Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Block Dropping

Note to self: Before posting birthing stories on the Internet, consult with wife.

Here’s a little background on the research that goes into a game…

Military history is a huge subject. I know some stuff about it, but very little when compared to how much there is to know. I’ll give you a couple examples. When I started working on the Field Commander Rommel design I knew very little about Rommel. I knew: He was a WWII German general. He was respected by both Axis and Allied leaders. He was known for his legendary command of German forces in Africa. He came up with dashing battle plans. And that’s about all I knew.

I then dove into researching him online, at the library, and the local bookstores. I started by learning the big facts, like the campaigns he lead outside of Africa, the problems he had getting enough supplies for his troops, and the enormous challenge he faced by the unending stream of Allied men and material. He was always outnumbered and outgunned, and had to rely on strategy rather than brute force to accomplish his objectives. At the end of 6 months of research and game design, I had a much deeper understanding of the man.

The same cycle applies to our recently completed Field Commander Alexander. At the start I knew he was from Macedon and conquered a lot of territory. Not much to start with.

The research followed the same course of online, library, and bookstores. Holly and I even watched several Alexander documentaries. As the data came together I learned of his mother, Olympias, who stopped at nothing to see her son on the throne. I learned of his father Philip II who was assassinated, thus clearing the way for Alexander to rule Macedon. There is more than one theory by the way that links Olympias to Philip’s untimely demise.

One of the things that most impressed me was Alexander’s sense of destiny. It seemed like he never doubted that he would do great things, and that others would follow him. Of all his conquests, his siege of the island of Tyre most impressed me. But, before we talk about Tyre, let’s look at how Alexander got started…

A while before Alexander’s time, the Persians attacked Greece and Alexander felt it was up to him to give some payback. But before he could deal with the Persians, he had some trouble at home to deal with. Alexander had no sooner taken the throne when the other Greek city-states start marching troops in his direction. He quickly defeated their armies with clever tactics and solidified his power base in Greece. He then lead his army out of Greece and into Asia to attack the PERSIAN EMPIRE.

Now, you gotta remember, Macedon was an okay sized country, but the Persian Empire was, well, an Empire. It was huge. They had millions of troops, dozens of mighty fortresses, and more gold than you can imagine. On the other hand, Alexander had 40,000 men, a pointy spear, and his trusty horse, Bucephalus. To most people this would have been a problem and they would have stayed at home. Not Alexander. He attacked the Persians and defeated them in several battles. When their king Darius III offered him riches to stop and go home, he attacked all the harder. When the dust settled, Alexander was sitting on the throne of the Persian Empire.

So anyway, getting back to Tyre. As if the millions of troops weren’t enough, the Persians also had a huge navy. Macedon had a small navy. This was a problem because Alexander needed access to the seas for his supply needs, fresh troops, and communications to make sure no one back home got too uppity.

So Alexander came up with a plan. Instead of sending his navy out to meet the Persian fleet in battle, and get quickly destroyed, he started capturing the Persian ports. He knew their navy needed its ports and would have to be pulled back as each port was captured. His plan worked great. He’d capture a port, and the Persians pulled back their navy. Everything was going fine, until he got to Tyre.

Tyre was an island about a half mile off the coast. A well fortified island with high walls and lots of siege engines. With two harbors and a big fleet of warships. Nobody messed with Tyre. You can’t conquer an island with an army. The Tyrians knew it. The Persians knew it. Pretty much everyone except Alexander knew it.

Alexander set-up camp in Old Tyre, an old stone city on the coast across from the island of Tyre. Things got off to a bad start when the Tyrians killed the two ambassadors Alexander sent over to talk, and then threw their bodies into the waves for Alexander and his army to see.

Instead of focusing on what he needed, but didn’t have, to crush Tyre, Alexander looked at the resources he had. He had a city made of stone blocks and 40,000 guys sitting around doing nothing. That would quickly change.

He ordered part of his army to start tearing the city apart block by block and dumping the blocks into the sea. As time passed the city of Old Tyre got smaller and a stone walkway, called a Mole started appearing out of the waves, extending block by block toward Tyre. This wasn’t some tiny walkway. The Mole was 300 feet wide. Before long, the Tyrians started to take notice and sent out ships to attack the men building the Mole. Alexander then put the remainder of his army to work lashing ships together to form the floating bases for huge siege towers. He sent these siege ships against the island’s wall to start battering them, and take the pressure off the Mole. With siege ships battering the walls, the Tyre navy had to divide its efforts and became far less effective.

After a few months of block dropping and wall pounding, the walls were breached, and Tyre was invaded. Things get kinda bloody at that point. Alexander had a long memory and he hadn’t forgotten the two slain ambassadors. Alexander then paraded his army across the Mole in triumph.

Cool end note to the island of Tyre. It’s not an island anymore. So much silt and debris was pushed by the current against Alexander’s Mole that the island is now connected to the coast and is a peninsula.

This brings us to the game we have just started working on, Field Commander Napoleon. We’ll start on that with the next entry!

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. You got a lot of this by reading books. Hmmm, maybe my strategy of endless TV watching has a flaw in it somewhere ;)
    Great post!