Notes on Aevum Obscurum

Recently I’ve been playing the android version of Aevum Obscurum a fair bit. It’s a fun little game, if you’re into Risk clones. And now that I’m approaching one hundred played games, I can definitely say it was worth the money for me.

I’ve been meaning to review the game a little, because some parts of the gameplay stood out to me… I can’t say that I’ve been very impressed with those, but the game is still a lot of fun. Because I’m too lazy for a full review, I’ll just list the parts I noticed a lot below.

Terrain Matters

On a Risk-like map, terrain differences are pretty much a question of the number and cost of connections between one field and it’s surrounding fields. It shouldn’t be surprising, but I didn’t expect there to be quite so much of a difference between a field that’s nested between mountains, leaving only one or two connections, and one surrounded by four or more other fields. Those well-proteced fields turn out to be pretty crucial, and holding them is a good prerequisite for winning a game.

By contrast, fields with a coastline are incredibly vulnerable to attack, but the cost of attacking by sea gives you an average of about 2k-3k troops to fully defend such a field from naval attacks.

Horde Tactics

The AI often adopts a horde tactic of overrunning fields, conquering them, and then moving all the armies on to the next field. It turns out that to a degree, that’s a very good tactic to imitate.

You raise money depending on the number of fields you occupy. But more crucially, the number of fields you occupy influences the number of moves you can make each turn. In order to gain that advantage of movement and resources, spreading out fast is highly important.

The AI’s approach of not defending fields can be used to your advantage as well. If you see a huge army moving through, you can be near certain that the field it just left is poorly defended, and you’ll be able to snap it up.

Movement and Territory

The fact that the number of moves you can make is based on territory has some serious drawbacks:

  1. Once you’ve occupied a large enough amount of the map, you can’t really lose the game any more. I think the designers are aware of that, as the standard game mode ends the game once you’ve reached 100 points. At that point, you’ll have conquered about 1/3 to 1/2 of the map. The other mode, “world domination” is satisfying if you like to complete things, but the challenge goes at about the time standard mode ends the game.
  2. Random placement games can mean that you start out with your kingdom surrounded by other kingdoms. That means you only have two strategies: either turn your town into a bunker and defend your king, or hurl all your armies, king included, against a neighbouring city. In most cases, the second strategy is more successful — but neither compare to situations where you’re surrounded by neutral fields, begging for easy expansion of your realm.
  3. The inverse of the first point is also true: once you’re in a tight spot, it’s next to impossible to move out of it.

It’s bad enough that your territory determines your income, as you quite obviously need that to raise more armies. Adding movement to the mix, tilts the game too much in the direction of one predetermined by the initial placement of the kingdoms for my taste.