I tried to like Crusader Kings II, I really did. If I had played it when I was, say, twelve years old, I probably would have had a ball. Alas, as I have grown older and started to work as a games journalist, my patience has waned. Because it is my god-given duty to play as many games as I can, I found myself unable to devote to CKII the attention it deserved, and my mind was unable to fully absorb all of that game’s mechanics during my sessions with it. It was, after all, a lot to take in.
I tend to prefer Risk, because I don’t have to devote tons of mind power to understanding how that game works. Still, Risk is probably a bit too uncomplicated, and perhaps isn’t so intellectually fulfilling. What I needed, really, was a game somewhere between Crusader Kings and Risk in terms of complexity that I could sink my teeth into. One thing that wouldn’t hog all my waking hours but still would provide a compelling experience.
Enter March of the Eagles.
March of the Eagles is yet another grand strategy title from Paradox Development Studio, taking place in the early 1800s in Europe. you can take over one of any number of nations that existed in that time, and your job is to do whatever you can and want to with them. March of the Eagles is, of course, one of Paradox’s free-form experiences. At the beginning of the game the map is drawn up the way it was in reality, but you will redraw it as you play, either by conquering other empires or teaming up with countries in their attempts are conquer-izing, or maybe because you are terrible at strategy and allow France to rule over Great Britain, for example.
The reason March of the Eagles is more accessible than Crusader Kings is because it is pretty much only about war. You don’t really need to politic, unless you need help repelling an invader or think it would be to your strategic advantage to establish a war-time alliance with somebody else. You’ll spend the early game bolstering your own territory and building up your war machine into a force to be reckoned with, but at some point you need to take action. The goal, in theory, is to win your battle with your historical enemies, but you can act as you see fit.
As you would expect from Paradox, what makes March of the Eagles ultimately compelling is that you must contend with our own limited resources in your wars. You can’t just run about as you please, and dominating and holding territory is not a small undertaking. Our think a nation like Great Britain would have little problem annexing the Netherlands, for example, but the game won’t let you do that if it means you’ll overextend yourself. It’s not just about what your armed forces can hold down.
Managing the resources of a mighty military-industrial complex is a complicated thing, and March of the Eagles forces you to face the realities of such a venture. But managing the war machine is all you have to worry about, and that’s why it’s ultimately less harsh on your mind than Crusader Kings. You won’t have to deal with peace-time BS.
March of the Eagles takes place in a limited time frame, from 1805 to 1820, and so while when you’re playing alone you may feel as though you’re free to go wild on the map, doing that will prevent you from obtaining the full experience of the game. Each nation you can control has its own victory conditions, and since the game does eventually end you might want to keep your eye on them.
March of the Eagles features multiplayer, and the game more or less works the same way when you’re playing solo or online, except that online your opponents and allies could be run by people. As anybody who has ever played a strategy game will tell you, the computer is fun and all, but real competitors are something else. I kind of think of March of the Eagles as a party game, so I found it fun even when I was losing. What makes it all so interesting in the end is looking at how your actions and your friends’ actions altered the landscape of Europe in your fifteen years at the helm of your country. Obviously, you’ll want to win, but watching yourself goof up the future of a famous empire can be entertaining as well.
If you want a grand strategy title with a more narrow focus than you would usually expect, then March of the Eagles is for you. If you have a lot of cool nerd friends who like to play games like this with you on a tabletop, then March of the Eagles is even more for you. Taking a weekend to get all three of your friends together to duke it out should make for one to remember. But even if you’re going to go it alone, March of the Eagles turns out a compelling but not too mind-boggling experience. It just works.
4 out of 5