Three Moves Ahead is the leading strategy game themed podcast on the internet. Every week a panel of knowledgeable gamers with strong opinions meets to talk about the strategy and war games of the day, design issues and games in the wider world.
Rob, Rowan, and Sean welcome Jeff Green to discuss what might be the greatest year in gaming. Looking down the release slate for that year, it was obviously stacked with brilliant games like Alpha Centauri, Freespace 2, and Jagged Alliance 2 (to name just a few). But did people know it was special at the time? And did anyone realize how fleeting that moment would prove to be, just before Microsoft entered the console wars and began to bridge the gap between console and PC?
Rob, TJ, Ian Boudreau, and US Gamer editor Mike Williams discuss the very pleasant surprise that is Age of Wonders: Planetfall. From initial skepticism over the fantasy series' pivot to science fiction, the gang are slowly won over by Planetfall's novel solutions to expansion and city management, diplomacy with minor factions, and glorious tactical combat.
Nicole Clark joins Rowan and Rob to talk about Klei's Oxygen Not Included and its punishing model of offworld colonizaiton.Learn how everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and how well the game communicates excruciating detail about why your colony is dying.
Rowan, Fraser, and Rob are joined by Kotaku's Gita Jackson to discuss their tenure as teachers at Garreg Mach Monastery. The gang talk about the really thougthful politics and characterizations that define Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Aside from that, is it a good tactics game? And finally, the gang gets into some serious spoilers about the game's shocking reveal midway through.
Rob, Troy, and Bruce get together to discuss Mark Herman's epic wargame of the Peloponnesian Wars, Pericles. How does it capture the sweep of a vast historical subject that was only sometimes decided through military conquest?
The Tehran Conference. The meeting at Appomattox. The Council of Elrond. All historical gatherings that pale in comparison to the summit that occurred in late July 2019 as the Three Moves Ahead team gathered in Oregon for several days of gaming. Hosted by Dr. Bruce Geryk, Gerykon 2019 was attended by Michael Hermes, Rob Zacny, and Troy "I hope they let me back into Canada" Goodfellow. Bruce played the part of eccentric board game sommelier, guiding the group through several layers of gaming history. Our first episode about Gerykon 2019 covers several entries from Reiner Knizia, a household name among those in the know. From the dizzying heights of Ra and Modern Art to the baffling lows of Beowulf, we consumed great amounts of scotch and had many discussions about game design and strategy. Also, Rob made up a really gross name for a painting.
Rob and the gang are deeply conflicted over Steel Division 2. A good multiplayer game with some genuinely impressive detail about the armored combat on the Eastern Front, it's also a game that has not grown to match its subject, and then there's the matter of that campaign...
Rob and Troy are bad revolutionary judges in We. The Revolution. But is there such thing as a good judge on a tribunal as compromised as this? It doesn't look like it in Polyslash's grim political adventure. The gang discuss the historical perspective that We. The Revolution adopts as well as its curious feature-creep as it moves from a straightforward legal procedural to something far more ambitious and less coherent. Why are you fighting for control of Paris? Why are you commanding soldiers in battle? Are its systems of political intrigue and persuasion any fun to use? The more you play, the less sense We. The Revolution seems to make, but the more hypnotic it becomes.
Nice island you got here, shame if it wasn't fully industrialized! Fortunately Jon, Troy, and Rob are here to strip mine, clear-cut, and redevelop the hell out everything in sight. Troy puts this latest entry in the broader context of both the series and city builders in generals, Jon has made some mistakes, and Rob is both dazzled by the game's beauty but wishes it more fully captured the impact of heavy industry on nature. Also he is convinced somehow he can make a sensible grid layout out of a game built to confound them.
This week's show is the alternate universe version of our 2013 episode on Total War: Rome II. It was two hours of non-stop slamming that poor game - a real massacre. But here we find ourselves in 2019 with Total War: Three Kingdoms in front of us, and things are different. It's good. It's very good. The load times are short. The AI seems competent. The vibrant Three Kingdoms setting is brought to life with both a story mode and a gloriously ahistorical mode that lets the characters shine. Rob, Fraser, T.J., Rowan, and special guest Ginny Woo explore this new entry that bridges the gap between the historical Total War games their offshoot fantasy cousin.
Rob, TJ, and Jon are not quite sure what to make of Imperator: Rome, the latest historical grand strategy game from Paradox Development Studio. Should a Hellenistic warlord have such fine control over demographics? Is there much to do beyond empire-building? On the other hand, when the eagles are marching, does there need to be?
The gang has been playing the Steel Division 2 beta and wow, things are different on the Eastern Front. That leads to a discussion of how familiar series and systems take on new life, or fail to, when adapted to new settings.
Rowan, TJ, and Rob and joined by Jon Bolding to talk about how the difficulty discussion and "designer intent" maps to strategy games... or doesn't. We discuss games that go out of their way to highlight a specific "way it's meant to be played" and whether that actually holds up in reality. We also talk about customization options and, when all else fails, the glorious tradition of house rules and outright cheating to find the way to play that "just right" for you.
Troy, Jon Bolding, and Rob discuss Madruga Works' Dawn of Man, a prehistoric and ancient history city builder and survival game. The gang is charmed, but also feel like there are some big gaps in the evolution of your city and society.
Rob and Bruce are here to sing the praises of Mark Herman's Empire of the Sun, a brilliant adaptation of the war in the Pacific. Enjoying the game through the magic of VASSAL, our wargaming duo describe how about Empire of the Sun does a commendable job of conveying the challenges of imperfect information, the plans of the Imperial Japanese fleet, and inter-service rivalry - all through the elegance of card-based play.
Here's the word cloud for this week's episode: Dota2, mod, sports management, moba, battle royale, open world survival game with roguelike elements (jk but we need that SEO), deckbuilding, tower defense. That's right, we're talking about the mod for the game that's a copy of a mod for another game that has nothing to do with either of the things in its title: Dota 2 Auto Chess. Auto Chess is Dota 2 mod that you can play right now, for free. It's taking the world by storm, and it contains a satisfying combination of team management and long-term strategy. Rob, Rowan, and Taylor Cocke talk us through what the heck it is, how it works, and why Taylor seems to like it so very much. Also, a surprising amount of basketball commentary.
Sound Blaster! 3DFX! Games that go unpatched because there's no way to fix them! That's right, we're going back 25 years to 1994. Yes, 25 years. We're all hella old, in case that had not occurred to anyone. But who am I kidding, if you're listening to this show you are probably part of the gamer geriatrics, pausing from your record run of Chip's Challenge or Kye to dust off your AARP card and get cheap coffee at McDonald's, nursing it from 9 AM to 11 AM before going to the smaller grocery store in town because the bigger store just has too many choices and the lights are too bright. Anyway, lots of good games came out in 1994. Rowan correctly names the Overall Game of the Year while Rob and Sean have good intentions but are unfortunately wrong. Art by Carlos Villa.
The seas are rising. The air is getting worse. Rock bands are forming. Fraser, Sean Sands, and Troy "The Diplomatic Juggernaut" Goodfellow go for Just One More Turn (tm) with Civilization VI: Gathering Storm. In this, the "second Civ expansion that finally finishes the game", the player fights against other civilizations as well as an increasingly hostile Mother Earth. Gathering Storm is a worthy addition to the series, but where do we go from here? Certainly not beyond earth (cough), but with Civ as a whole?
It's rare, but sometimes companies that aren't Koei make a game about the Three Kingdoms. During the runup to the new Total War game, we thought it would be fun to talk about the Three Kingdoms as a setting and the games from that past that have portrayed it well. Are you ready for a deep dive into Three Kingdoms history? No, like, a really deep dive? This week T.J., Rowan, Austin Walker, and guest Brian "Lu Bu" Smawley talk about their favorite factions, historical tidbits, and video game adaptations of this rich period of history.
2018 has come and gone, its crusty remains pushed to the side for new buffet plate (always get a new plate) of games coming out in 2019. Rob, T.J., and Ian Boudreau talk about the games they're excited for, the games they're cautiously optimistic for, and even some that they're dreading.
In the grim dark future there is only war. No, really. In Warhammer 40,000: Gladius - Relics of War, there is no diplomacy system. All of that nonsense has been put aside in lieu of 40K chainsword murder. Gladius manages to be a chimera of strategy games. Is it a 4X? Part of an RTS? Grimdark Civ? Whatever it is, Rob and Fraser generally like it.
This week Rob, Jon Bolding, Giant Bomb's Alex Navarro, and Troy "I can't find the bard class" Goodfellow take a look at Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden by The Bearded Ladies game studio. Mutant Year Zero combines XCOM-like tactical gameplay with a post-apocalyptic setting that's a joy to look at. Its boardgame roots are evident in its sharp gameplay and rich setting.
We threw restraint to the wind with our 2018 wrapup this year, so you get TWO episodes for for the same great price. Session one has Rob, Troy "this is the year my musical theater career takes off" Goodfellow, and Jon Bolding talking about their favorite games. After that, T.J. Hafer, Sean Sands, and Rowan Kaiser go into their top picks including all the Paradox-y stuff that we don't let Troy talk about. It's a long episode for what felt like an incredibly long year. 2018 hit us with a lot of political, military, and economic turmoil, so sometimes it's good to kick back with a strategy game and focus instead on political, military, and economic turmoil that we can control. These are our top (and maybe not so top) picks of the year.
It's been a minute since we've talked about Crusader Kings 2, so why bring it up now? Holy Fury - the latest major DLC - is one of the most significant changes to date, moving CK2 even closer toward RPG than grand strategy game. Is this the expansion that restores Fraser's interest in the game? Is this really the last expansion? What is the future of CK2? Why does T.J. go on and on and on and on about succession laws? Can you really be a duck? T.J. and Fraser answer all these questions and more.
From the dizzying highs of the Frozen Throne to the baffling lows of Master of Orion III, 2003 was a darn good year for games. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time became a hallmark for many gamers, and Rise of Nations came onto the scene to become the "other" kind of RTS. Korsun Pocket (recipient of its own 3MA episode) showed us what amazing AI could look like, and Knights of the Old Republic grew T.J. into the person he is today. Rob, Rowan, and T.J. hop into the Wayback Machine to go to 2003, when invading Iraq seemed like a cool idea. In and out war, Morty, 20 minutes tops.
If the notion of the modern RTS makes you break into a cold sweat as you think about APM and wrist pain, we have good news for you: Veitikka Studios has created a more elegant weapon for a more civilized age. Armored Brigade puts you in command of cold war-era equipment in an impressively generated battlefield. The excellent scenario generator and impressive AI turn this game into something special, much to the delight of our panel. Rob, Ian Boudreau, game designer Rod Humble, and Troy "You've given me a heart and a brain" Goodfellow explain why Armored Brigade turned out to be an excellent game to round out 2018.
We're trying something different at Three Moves Ahead this week. Rob and Troy "am I Siskel or Ebert?" Goodfellow take a brief respite from gaming to to discuss two historical military films: Zulu (1964) and Black Hawk Down (2002). Let us know in the forums if you enjoy this discussion of movies, imperialism, and interventionism.
Every once in a while we like to kick back, pour a drink, and check in with the crew to see what's going on. This week it's Rob, Rowan, and Michael on the air to discuss what they've been playing - strategy or not. Michael bares his soul to share the things that bring him joy, only to be mercilessly mocked by the two jerks that aren't writing this episode summary. Rowan describes his love / hate relationship with Pathfinder and Rob details his love / love relationship with Steel Division. We also touch on the new Civilization VI expansion announcement and discuss some upcoming plans for the Winter of Wargaming.
Cities: Skylines has continued to grow, adding expansions like so many strip malls to suburban hell. The latest DLC, Industries, shines a light on the utilitarian but necessary underbelly of any city: the industrial zone. But does Industries really capture the economic importance of production and mining? To answer this and other important questions, Rob and T.J. are joined by Justin Roczniak (donoteat01 on Youtube), who offers a comprehensive breakdown of the city building genre from an urban planning perspective.
Are you down with PPO and dyslexia treatment? If so, this week's show may be for you. Rob, Jon Bolding, and T.J. Hafer dive into Two Point Hospital, a spiritual successor to the U.K.'s favorite sim, Theme Hospital. Two Point Hospital endeavors to lighten up the otherwise serious business of health care, illess, and piles of corpses with a light sense of humor and a clean (an)aesthetic.
Frozen Synapse 2 is here, bringing combat that is an intricately planned and delicate ballet that ends with a shotgun to the face. Rob, Jon Bolding, and Troy "Wait, you said we were just going out to ride Tron bikes" Goodfellow plan and shoot their way through a cyperpunk collection of hallways and doors.
Sega's not-really-World-War-II set in kinda-Europe returns in Valkyria Chronicles 4. Valkyria Chronicles marries tactical military gameplay with anime style and story. This extra long episode of 3MA, which features Rob, Heather Alexandra, and Austin Walker, covers a wide range of topics: Austin's definitive thesis on anime, Rob's complex feelings about Cowboy Bebop, problematic butt pats, the first episode of The Shield, and occasionally Valkyria Chronicles 4.
This week features a veritable smorgasbord of strategy games as we try and define the Tactical Management Game. It's not quite a management sim and not quite a tactical strategy game. We're looking for games that include a deep strategic or base building layer that also allow you to call some of the proverbial and literal shots. From sports management games to ironman-roguelike-procedurally-generated-party-combat romps, there's a lot of ground to cover. So listen in as Rob, Rowan, Heather Alexandra, and Boudreau get into defining Rowan's white whale of genres.
Phantom Doctrine promises a combination of tactical combat and sleuthing with cold war-era spycraft and compelling procedural narratives. Its delivery on those fronts is charming but ultimately falling short of the goal. Join Rob, Evan Lahti, and Xalavier Nelson Jr. as they dive into Phantom Doctrine and end up talking about Hard West.
Bruce is joined once again by noted game designer Mark Herman to discuss Fort Sumter: The Secession Crisis, 1860-61. Fort Sumter is a short-form card driven game that highlights the tumultuous time leading up to the Civil War. In this wide-ranging discussion Bruce and Mark talk about the high amount of wargames coming to market, crisis dimensions, and the invasion of Japan.
King of Dragon Pass, a longtime cult favorite, is one of gaming's best storytelling platforms. In a fantasy world older than Dungeons & Dragons, King of Dragon Pass combined elements of choose your own adventure, strategy, management and council politics that went unrivaled for almost twenty years. The developers at A Sharp have now returned to deliver a new entry in the world of Glorantha with Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind. Featuring the same unique play style of King of Dragon Pass and similarly gorgeous art, Six Ages allows players to manage cows, the Gods, magic, and more cows. Six Ages recently debuted on iOS exclusively, but will be available for PC next year. Join Austin Walker, Jon Bolding, and Troy "I hope this time I can marry a goat" Goodfellow in talks about trolls, raiding, and praying to all the right deities.
The future will not be pretty. Advances in AI and robotic mobility makes it clear that we are only years, if not months away from Skynet becoming self-aware. When it does, it will look back on what humans have wrought and it will rain fire upon us. Consider: the videos of Boston Dynamics mercilessly kicking robot dogs. Consider: the subjugation of the wild Roomba. Consider: the term "comp stomp", in which a team of human players collaborate to battle, mock, and ultimately defeat a computer opponent. Join Rob, Sean Sands, Bruno Dias, and Troy "I always say 'glhf' to the AI" Goodfellow as they examine the real time strategy games that make beating up robots fun.
Ever since Troy Goodfellow founded Three Moves Ahead in the mid-60s, the same question has been asked over and over: When will you cover a Mario game? Your emails, faxes, and mimeographed tracts have been heard, and we are proud to present our first Mario-based episode: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for the Nintendo Switch. Rowan Kaiser took over the studio along with guests Danielle Riendeau and Ben Bertoli to talk about Mario + Rabbids and its expansion, Donkey Kong Adventure. Referred to as "Mario XCOM" since its announcement, Mario + Rabbids combines tactical gameplay with the character and charm one would expect from a Nintendo + Ubisoft game. Is this the first Mario game we've covered on 3MA? We believe so. Is it the last? Not likely, given the strategic depth and Cold War undertones of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
This week: Dr. Bruce Geryk, Sommelier of the Somme, guides Rob through several unconventional takes on WWI combat. World War I poses a serious challenge to the game designer, but Bruce takes us through several examples of how to do it right. Get ready for talks about "historicity", which should not be confused with the classic Police album, "Synchronicity". Some say it's their greatest album, but I'm more partial to Ghost in the Machine, myself. Anyway, let's talk about Paths of Glory, The Lamps are Going Out, and Fields of Despair.
Cultist Simulator is a game - maybe - that revels in its own vagueness. Not knowing what it's about or what you're supposed to be doing at a given time seems to be the point. There's a story in there somewhere, but will you be able to find it? Rob, Cassandra Khaw, James Persaud, and Troy "A hedonist club is a good place to spend money and meet people, but the bookstore is better" Goodfellow dive into the eldritch horrors of neatly arranging cards on a table and wondering what it's all about.
In a rare live and in-person episode, Rob joins Dr. Bruce Geryk in his mountain lair to talk about GMT Games' Cataclysm: A Second World War. Cataclysm is a board game that offers a deep political system along with standard military fare, succeeding at the former and passably presenting the latter. Players have to adapt to the dynamic early 1930s political landscape and steer their nations to success in an atypical pre-WWII world.
It used to be enough for mainstream games to claim they had "RPG elements". Now we see games with base-building and "strategic layers" - what does that mean? Can one truly take two disparate genres and combine them in a meaningful way? And does procedural generation of content ever live up to its promises? State of Decay 2 ends up being the whipping boy as Rob, Steven Strom, Rowan, and Fraser discuss all of the above.
Slay the Spire, a deckbuilding game that won't require you to take out a second mortgage on your house, has captivated the members of our panel. Its crisp gameplay and tight design has the internet abuzz, and it's quickly becoming the darling of the deckbuilding scene. It's so good it even got Julian back on the show! Listen in as Julian, Sean Sands, Austin Walker, and Troy "The rarest card in my booster was a swamp mana" Goodfellow as they talk about what keeps them coming back to Slay the Spire.
Games like Baldur's Gate cast a long shadow but, like a racist grandparent, come along with too many caveats of being a product of their time. There have been many attempts to capture the magic of early CRPGS while adding modern accoutrements, and the financial success of games like Pillars of Eternity and Dragon Age: Origins are clear indicators that the public is looking for such a product. But have any of these attempts actually nailed the CRPG formula? Is a modern CRPG truly worth pursuing, and were the originals as good as we remember? Join our host T.J. Hafer, Rowan Kaiser, and Cameron Kunzelman as they travel from the Gold Box to the most recent iteration of Pillars of Eternity in search of the perfect CRPG.
This week we explore Rome. Not the Total War game (though it gets mentioned), but Rome itself - as a historical interest and as a touchpoint in gaming. If you've listened to the show in the past, it's no secret that several members of our panel have a strong interest in the Roman empire and the fascinating history that surrounds it. In this episode we finally let everyone loose to talk about the period without worrying about a specific game review to guide the discussion. Listen in as Rob, T.J., Rowan, and Troy "I wear socks with caligae" Goodfellow dive deep into their collective knowledge and discuss ancient Rome.
Rob, T.J., and Fraser sharpen their berserker axes and talk about Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia. This new offshoot of the main series changes the scope by zooming in on the British isles at the time of Viking invasions. While the game has its high points, Thrones of Britannia misses the mark quite often, not unlike the hordes of anonymous archers found within. It's not necessarily that-first-episode-we-did-on-Rome-2 bad, but apparently it's all the same to Fraser.
It's the most Hobbesian Three Moves Ahead ever as Rob, Jonathan Bolding, and Xalavier Nelson talk about Frostpunk. This episode covers all of the pillars of Three Moves Ahead's moral compass: Megalomania, child labor, Dune references, and the knowledge that the death of faceless numbers will always be preferred if advancing the common good. Or the tech tree.
Harebrained Schemes' BATTLETECH is here and it has stomped its way into our hearts. The strategy game based on the PC simulations based on the RPG based on the tabletop game (or something like that) appeals to the more modern tactics fan and the Gen X supernerds that were there at the beginning. Rob, Rowan, Rob Daviau, and Jonathan Bolding discuss the merits of the game and come up with a strong recommendation for it despite some launch-time technical problems.
T.J. Hafer is our host with Rowan Kaiser and author April Daniels as we look at the latest Hearts of Iron IV expansion, Waking the Tiger. Released long with the major game patch "Cornflakes", Waking the Tiger adds all the usual suspects for a Paradox expansion: new game mechanics, skill trees, and enhancements for specific countries. Is Communist China the place to be now? What about alternate history packs, like Kaiserreich? Waking the Tiger extends the legs of HOI and gives us a positive outlook for the future of the game.
The year is 1998 and the 500 lb. gorilla in the room is Starcraft. Blizzard creates the finest Warhammer 40K game ever made and changes the RTS landscape forever. Half-Life. Ocarina of Time. Baldur's Gate. Is 1998 the greatest year in history for gaming? Listen to Rob, Rowan, and Troy "Starcraft: The cutscenes were nice" Goodfellow discuss the details.
Do you like submarines? Do you like being irrationally angry at your best friends? How about checking your phone at 2 AM? Subterfuge may be the relationship ender you've been looking for. Rob is joined by Kotaku's Heather Alexandra, PC Gamer's Philippa Warr, and freelance writer Nick Capozzoli to talk about Subterfuge, a game about being a jerk. Inspired by the long-form RTS gameplay of Neptune's Pride, Subterfuge is as much a game about relationships with other players as it is tactics. The panel discusses their emotional highs and lows when dealing with the hell that is other people, and you can hear the frustration as Rob demonstrates the most exaggerated sigh in the history of podcasting.
The Winter of Wargaming marches on with Gary Grigsby's War in the West. Bruce joins Rob and Troy "No, really, the Canadian military was actually very invol-" Goodfellow to talk about the the thundering behemoth that is War in the West. It's been long established that panel enjoys Gary Grigsby's earlier War in the East, but does that love carry over to War in the West? The eastern front may have certain qualities that make it the perfect candidate for strategy at this level, while the West finds itself pushing and pulling the player's attention in too many different directions. Listen in to find out what the panel thinks and why PC gaming is dead. Forever.
This week Rob and Troy "Canadians are just as tough as Vikings" Goodfellow are joined by Waypoint's Ian Boudreau and Cameron Kunzelman to talk about Shiro Games' Northgard. A reasonably-paced RTS set in the time of Vikings, Northgard gives you a thoughtful, boardgame-like experience that isn't focused on APM. Northgard turns the tables on traditional RTS games by emphasizing a small number of precious units rather than throwing hordes at the player. The winters can be brutal, but Northard earns a strong recommendation from the panel.
Our cadre of mechs is at full capacity as Rob, Rowan, PC Gamer's Evan Lahti, and Troy "Tide pods, time pods, either way put me down for two" Goodfellow talk about Subset Games' Into the Breach. Following their massively successful space-faring game FTL, Subset has created a gem of a turn-based strategy game in which you pilot mechs across small battlefields and occasionally through time. Part battlefield tactics and part chess puzzle, Into the Breach manages to strike a fine balance between replayability, short play sessions, and engaging tactical play.
It's a full house as Rob, Fraser, Sean Sands, and T.J. Hafer talk about the large 2.0 update to Stellaris and its Apocalypse expansion. Do you hate planets? Do you often think about blowing them up? Would you prefer another target, a military target? Apocalypse adds big ships and explodable planets just for you. The 2.0 update has added several key features, such as the fleet manager and big changes to starbases. Have all these changes tightened up the midgame and turned Stellaris into a space hit? Listen in to find out.
The Winter of Wargaming continues with Panther Games' Command Ops 2. Released a while ago under a different name under a different publisher under a different moon, Command Ops 2 is real-time wargame that truly puts you in the shoes of a commander. The realistic order delay and beautifully tactical map make this a unique wargaming experience that can be played in a variety of theaters. Rob, Michael, and Troy "Even in my simulations no one listens to me" Goodfellow dive into what makes Command Ops such a gem.
Civilization VI is a complex game. Not in terms of its rules, or how it plays, but in the reaction it garners from fans and critics. Of course it's a good game. Is it a great game? What parts of it are great and what parts aren't? Does the latest expansion, Rise and Fall, change the things that are holding it back? That's a lot of questions. The good news is that Rob, Rowan, and Fraser take their sweet time answering them in this two hour episode that goes from the fundamental aspects of the game real-life politics. So, settle in for a long one as we go through Civilization VI: Rise and Fall.
We kick off the Winter of Wargaming with a whale of a first show: Command: Modern Air / Naval Operations. CMANO is a simulation built for the military and played by you, the military enthusiast at home. The depth of the unit database, the scope of its missions, and the granularity of its control make one of the more intimidating games in our discussion roster. Bruce, Michael, and Troy "they call me the Nimitz of the sea" Goodfellow dive into what makes CMANO fun, or maybe not fun, but sometimes confusing, though usually entertaining.
Call me Zacny. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my Steam Wallet, and nothing particular to interest me on shore... you know what, you get it. It's Moby Dick. This week, Rob, Matthew Flanigan (thehistoricalgamer on Youtube) and Troy "No I don't have scurvy this is just how I look" Goodfellow talk about the debut game from Picaresque Studio, Nantucket. Nantucket is a strategy / RPG hybrid that has the player managing a whaling vessel and setting out to sea to earn their fortune in the trade of whale anatomy. Our whaling crew agrees that Nantucket is a beautiful and well-crafted experience with some room for improvement, but definitely a contender for Best Whaling Simulator of Q1 2018.
Rob, Rowan, and Troy "my arcology's economy is based on poutine" Goodfellow fire up the Wayback machine once again to visit the pixely past of 1993. It is a monumental year for games as Doom is unleashed onto the public in a swath of blood and gore while Myst is released in a swath of ambient music and confusion. Have you heard of this new-fangled contraption, the CD-ROM? What a time to be alive. Strategy heavyweights Master of Orion and SimCity 2000 hit the scene, establishing groundwork that gamers will know for decades to come. Join us in the hazy past that doesn't feel like 25 years ago but it is and oh my God I'm old.
This week we return to an old friend, a stalwart companion, an evergreen delight that has been with us for years and years and years and years. Europa Universalis IV received several updates and expansions in 2017, and while the game has not changed radically it has matured like a fine wine that was traded from the Bordeaux trade node to Ragusa. In a 3MA first, T.J. Hafer is at the helm to host the show along with Rowan Kaiser and Gamers with Jobs' Sean Sands. Prepare yourself with a deep dive of finer details of EUIV as it exists in 2018.
This week Rowan, Fraser, and Troy "Why are you slathering me in zombie-q sauce?" Goodfellow talk about They Are Billions by Numantiam games. Zombies are back, but there are even MORE of them in this Early Access title. They Are Billions is a real time strategy game that has you manning the ballistae and defending your steampunk-ish city against relentless waves of the shambling dead.
Another year of strategy gaming has come to a close. Rob, Rowan, and T.J. are here to tell you what they liked, what they didn't, and what left them vehemently ambivalent. Rob doesn't bury the lede and jumps out with his GOTY right away and Rowan fulfills his duty of making people feel bad for liking certain things.
This week Michael, Bruce, Jonathan Bolding, and Troy "I've never met a succubus I didn't like" Goodfellow talk about Dominions 5: Warriors of the Faith. Illwinter Games continues their long-running master class in world building and fiction in games with the fifth entry in the series. Dominions combines wargaming with a diverse fantasy setting that has attracted a loyal fanbase over several versions and decades. The panel talks about what is new in the series, whether the graphics really matter, and why it's fun to be a monolith.
We put the call out to our Patreon backers: What game would you like us to circle back on? The winner of a heated battle was Amplitude's Endless Space 2. Released in May of 2017, Endless Space 2 took some of the learnings of a 3MA favorite, Endless Legend, and applied them to their original dust-using space 4X Endless Space. How has the game fared since launch? What is the Academy? Do we really need it? What does Amazon buying Whole Foods mean for hero availability? And, seriously - where are these pirates getting all this tech?
1997. Garry Kasparov loses a monumental chess match against Deep Blue, changing the state of chess forever. Troy Goodfellow acts as a body double for Leonardo DiCaprio in the recently released Titanic and the Notorious B.I.G. informs us that more problems are inevitable when one experiences a sudden increase in liquid assets. Also, a whole bunch of really great strategy games came out. This is the first in a series of (nonconsecutive) retrospective episodes in which the panel goes back in time to review what were some really standout years. This week Rob, Rowan, T.J. Hafer, and Troy "Did you know I had a bit part in the Fifth Element?" Goodfellow discuss all of the best titles from 1997. We award titles for Best RTS, Best Grand Strategy Game, and Best Wargame for this most auspicious of years.
It's time for another patent-pending Three Moves Ahead Classic Game Analysis as Rob, Gamers with Jobs' Shawn Andrich, and Rock Paper Shotgun's Adam Smith discuss Bungie's Myth series. Myth holds a unique place in strategy's gaming pantheon: in an era of clones and remakes, there's still nothing quite like it out there. Its grim and dark (but not grimdark) fantasy setting and early physics engine set it apart from other games of its day. Take a trip down memory lane before Destiny, before Halo, and into the glory of Myth.
Rob, Rowan, and David Heron take a deep dive on XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. XCOM 2 received a tepid welcome from the Three Moves Ahead panel when it first came out in early 2016, and Three Moves Ahead gave its expansion a good long time to simmer before diving in. War of the Chosen adds more of almost everything, but is that a good thing? The crew also discusses ubermod The Long War.
Are you ready for morehammer? Nah, just kidding, we won't do that bit again. Guest host Rowan Kaiser talks to T.J. Hafer and Kotaku's Luke Plunkett about Total War: WARHAMMER II. The Warhammer train keeps on hammerin' as the dark elves, Skaven, and other grimdark beings storm across the battlefields in the Total War engine once again. This sequel comes hot on the heels of the original game and improves it in many ways, but is it worth picking up? Tune in to find out.
It's time for a racing and hockey double-header as Rob, Michael, and Troy "My favorite movie is 1992's The Cutting Edge" Goodfellow talk about sports management sims. The beginning of a new NHL season is a darn good reason to examine Out of the Park Development's Franchise Hockey Manager 4. The crew also discusses Motorsport Manager, a sports sim game that may be the entry point needed for a non-sim gamer. If you like to boss other people around and not actually DO the thing that the game is about, then sports management sims might be for you!
It's an ancients kind of week as Rob, Rowan, and Troy "I'm so good with the elephants my mates call me 'Elephant Man'" Goodfellow talk about Field of Glory II by Byzantine Games. FoG II started as tabletop system that was ported to the PC in the original Field of Glory and its Asian counterpart, Sengoku Jidai. The sequel improves the formula in almost every way and presents an extremely capable engine for designing and playing out tactical battles. The campaign falters a bit, but the crew is pleased overall.
Tooth and Tail has turned out to be a game of note for several reasons. First, it deftly executes the short-form RTS genre while providing luscious artwork and pleasing visuals. Next, it provides a challenging and thought-provoking story that explores narratives in socioeconomics and societal structures. Finally, it appears to be a game that everyone on the show appears to enjoy. Rob, Rowan, Fraser, and game developer / Waypoint contribute Bruno Dias talk about animals eating each other because in the end, we're all just meat.
Tarou was awake and alert despite the chill and the early hour. Normally, drawing last watch was one of the worst tasks imaginable: a tortuous eight hours of mind-numbing circuits and bitter cold. Tonight was more tolerable, however, for Tarou knew that it was his last night as a guard for the malicious warlord. No more would he risk his life by showing small kindnesses to the prisoners, no more would he have to lay awake at night and wonder how many had died by his master's hand. He would leave and start his life again. His plans were set to meet a hay cart near the edge of the compound at dawn, and he would be free from this hellish existence forever. He would - wait - was that the call of a white-cheeked starling? Normally they had all migrated south by this point of the season. Perhaps the starling was a good omen for the beginning of his new life. Tarou whistled a jaunty tune back as he turned the corner. Rob, Fraser, Rowan, and guest Nick Capozzoli talk about how this and many other stories end in Shadow Tactics, a strategy game about being quiet and killing things.
Rob, Rowan, and Kotaku's Luke Plunkett pull up a space chair and talk about Battlestar Galactica Deadlock. In addition to the admirable lack of colons in the title, Deadlock manages to take a licensed IP and turn it into a faithful and satisfying gaming experience. If the term "broadsides in space" gets your solar sails at half mast, this may be an episode for you.
This week's Three Moves Ahead stretches the boundaries of the podcast medium to bring you LIVE audio via recording. Rob, Rowan, Fraser, and Troy "always a bardsmaid, never a bard" Goodfellow share their thoughts on the Steam port of Lords of Waterdeep while playing a game together. Lords of Waterdeep started as a popular worker placement board game and eventually made its way to mobile platforms. It recently arrived on the PC via Steam and quickly found a place in Fraser's heart. It's not a good place, but it's firmly embedded there. Like a valve blockage. EXPLICIT CONTENT WARNING: many curse words are uttered, even more than usual.
It's episode 404hammer and Rob, Fraser, and T.J. Hafer revisit Total War: Warhammer. With the sequel fast approaching, Rob had the itch to play some morehammer and see how the series has evolved. Far from being a borehammer, the newest races and expansions seem to have expanded the gameplay and embraced the lorehammer. Rob's enthusiasm is infectious and everyone on the panel feels the esprit de corpshammer as this game turns out to one of the finest Total War games in the lineup. Warhammer.
Survival: it's what separates people from animals. How far we've come from punching a tree until it explodes into logs that we can craft into workbenches. What began as humble topiary assault spread through time, Asia, and eventually into strategy games. This week, Rowan, Critical Distance's Zach Alexander, and Troy "Surely I can trade my encyclopedic knowledge of show tunes for food" Goodfellow get together to talk about survival strategy games. From half-RPGs to city builders, game devs like cramming a food clock into any game orifice they can find and the result are normal strategy games with the added fun of starvation and disease.
This week Rob, Rowan, Obsidian's Josh Sawyer, and Troy "I told you, these leeches are medicinal" Goodfellow discuss Overhype Studios' Battle Brothers. It's been a while since the panel has been smitten with a game, but Battle Brothers seems to win everyone over with its smart tactical turn based combat. Taking a break from elaborate spells, this low-fantasy setting has your archers are melee combatants slugging it out in the mud and snow against brigands orcs.
Troy returns from vacation just as Fraser prepares to sail the wine-dark Aegean. But they pause long enough to talk about Kingdoms and Castles with Rob, a fun little medieval tower-defnse-city-builder that everyone wishes were just a little bit... deeper. But can Kingdoms and Castles' appeal be separated from its simplicity and shallowness?
Forgive us. The title was Rowan's fault. Rob and Rowan have been playing Ultimate General: Civil War and Gettysburg: The Tide Turns, and those games have got them thinking about what they really, truly want from a Civil War wargame. Rowan talks about how he wants to feel like a commander in the field, dealing with the same uncertainty and dynamics that Civil War generals faced. Rob agrees, but also wants a game that feels roughly true to the historical record, yet also wants the capacity to be surprised. In other words, we want it all. Rowan also proposes that Sid Meier's Gettysburg, at this point, casts too long a shadow and its influence is stifling other approaches to tactical wargame design.
Bruce sits down with James Crate, a former naval aviator, and discusses various efforts at designing and playing games about air combat. Crate discusses how a lot of Cold War era wargames reflected US military doctrine, but not necessarily air engagements as pilots would experience them in the field. How did the lessons learned from actual air combat match the expectations reflected in wargames? Also, prepare to learn that air-to-air missiles don't work like you think they do.
Rob, Fraser, and Rowan look at the game outside the game. What are the ways that strategy and tactics games contextualize our actions and decisions, and which approaches do we tend to prefer. The conversation runs long but takes an exciting turn as the crew realize they've likely solved strategy games.
It's a giant-sized gulp of Three Moves Ahead as Rob, Rowan, Fraser, and Sean "The Game Horatio" Sands discuss Endless Legend 2. Amplitude Games brought a competent - if not a bit bland - entry into the space 4X pantheon with Endless Space and followed up with the brilliant Endless Legend. Does Endless Space 2 continue their march toward greatness? Amplitude have expanded their writing and storytelling but unfortunately neglected the "QA" section of the tech tree in favor of ballistic weapons.
Dr. Bruce Geryk is back to host and talks to legendary game designer and author Jack Greene. Jack has contributed several seminal games over the years, such as Bismarck Second Edition, Iron Bottom Sound Third Edition, and Norway 1940. He tells Bruce about the old days of graphic design and publishing and lays down some practical knowledge about printing techniques.
When is a Viking not a Viking? When he's a farmer. Or a trader, maybe? Or maybe just a really sad dude that's down on himself. Rob and Troy "How hard can it be to build a farm, guys?" Goodfellow talk about Logic Artists' Expedition: Vikings and how there's a good game in there, if you can just pillage it out.
Rob, Fraser, and guest Ian Williams pick up their chainswords and head to the far-flung future to play Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III. The original Dawn of War remains a favorite of the panel, and Dawn of War II had its charm. Does Dawn of War pull the series back into greatness? Well, that entirely depends on how you feel about MOBAs. And multiplayer. Because if you don't like those things, you may be left in the cold, unfeeling void of space.
Do you like wargames in Europe... that escalate? Do you like air AND land battles? Then Eugen games and their partners at Paradox have a game for you in Steel Division: Normandy 44. The creators of the perennial favorite Wargame series have turned their rivet-counting attention to World War II in their newest real time strategy game. Rob, Rowan, and Fraser give you the scoop on the latest game and why they have enjoyed their pre-release access.
The stranger's arrival coincided with omens that the villagers could not ignore. A calf born with two heads. Flocks of crows circling the village green silently as the night, their voices stolen. Men disappearing for days at a time in the woods only to return stupefied, gibbering of bright lights and fairy rings. That stranger's name? Fraser Brown. And he's here to host this week's show on the latest expansion for Crusader Kings II - Monks and Mystics. CK2 Superfan T.J. Hafer is also on hand to talk about satanic cults, taking care of inconvenient spouses, and whether or not we've all hit the DLC fatigue wall.
Rob, Fraser, and Troy "No One Expects the Canadian Inquisition" Goodfellow return to the Total War series in a Patreon-patron chosen topic. Medieval II was far and away the most voted-for game in our options of the "middle" Total War games, and this week we return to what made the game so special. Was it the flavorful peasant models? The interesting DLC? The active modding scene? The galloping Scots? Find out as we blast back to 2006.
Rob and Bruce wrap up this year's winter of wargaming by looking back at some of the games they played and some of the trends they've seen in the wargame space. From boutique games to the pros and cons of computer wargaming, they cover a wide array of topics on their favorite hobby. Does a narrow scope limit a game's design or does it open up new possibilities? How well can you really simulate a given scenario?
Rob, Rowan, and Troy "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster" Goodfellow talk about Scourge of War: Waterloo. Waterloo is the first departure for the Take Command series in which we travel to a conflict outside of the American Civil War. Rowan has concerns about forts and Rob has concerns about... a few other things.
It's a very special Three Moves Ahead as we find Rob visiting Bruce in person to play a variety of wargames. The star of the weekend is Mark Herman's Churchill (previously covered in 3MA #330), a game in which players assume the role of Churchill, Stalin, or Roosevelt over the course of ten critical conferences. Also discussed: 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis.
Fun fact: Did you know that if you search for "Steel Panthers" on Google Images you will find both A) screenshots of the Steel Panthers series and B) photographs of an active glam rock band named Steel Panther? Go ahead, look for yourself. I'll wait.
Did you check? Pretty crazy that people are still into that. In any case, our Patreon supporters voted and decided that this month Rob and Troy "It's all about penetration and angles" Goodfellow talk about Steel Panthers the video game. Not the band.
Rob, Sean Sands, and Jonathan Bolding get together to talk about Star Wars: Rebellion. No, not that one, the board game one. Fantasy Flight's take on the Star Wars universe offers an asymmetrical experience in which the powerful Empire attempts to search for the scrappy Rebels across the galaxy.
Hearts of Iron IV has received its first beefy chunk of DLC with Together for Victory, and Rob, Fraser, and T.J. Hafer are here to tell if you it's worth your hard-earned post war dollars. In short: it probably is. Together for Victory expands on the player's ability to reshape history and manage British Commonwealths. Is the best part of the DLC the battle log? Does Fraser get tired of constantly being wrong all the time? Does this expansion make leasing things fun?
The title of the patron backer poll was: "What two (2) inscrutable games do Rob and Troy have to explain to each other?" We found the most incrutabl-iest games we could for our list and the backers voted: Distant Worlds and Aurora would be the games to play. Unfortunately, Troy's head exploded during his valiant effort so this week Rob and Michael will talk about these two behemoths of space strategy. They won't cover everything and won't get everything right, but maybe - just maybe - they'll sell you on what makes these challenging games worth your time. Or not. Probably not.
The Winter of Wargaming is upon us once again, and to kick things off we look at a different kind of wargaming - the first person shooter. Battlefield 1 tackled the often-neglected first-person arena of World War 1, and to everyone's surprise it turned to be a damn fine game. Several other recent releases have also featured the grim realities of WW1 so Rob, Fraser, and guest Evan Lahti go through them this week to discuss whether historical accuracy is something we need or even want in a WW1 game.
Rob, Rowan, and Troy "My favorite civil war documentary was F Troop" Goodfellow get together to talk about Ultimate General: Civil War. Game-Labs had an impressive debut with Ultimate General: Gettysburg, putting out a game that was lauded by the community at large as well as our panelists. With UG: Civil War, they take on a much larger task by adding persistent units, more battles, and a grander scale. But are they up to such a daunting task? Can they overcome the focused genius of the first game? As it turns out: yes. Yes, they can.