In contrast to army morale, which is the same for all units facing a particular opponent, general morale is different for every unit. It is an indicator of how "happy" or "content" the unit is, which is closely related to its history. Has that unit been paid well and regularly, is it supplied sufficiently with food and where does its loyalty lie? All of these matter and general morale is one of the most important factors that can determine the battle outcome. Units with low general morale may not be reliable as their fighting abilities can be limited because they are more prone to desertions or leaving the battlefield without inflicting much damage to the enemy. But time and good treatment heals all previous grievances and if you take a good care of your men, they will once again proudly raise your banner before the next engagement.
General morale of cities is perhaps even more important. A City with low general morale can be easily influenced by other states, it might switch sides of its own accord, especially when there is no military garrison to maintain order.
Cities are the building blocks of the empire and losing one can hurt the state economy, i.e. its ability to recruit new units or to trade. City conquest is usually the most rewarding part of military campaigns as it brings in new resources and people and gives you another strongpoint for your offensive. But you do not always need to use brute force to get the city gates to open.
There is a very cool mechanic in the game called city siege. I already described the supply management in detail in a previous diary. Basically, all cities act as suppliers for military units around them. However, when you cut the city off by encircling it (taking all adjacent tiles) and leave one military unit to keep the blockade, the city will starve and its general moral drops radically with every passing turn. The enemy might try to break through your lines to the city or, if it is a coastal town, he can keep a ship near the port to open an access point. Otherwise the besieged city has only two options - to surrender or starve. This process can be slowed down if a military unit is stationed in the city as it maintains order for a bit longer but it cannot really change the situation, unless it tries to fight its way out of the city.
On the other hand, cities are great places for building a defensive line. Military unit held in the city dramatically increases the city’s defense strength. Additionally, you can build city improvements such as stockades, palisades or city walls to multiply the defense bonus. Build solid fortifications with a guard inside and you might just have a strongpoint that can blunt or even stop an enemy offensive.
But cities are too precious to risk that they will fall into the hands of the enemy. A good defense should not rely only on a few well-protected towns. You can also make use of special structures with both defensive and offensive characteristics that can be built outside of cities. For example, forts and defensive walls can create a solid line several tiles long. Even if only manned by a few guards, it is a barrier that could break the tide of the invading forces.
I can go on but I have already exceeded the planned length of the article, so I’ll describe the last 3 tactical concepts just briefly.
The first of them is unit experience which is gained in battles both won and lost (but more from successful campaigns) and with every improvement. On the other hand, healing damaged units and replenishing the ranks with newcomers naturally decreases the unit’s overall experience. Seasoned warriors are very precious, if you find yourself between a rock and a hard place you will wish to have a few experienced men to carry out your commands rather than a bunch of rookies.
Even though Aggressors is a turn-based strategy, we tried to create a kind of a "time flow" between the turns which can impact the defenses especially.
Defense readinessis a bonus received by a unit that has not yet moved in the current turn and so its men are fresh, prepared and ready for action. If you force your men to march long distance and they are attacked before they even have time grab their weapons, the chances that you will be beaten are logically higher.
Similarly, the fend-off attack penalty is applied if the unit is attacked more than once in one turn. The defending unit gives its full 100% strength to beat the aggressor and it is then tired and perhaps damaged from the fight. But if it is immediately afterwards attacked again, it does not have time to recover and cannot use its full strength for defense anymore. This penalty grows with every new attack the unit has to fend off in that turn.
So far, I have talked only about fighting and how to pit the strengths of one unit against the other but how to deal with damage? There are several ways how to repair and heal your units in different situations.
Every damaged unit automatically recovers a small fraction of its full strength every turn it is not attacked. There is no cost involved. The process is very slow but sometimes you simply cannot do much more than this.
If you need your men near the front, the unit can regain part of its strength out in the field which does not cost anything but the unit is exposed and its defense strength is drastically reduced during the process.
If the unit is not far from a city, you can replenish its strength by recruiting new men from the town which means that the unit heals twice as fast but you need to accept the costs – resources, perhaps also lower loyalty, general morale and reduced experience (depending on the city’s loyalty, general morale, etc.). The defense strength is again very limited during the healing process.
The best and fastest way to heal and repair your units is in the city (ideally with good loyalty and general morale) where you can quickly supply it with new men, weapons and armaments. It means that you need to move the men from the front and the further they have to go, the longer you have to hold the line without their support.
I would like to go into more details but there is simply no space to cover all the aspects of the tactical dimension of Aggressors. Things like city conquest and its implications, naval landings and its drawbacks, plundering cities and its impact on happiness and many others which I had to leave out this time.
Well, I guess you will need to try the game yourself and explore all the possibilities discover for yourself how deep tactical 4X strategy game Aggressors is when it releases on the 30th of August.