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Groove of War 01 – Tournament Writeup.

 

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The minute wargroove released, the community surrounding it sprang up from a quiet fanbase that had watched and participated it in its development for the past two years. Competition is in the game’s DNA, so it was inevitable that a group of amazing players and fans of the game would put together a tournament showcasing the potential for testing the skill of it’s players.

This is where Groove of War came in, the first and most prominent tournament. Players flocked to sign up and within days, 72 players were locked in to make a small bit of history by participating in its inaugural event and what we’re sure will be a long and exciting tournament season.

The group stages were steadily played out over the week, with participants meeting up as and when to complete their games in a fairly adjudicated manner by tournament organisers. It was here where the real meat of the work began; figuring out the perfect format to provide engaging and watchable games. One massive advantage in a turn-based game like Wargroove is that there is no latency to worry about, so players never have to fret about losing to technical limitations.

Many lessons were learned in the matches preceding the finals in regards to commander balancing, map balancing and turn times. It was found out that stalemates can cause the games to drag out somewhat without timers, so a large discussion is still ongoing to determine the best solution to bring these times down to a more viewer and competitor-friendly format, also the commanders Nuru and Tenri were soon banned from future games having been deemed overpowered.

The grand final was decided between Ash (Ash_IRE on twitch) and Red-Halo, who fought all the way through their brackets to reach the top spots over the week; no small feat considering the wealth of experience from a number of competitive Advance Wars players participating.

Game one: the map was Ban Ban Beach and Ash took an early lead with a heavy Trebuchet focused build; gaining naval superiority early on and pushing right down the coast to stamp out any hope of Red rallying and threatening the seas again. They continued to slog it out in the field, but the game was over by turn 11 when Red Halo conceded, just as he was falling behind in economy.

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Game two: the map was Rumbling Range and Red Halo clawed one back here with an early confrontation down in the bottom right hand corner. It’s a larger map, so the wagons were out in full force, causing Ash to go for major blocking plays to try and deny Red Halo an air factory, but it was all for naught as Ash had clearly overplayed his hand, seeing Red march a lumbering column of pikemen down the right side of the map, successfully blocking Ash’s commander in. Ash valiantly fought on, but conceded on turn 12 when Red’s dragon bore down.

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Game three: We returned to Ban Ban Beach which saw both players try to gain naval superiority early; Red had clearly learned from the last game and held his own in the seas til the end. An early rush into the middle island gained Ash a crucial economic advantage, Red had split his forces and it took him a few turns to gain footing on the important choke point, while Ash built up his core in the centre. The game seemed very close until Red conceded on turn 8, which left both myself and his opponent in surprise. It could have turned on a penny, but with that win, Ash took the set and was crowned Champion.

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It is truly exciting to follow the organisers and now veterans of the game’s competitive scene as they forge a new standard for how this game will be played into the future. Wargroove is an amazingly fun game; this event just shows how games like this can bring people together. This first tournament, while suffering its share of teething pains, was an important first step and an exciting look into what a determined group of people with a love for strategy gaming can do.

Congrats to Ash, on winning!

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Link to tournament hub:

https://smash.gg/tournament/groove-of-war-01/details

Link to Ash’s Twitch:

https://twitch.tv/ash_ire

Finals VOD:

WarGroove: The Best Game of 2019 Comes Early.

I know what you are thinking: the title of this article is hyperbole of the most unforgivable kind. Just do me a favour and give me a chance to explain.

Wargroove is the latest game developed and published by Chucklefish: the now legendary publisher of the smash hit farm-em-up Stardew Valley and sci fi side scroller, Starbound. The London based publishing and development house have been consistently chucking out winners since the start of the indie revolution, beginning their meteoric rise with Risk Of Rain: a devilishly difficult roguelike.

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The things their games seem to have in common are a focus on brilliant, stripped down mechanics and a high quality pixel art style, both of which suit me down to the ground.

I spotted Wargroove on one of my frequent and mindless trawls through the steam store. The art style immediately caught my eye and I felt utter joy in my heart as I saw an armoured dog leading an army into battle on a 2D battlefield. I was hooked even before I bought it. This feeling only intensified as I was greeted by an anime-like intro cutscene which I just sat and watched. In recent years, Blizzard has been lauded for their amazing cutscenes, and rightly so, but it is nice to see a smaller developer going for the same sort of thing.

The game brings many franchises to mind: Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, The Battle For Wesnoth. These three are stalwarts in the turn-based strategy genre and in a sense Wargroove actually is all these amazing titles that reached their zenith years ago. It is a kind of rebirth of turn based tactics games, embodying the things that made them great; like smaller maps, tighter mechanics and the ability for players to make maps and customise everything, then they repackaged it into something fresh and beautiful, clearly created by people who know and love the genre.

The gameplay is simple: you take control of one of 12 heroes, 3 for each of the four distinct factions and vie for control of a tactical map broken up into squares. There are a profusion of unit types; from lowly foot soldiers to trebuchets, ships and dragons, all which add tools to your toolbox when trying to outfox your enemy. The interesting thing to note is that each faction, while aesthetically unique, can only produce the same units.

This means that the game is easier to balance, with the only asymmetry being with the leader you choose, which puts it in good stead for the Esports scene which has energetically sprung up around the game. From what I have played, the “quick play” option in online multiplayer indeed returns a game quickly, which is fantastic. You can also set up your own game with a whole host of different options to face off against your opponent. I can only hope the devs follow this ease of use up with more features to support competitive play.

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The campaign is fully formed and engaging: you follow Mercia, queen of Cherrystone, who is thrust into the driving seat after her father is assassinated by the undead Felheim faction. It plays much like the older games mentioned above: sections of dialogue interspersed with thematic battles which introduce weird and wonderful mechanics to keep you on your toes. The game also provides “puzzle” and “arcade” modes that will significantly aid replayability. There is plenty of humour in the campaign, alongside the broader themes of adventure and war. It’s safe to say Wargroove doesn’t take itself too seriously.

To me, this game is like chess but better. You take your playing pieces and are able to dynamically fight and counter your opponents strategies as you build units and try to out compete the opponent financially by capturing towns. The amazing “crit” system ensures the need for deep thought when positioning your troops, as they only reach their full potential when meeting criteria specific to each unit. I have found myself staring over a defensive line at my opponent, waiting for one of us to blink, only to find myself outmaneuvered somewhere else and forced to flee. You feel the tactics and back and forth of a good wargame just oozing out of this title.

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This game makes me feel like I am at the start of something new and interesting. This is a feeling we gamers crave; back in 2015, Rocket League hit the market and started a sports-game revolution all of its own. The reason it was able to do this is because it firmly placed itself into that genre, but did the same things as other sports games (use of physics, a ball with goals and a global game timer) repackaged into something new and fresh, the process by which those older, tried and tested elements, could create something satisfying and new. As of the writing of this article, the highest prize pool for a Rocket League tournament was over 1 million dollars.

Wargroove, I feel, is doing the same thing to turn based strategy games. There is a huge demographic of gamers who are starved for this type of game and feel the urge to watch talented people play it against each other; to follow their favourite player and hopefully start that journey themselves. The strategy gamer in on the comeback.

This game delivers on so many levels but it is important to discuss its drawbacks. Chiefly that most people will really be put off by how slow the game can feel when you are in the thick of the action. Every game requires you to really think about how you set up your forces and is almost a cold war where each person is trying to push and maneuver to find an edge. In fact, once the fighting begins, you often know what the result is going to be only a few turns afterwards. To me, this is ideal, and speaks to a wargame that works, but for others it might ring dull.

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In conclusion, I do not think it is too soon to tell that this beautiful little game is going to make waves in the realm of strategy well into 2019 and I cannot wait to play in my first tournament.

Wargroove is out now on Windows, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. It is priced at around 15-20 dollars.

P.S. Wagons Are Bad – Brought to you by the Anti Wagon League.