiple provinces in far flung corners rising up in tandem.

Almost done with the Greater Empire mission. Once I take Carthage, it will be a choice of whether to turn my eye towards Rome or look to the Seleucids in the East.

You should join us Sunday to offer your wisdom.

Started a new game as Rome and focused on keeping cash to hand and building infrastructure (bonuses through trade and leadership, not just buildings). I found that my first war, with a few judicious lootings, was able to fund about 5 public buildings with strategic effects. I also faced down an unhappy governor who was prepared to rebel, by befriending him and then letting him manage the big lootings, which made him popular, rich and happy. Luckily he is good at his job and since he's an Optimates, I brought in a new Boni-aligned family to balance out his excesses in the Senate. (The Populares can take care of their own corrupt selves lol.)

The one weird thing is that I turned my 10 ship navy loose during the war, and when it was done they were gone. I missed the notifications. I'm thinking they took on an enemy allied fleet or something and lost. I'm rebuilding now....

This responsible approach to the initial wars seems to be paying off. I have not activated the "Conquer Italia" mission yet; I'm working on taking out the small states in the south first. Etruria has not had a civil war or big external war to weaken it yet, so I'm waiting to go north. Building my economy and biding my time till I can take out the remnants of Apulia...

...And I ruined my careful approach by not paying attention. I had decided to take on Etruria, so I set up to research a fake casus belli. Politics were going on, but I shut up the incompetent leader of a family by giving one of his relatives a domain, so I figured I was good. I got a notice that an election was upcoming, but then the success of my casus belli popped literally on top of it! I got all excited and declared war with my 10 skill leader.

Then the election put the idiot in charge. I didn't really think about it; it's just another family, right? Wrong. For some reason, the enemy was literally marching me around in circles, taking provinces and then marching away before I could catch them. In the previous wars, I had done that to my enemies! When I checked during a battle, I realized that the enemy leader had a war skill of 14.

And my new leader.... 2. OMFG.

The war dragged on long enough that not only was I in danger of a White Peace, which would have been okay except that I could not force it, but because everyone hated the new leader, a civil war kicked off. Now I was stuck with this idiot and getting shafted from within as well as without.

At that point I quit without saving, although I suspect the Ironman setting was on. Just goes to show how quickly this game can turn on you. Gotta sweat the details.

Maybe Rome is not the best start to learn with lol.

I was finally able to find time to start the tutorial. I am still working my way through it, but I see what people mean by it being kind of inadequate. The first task tells you you're unstable and just go click this button and voila, stable again. I learned nothing about what stability is, why it's important and what impacts it. I have played EU games before so I am not coming in here completely blind. So far, this tutorial is at best a guide on where to find some UI elements. Oh well. I knew what I was getting myself into. To youtube!

Join us next Sunday at 5pm Eastern on Discord and we can talk over the elements of the game. I'm still learning, but between us we can push what we know further along.

Stability runs on a scale of 0 to 100 that is balanced between good effects and bad at 50. As it goes over 50, bonuses appear; as it sinks below, maluses show up instead. Things that can effect stability are declaring war without a casus belli; breaking a truce; your response to many events that pop up; and so forth. Low stability can also lead to unrest and civil war, eventually.

Robear thanks for the overview yesterday! I hated leaving early but the kiddo is ok. Just needed an ice pack and some TLC.

No worries. The war crashed horribly so you would not have learned much anyway.

Yep, thanks Robear. The overview and Q&A were very useful, even the outcome of the rush into war was a good lesson learned I'll be getting a few hours play in this week, I look forward to joining another Discord stream, hopefully this Sun.

I'm thinking build your economy before going to war, get a good bankroll, make sure of your leaders capabilities, that sort of thing.

After trying a few different runs in February, back before the Club period started, I started my first "official" Club run of Imperator: Rome tonight. So far I'm enjoying myself, although I'm not quite sure how long I'll stick with it.

Partly, my caution is probably because I'm still in the early stages of understanding how everything works. Partly, this is also probably due to I:R-specific issues. And partly, I wonder if I'm starting to fall out of love with Paradox's design philosophy, after nearly 20 years playing their games.

Fundamentally, Paradox games are the antithesis of the Sid Meier/Firaxis philosophy that "a strategy game is a series of interesting decisions" and "perfection is achieved when there is nothing more that can be taken away". Instead of a few choices with big, visible, qualitatively different effects (e.g. class abilities in XCOM or unit abilities in Alpha Centauri or racial abilities in, say, Stars in Shadow), Paradox games are about stacking up lots of +2.50% and +5.00% bonuses until they add up to a decisive advantage. Instead of a few cities or planets, as in "traditional" 4X games, Paradox gives you dozens of provinces to manage. As such, I don't think "strategy" is what they do best. What Paradox games DO excel at is immersing the player in their setting - a historical period, or, in the case of Stellaris, a galactic space opera - and in creating emergent narratives.

In the case of I:R, I found that while small countries (Olbia and Bactria) were a very quick ticket to the Game Over screen, starting with a large country (Egypt) made it very, very hard to feel as though I had any real control over, or attachment to, what was going on. For tonight's game, I started as Rome -- which is a lot more challenging without the boosts from the tutorial! Rome is in a sweet spot: large enough to have agency, small enough to be manageable. I defeated and vassalised Etruria and Sabinia, annexed Samnium, and also grappled with several civil wars along the way -- including a particularly nasty one that saw Rome cut off from its hinterland by the rebels and their Etruscan allies (this was where I learned that client states can support the rebellion during a civil war...) until my mercenary hirelings turned the tide. Along the way I passed the Princeps Civitatis (First Citizen) law, which extended Consul terms by 45 years -- and addressed one of my biggest problems with republics in I:R, which is that the short term limits make it very hard to keep track of / become attached to individual characters. Now I'm trying to raise my relations with the Etruscans so I can diplo-annex them, and planning how to set up my first legion and expand further in the south of Italy.

Am I having fun? I think so. This post became more positive the further I got into it! After blundering around at first, I managed to find my way into a flow state as I tried to extricate myself from the consequences of my decisions. Will I still be having fun in one, or two, or three sessions' time? I could very well become bored after eating Italy, or the civil wars might become interminable (this happened in my Egypt game, and is the recurring curse of CK2/CK3), or I could be distracted by another game. Or I could lead Rome onto its glorious destiny! I guess we'll see.

I think the difference here, as it always seems to be, is that the systems in Paradox games are intended to emphasize the cyclical nature of historical events, as well as their complexity. Civ and similar games are reductionist, with the goal of "have fun beating the enemy comprehensively". As you noted, Paradox games are not reductionist in the same way; they seem to look at the flow of history, but also social change, political systems, technology advances, that sort of thing. So Paradox is "Create the story of your country or family over hundreds of years". And yes, a large part of that is building systems that are almost impossible to min/max in conjunction with each other. Min/maxing is not the best way to play these games, I feel... It's more fun making your decisions with wild abandon, at least occasionally.

Civ is about catching and surfing the perfect wave, while Paradox is about chronicling the entire season, storms and all. That's how I see it.

Robear wrote:

Min/maxing is not the best way to play these games, I feel... It's more fun making your decisions with wild abandon, at least occasionally.

Civ is about catching and surfing the perfect wave, while Paradox is about chronicling the entire season, storms and all. That's how I see it.

Yes -- I completely agree. You know Jesse Schell's definition of a toy vs a game -- a toy is something you play with, whereas a game is a structured, rule-based, win/lose experience? I think Paradox makes much better toys than games.

I think the best, most apples-for-apples comparison is Stellaris vs other space 4X games: I think MOO2 (or, more recently, Stars in Shadow) are much, much better as win/lose experiences where the fun is in min-maxing race designs, optimising a planet, or designing the perfect plasma cannon cruiser. The reason I love Stellaris is for its atmosphere, its narrative events (anomalies, archaeology), and the emergent narrative that it tells about the player's species rising to galactic mastery, fighting crises and Awakened Empires along the way. Stellaris' mechanics are strongest when they contribute to that emergent narrative -- a late-game empire that can generate almost unlimited raw materials from megastructures, and then refine them on a ecumenopolis, is qualitatively different from an early or mid-game empire that's still reliant on finding and specialising, planets with the right natural resources.

In the case of I:R, I think my biggest concern with the design is that everything seems way too granular. Consider just one system, provincial management. For a city such as Rome or Alexandria, I have to keep track of:
- Anywhere from 5-6 to over a dozen trade routes (and a giant selection of trade goods, each with its own provincial and national/capital bonus).
- Dozens of pops, divided along three axes: ethnicity, religion, and social class.
- Multiple building slots, each of which can be filled by over a dozen building types.
- Happiness for all these different pops.
- A governor policy.

Which numbers should I be looking at? Which levers should I pull, and which ones truly matter? Even a small country has multiple cities and rural settlements, each of which has its own management screen!

And that's only one system. Characters? I'd be interested in a character-driven depiction of, say, the fall of the Roman Republic -- but even a small country in I:R has as many characters as there are courtiers/vassals in a large kingdom or small empire in CK2/CK3. Most of these characters don't seem to matter -- the key seems to be mollifying the great families and people with a strong powerbase. So if most of them are pointless, why are they in the game? The tech tree is huge, but it's mostly +2.5%s, +5%s, and +10%s; so far I've only come across a handful of qualitatively different techs, such as the one that unlocks legions. Should it have been designed around fewer, more important techs? Military manoeuvres? There's a large, detailed map to march over .... but, well, I just leave my armies on automatic mode.

I:R has had a difficult history and has passed through the hands of different designers, and that's undoubtedly influenced the game we're playing today. At the same time, I can't help but wonder if it represents Paradox's hyper-detailed design philosophy being taken to an extreme. Remember the excesses of the HOI3/Victoria 2 generation of Paradox games, versus how much more playable CK2 was? I think my fear for I:R is that it ends up being a throwback to the pre-CK2 days.

My approach has developed into "know what the elements are, but don't mess with them until you have to". These really are games that will slow to glacial creep speeds if you try to min/max everything. Not that that is what you propose, necessarily. But for example, the provincial management... Don't even look at a province until there is a problem, beyond a glance at the start to figure out whether there's anything weird going on. It'll mostly take care of itself.

When you need more taxes, or a bonus, or you've lost an import, *then* dive in and deal with selecting a new one. That's quick and easy. Worry about pops and distribution only if you have issues with unrest or manpower. Building slots are a bit more useful, long-term; put together a simple plan for what you think might benefit the province and take a look when you have the money. The use of the buildings is pretty clear and the bonuses are in the pop-up when you select one. Happiness is easy; if they are happy, leave them alone. If not, do something to make them happier (generally involving the last point, governor policy. And that in turn is the only thing you need to worry about at an empire level, for provinces, and can help with sweeping policy changes (like raising more money, integrating conquered pops, enriching governors, etc.).

So there's no real worry about having to *manage* provinces, for the simple reason that they will carry on without your management in generally useful ways, most of the time. When we say these games are "set it and forget it", that means that all these knobs and switches are *generally* reactive in use. The game does a great job of warning you where problems are, and really, once you are past the initial settings, that's when you should be reacting to the problems that are coming up.

If you try to watch all these indicators and "trim up" the ship of state at that granular level, the game will become less a game and more of a management spreadsheet. Don't do it. Focus on the big decisions and let the small stuff cruise until you actually need to go down to the engine room and make changes...

(BTW, automatic mode for armies is chancing things. I use it mostly for the small armies that are not needed for my primary goals. They will tend to get their butts kicked by good AI commanders, so beware of that level of automation...).

BTW, the small families in the game can become great families via events over time, and they often have excellent leaders, which leads to the dilemma - great family sucking-up, or great leader placement? That becomes more chaotic as you try to build a *stable* power base, and while I still don't have great command of that system, I've seen enough to know that the small families are not just window dressing...

I use the word 'surf' with Paradox games but in the other direction; you're just surfing history, so while you have some control over where you go and how you do it, the wave is going where it's going.

I just add whichever province improvement seems right when I start maxing out influence, without a big plan.

An issue I'm having in my smaller game (Judea) is that if you're not one of the big boys there's often not a whole lot to do other than develop your country. Right now Egypt owns pretty everything in my neighborhood from the Nile through southern Turkey. If I was running Egypt I'd have squashed a little nation almost entirely in my borders by now but I guess the AI's less aggressive.

I did manage to grab a couple of provinces from the Egyptian Revolt when they had a big civil war, which was fun; at least I have some coast now. I may take a shot at conquering Cyprus if it's in my diplomatic range.

That's kind of realistic, though. The Egyptians alternated between letting Judea be a trading partner client state, and actually taking it over, while the Judeans fought their share of wars of conquest with neighboring city states.

I need to get back into this in the next couple of weeks. What’s turning me off is it seems to be stuck between an RPG and grand strategy. I like EU 4 and Crusader Kings because they pick a side.

My Judea game just finished up. I did grab Cyprus from the Antigonids (which was really all they had) once I had the range, which was pretty easy. Just in the last few years Egypt had another revolt right next to me, and I completely carpet-sieged all their land. I grabbed Galilee, Decapolis, and one or two more provinces to the north. I also wanted to go south but probably messed up the war demands, as all I got was the territory of Gaza but no more of the province. Ended up in 3rd place with about 3500 points, behind the Persians at 3700 and Rome with 11,000. Rome didn't go east in my game; they had a big chunk of Gaul and Germania, and went more northeast than historically. They did go imperial about 200BCE. Macedon stayed around and held half of Greece and most of Anatolia, and I guess the Romans flowed around them.

I'd like to find some better ways of manipulating large neighbors if I try that again. I couldn't see any way to manipulate them into civil wars, or starting wars with another great power that I could leverage to my advantage.

I did have some fun with a character spawned by a military improvement that had XV military skill, but ended up being very disloyal- and also in charge of my royal legion. I bought him off, replaced him while he was briefly loyal, and then he started a civil war which he lost, which was the end of him.

Congrats, qaraq!

Nice game, qaraq!


I skimmed through the thread and saw the earlier tutorial video posted, but I'm wondering if anyone has stumbled onto a 2.0 tutorial they've found helpful?

Danisstoned has updated some of his videos and done new ones for 2.0.

Robear wrote:

Danisstoned has updated some of his videos and done new ones for 2.0.

Perfect, thank you!

Godzilla Blitz wrote:

I skimmed through the thread and saw the earlier tutorial video posted, but I'm wondering if anyone has stumbled onto a 2.0 tutorial they've found helpful?

I found this playlist by Lord lambert. Three concise videos covering the 2.0 basics for beginners.

Neutrino wrote:
Godzilla Blitz wrote:

I skimmed through the thread and saw the earlier tutorial video posted, but I'm wondering if anyone has stumbled onto a 2.0 tutorial they've found helpful?

I found this playlist by Lord lambert. Three concise videos covering the 2.0 basics for beginners.

Thanks! Coincidentally, I found those last night and started watching them in bed. I think they were good, but I fell asleep during the first one. I was really tired. I'll give them another shot.

I started messing around with a tribe in Iberia, just starting a game and poking around menus and whatnot. Seems noticeably improved since release.

I also have found this video by One Proud Bavarian to be quite helpful in getting started. He talks about some first things to do when you start a game, and what to look for.

Thanks GB!

Robear wrote:

Thanks GB!

I made some progress last night. It's very different than 1.0 was, almost a new game really with how the mechanics have changed. I'm liking what I'm seeing. There feels like there is a lot to learn. I had two wars last night. Our tiny tribal nation now has four territories instead of two. We did win a war where we couldn't take the territory because we weren't adjacent to it. Bummer.

Challenges I'm mucking about with at the moment. Not necessarily looking for answers, these are more "problems I'm trying to figure out".

- I have territories in two provinces. One of the provinces doesn't have any trade routes open, wondering how to get a trade route working there.

- Population growth. Our numbers are small. When we go to war, I inevitably end the war with less population. And they aren't replenishing quickly. And... emigration to neighboring territories seems to be draining tribesmen. How do I get my population to grow?

- Population advancement. For a small tribe, what's a good balance of tribesmen/freeman/slaves/citizens/nobles?

- Research. Um, I don't seem to have any. Like, at all.

- Military. In my country military overview, it seems to indicate that my levies will be 4k, but when I raise the troops, there are only 2k. What's up with that?

- I feel like I'm getting a better understanding on how to advance out of tribal state, and the Mission for our tribe is basic yet very helpful. It'll be a long haul it appears.

I was watching one video and the guy said that it's his favorite game to play when there isn't a war going on, and I can certainly see why. I think if I can figure out these systems/mechanics better, I'll really start to enjoy this. The game seems to be nudging me to choose between building up peacefully and via war. I've chosen war, but I wonder if it's playable to try to dominate Iberia via peaceful means.

Anyway, enjoying things so far!

I think your military budget and things like stability, governor capabilities and feelings, etc. can reduce the percentage of troops that are raised.

Dunno about the research, and the pop balance seems like an advanced thing. But the various types of pop do produce differently, so maybe mouse over them and then when you look at policy effects or needs, you can figure out which pop provides what. Kind of like trade has very specific benefits for different pops.

Pop growth - You can set this as a governor’s policy for a province. You can also provide buildings that help with growth, change laws, and look for other infrastructure benefits like specific trade goods.

I *think* you need a trading building of some sort to open up trade routes? (It kind of sounds like you have not looked at the building menu in the province sheet? Lower right of the sheet.