Monday, July 23, 2007

legion at ease, i gotta feed the baby.

Bottle-feeding an infant is a time-consuming process that ties up one hand to boot, namely the one holding the milk hopper in position. I usually entertain myself with various computer-related activities while feeding munchkin #2, but my favorite games are out of the question because they require either an uninterrupted block of time, the use of two hands on mouse and keyboard, or both.

Thankfully, I found the ideal game for this scenario--Rome: Total War. I bought it a few years back when it came out, but I hadn't played it much, since most of our computer play time is taken up with communal World of Warcraft questing. Rome: Total War is a turn-based strategy game with real-time battle sequences, so it's perfect for playing turn by turn as time allows. I can play two or three turns per feeding session, and then just leave the game running in the background until I'm ready to hit the "end turn" button and advance the action.

Now, the strategy part of the game is pretty cool, but the really fun part is the real-time battle module. When you shuffle your legions across the map, and they come in contact with an army or settlement of the opposing factions, you can choose to have the battle resolve automatically (if you don't have the time to fight it out), or you can take charge of your army and test your mettle on the battlefield. If you choose that option, you're in control of unit deployment, formations, marching orders, and so on. When the battle commences, things usually go to hell quickly, and it's a lot of fun watching thousands of little animated legionnaires under your command duke it out with the Gauls, Macedonians, Carthaginians, and other assorted adversaries.

Yesterday I was wrapping up my conquest of the Greek city states, advancing an army on Athens.

(geeky battle narrative follows)

The Greeks oblige by marching their army out and meeting mine in front of their capital, which means that I won't have to start a costly siege and pry the defenders out from the streets of a fortified city. I deploy in standard manipular formation--skirmishers out front, cavalry on the flanks, and the center consisting of Hastati in the front and Principes in the back. The Greeks have mostly hoplite companies--hard to crack from the front, but easy kills when you flank them. My plan is to have the skirmishers thin their formation a bit, then hold them by the nose with the infantry and kick them in the ass with the flanking cavalry.

So far, so good. I advance my little troops in neat formation, ready to tag and bag the Greeks, when Greek reinforcements arrive on the battlefield. Just entering the battlefield in the distance are a bunch of Spartan hoplite companies whose presence in the area was unreported by my scouts.

Festive. Now I'm the meat in a hoplite sandwich, with a Greek army in front of me, and a Spartan army coming up from behind. Splitting my army and taking both on at the same time is not an option--I'm already outnumbered, and I don't have enough cavalry and velites to go around to support two different infantry battles.

Fine--screw the original plan, says I. The forward formations of skirmishers are just about to make contact with the Greeks, and I whistle them back and have them retreat through the ranks of advancing infantry. The Hastati and Principes get new orders: double-time on the advance, and rush the Greek front without the customary exchange of skirmisher missiles. The enemy skirmishers dart out in front of the hoplites, trying to bother my infantry, but I order in the flanking cavalry and disperse them.

The main lines clash, my line of Hastati holds, and I send the Principes around for a flanking attack, while riding the cavalry all the way around the enemy formation to nail the coffin shut from behind. The Greek line crumbles like a stale muffin, and their units start routing. My little digital legionnaries want to pursue and mop them up, but I order all units to halt and reform. I get them back into formation and wheeled around just in time to engage the Spartan army which has now traversed the battlefield. Lather, rinse, repeat, and the Spartans are sent packing as well. Athens is mine, and the Greeks have lost two fair-sized formations against my understrength one. I am Maximus, baby--a military genius who can direct his legions while topping off the tanks of little Miss Lyra.

Vanquishing enemy armies while feeding the baby: how much of a geek am I?

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