Although it is apparent that I have not spent much time posting on either these temporary forums, or our old home, I must assure you that I have been an avid reader for many years now. During those years, I have primarily played RTR with a few brief forays into TFT and EB. I have of late, however, been playing SPQR – quite dedicatedly, and at the expense of much of my personal time.
Seeing as how there have been some questions regarding the differences between the two mods as of late, I thought it might be helpful to offer a joint review of both. Before starting, I must, however, note that although I claim great familiarity with RTR, I can only claim to have played roughly 150 turns of SPQR, and much of what I speak of regarding it will have to come from other sources, such as comments made about it in its own forum by its creator and legion of devoted fans.
I intend to post this in both RTR and SPQR’s main forum. If the moderators deem it should be moved from there, so be it. In the interests of salvaging some of my personal time, however, I’ll only be replying in the SPQR forum, as a courtesy to them considering my limited experience with their mod. I am, however, interested in hearing what the RTR side has to say, and would invite them on over for a conversation.
This review is not meant to insult anyone. It is merely meant to offer my insights into what each mod offers, and to hopefully help players decide if they should try each out (In my opinion, they certainly should).
For some basics:
I am basing this review on RTR Gold edition played on VH/VH with large unit settings and the 4tpy mod. I am basing SPQR’s latest edition on H/H with huge unit settings. It is understood that these are not the completely recommended settings for either.
On to business:
First and foremost it must be mentioned that each mod has a very different mission statement. RTR is, as the name implies, a modification dedicated to realism, while SPQR strives instead to recreate huge battles and please the personal tastes of its creator (which, I feel comfortable saying, is that of a very challenging game).
SPQR claims to add some realism, but this statement is, at best, generous. Right from the very first turn and with the very first glance at the Legion recruiting grounds or the composition of Hannibal’s army, any person with a decent knowledge of the time period will realize that SPQR is very much a fantasy mod. This impression does not change whatsoever when confronting full stacks of barbarian armies comprised in many cases solely of “Chosen” units, or when fighting units such as Spartan hoplites or elephants, both of which have been made into unbalancing super units that seem to rely much more on legend than reason or fact. Indeed, perhaps a fair way to describe SPQR is as a modification that looks at Roman history from the perspective of fable, folklore, popular conception, and legend.
RTR strives for realism, and, to the greatest extent capable under the game engine, reaches this goal. The cities, AoR system, Romanization process, and unit capabilities all combine with many other nice touches to recreate the most realistic mod available under the RTW 1.2 engine. The army compositions are much more accurate than SPQR’s. Chosen” units are much rarer, elephants – though decidedly dangerous – are not as big of game breakers as in SPQR, and archers, though also dangerous, are incapable of seriously reducing a Legion’s strength before battle is joined, which they often do in SPQR. In short, it appears that RTR’s team has done their homework, and come up with something students of the timeframe would recognize as an accurate portrayal.
The battles in each mod are very different from one another for many reasons, not the least of which being that each are built on vastly different game engines. Whereas RTR Gold is based on the 1.2 game engine, SPQR is based on the vastly improved 1.5 game engine. The AI under this version appears to be substantially tactically better, with units eager to outflank you, and cavalry protecting – quite well at times – the AI’s own flanks. When combined with the numerous superior units of AI armies (which, though I cannot confirm this is deliberate, are also often aided by experience bonuses), makes for a very challenging affair. While it is almost impossible for an experienced player to lose a fairly-matched battle in RTR, many, many battles in SPQR are near run things or outright defeats.
This does – I must admit – make for very exciting game play. Every battle has the potential for being a true nail biter, and you will certainly pay for your mistakes. If you are counting on reinforcements, and they do not arrive, you are in serious trouble.
However, great as SPQR’s battles are, they occur far too frequently for my own taste. SPQR features a very generous economy and population growth aimed to fuel extremely numerous full stacks of AI armies that are promptly sent against you. While this makes the game very challenging, it also makes the game very slow. I’m not talking about performance hits (although this is also, no doubt, a problem for all but those with the latest gaming rigs), but turn length. With each battle normally taking at least 45 minutes in SPQR, and numerous battles being initiated by the AI each turn, hitting “End Turn” can often force you to remain at your computer for hours. SPQR is NOT a mod you can play for a turn while waiting for your girlfriend to get ready, or during a lunch break from work. To play SPQR, you must have available time. In this respect the game play suffers.
Though the battles in SPQR are challenging, it is the logistics system that really makes the game difficult. In this respect, SPQR and RTR are on fairly equal footing despite taking vastly different routes to obtain it. RTR uses an accurate and challenging AoR system combined with a long and arduous Romanization process to facilitate the need for a strong logistics system. SPQR relies primarily on house rules and the post-marian reforms use of 28 named Legions (my favorite addition), each of which can be recruited in only one province on the map (many erroneously but likely deliberately, in Italy).
SPQR’s house rules ask the player to do many things, including only recruit ten cohorts of any one legion, and to only refit the legion after twenty turns. I personally follow only the former, arguing that although the latter is a nice touch of realism, given the vast inconsistencies with realism in other aspects of the game, I can take liberties as well. Though many will surely decry me for not following the rules precisely, I find it does not make the game much less challenging. With enemy armies consistently at your borders, you need a strong defense, and with the map being on a much larger scale than RTR’s, even marches from the Po Valley to Tarentum are time consuming. A steady and dependable logistics system is an absolute requirement to keep from being overwhelmed.
On the other hand, early in the game, before the Marian reforms, it is entirely possible to conquer any large enemy city and immediately start churning out a pre-Marian legion – and with the 0-turn recruitment, you can have it the very next turn. This is not possible in RTR, and as such, the logistics system in RTR is more difficult in the beginning game, though easier as the game goes on.
The 0-turn recruitment is an interesting device, though a bit of a double-edged sword. Though it is obviously necessary to obtain SPQR’s mission statement of huge numerous battles, it also has the tendency to bleed some AI cities dry very quickly of population. This usually occurs in heavily contested border regions, and many cities can be found deeper in enemy territory that still have healthy populations. If I had to recommend one thing for RTR 7.0, however, it would be the inclusion of 0-turn recruitment for the named Roman Legions (which I truly hope are included). They were, after all, enlisted en masse, and 0-turn recruitment would simply be more historically accurate. I am not a modder, however, and am unsure if some units can have 0-turn while others do not.
As stated before, the named Legions are my favorite part of SPQR. I think all of us RTR players have at one time or another tried to keep track of our legions, and I think most of us found that after awhile, this simply isn’t practical or possible. In SPQR it certainly is. Added touches (which I hope will be included with RTR 7.0), are having the units Latin numeral on the unit card (useful), and having the cities that are legionary recruiting grounds say so in their name. For example: “Toletum (Legio X).” This is EXTREMELY useful, and unless RTR’s named Legions will be regionally rather than city-specifically recruited, I think I speak for many fans when I ask that this be included. If impossible, please, please, please include a quick reference in the readme.
The only disappointment regarding SPQR’s legions was with their recruiting grounds. Although a few famous ones (Legio X being the prime example) are recruited in approximately accurate areas, most are not. There are no less than 8 recruiting grounds in Italy proper, for a glaring example.
I feel it is fair to surmise that this was done for two major reasons. The first reason, obviously, is being to increase the difficulty of the game, and the second being that there just simply aren’t as many provinces in SPQR as in RTR. I do not agree with the first reason (Having all the famous Spanish legions recruited in Spain could only make the game MORE challenging as the player expands East), but am fine with the second.
In fact, the map is, in my opinion, one area where SPQR totally and completely outshines RTR. This is not meant as an insult to the RTR map makers, as they have produced a true work of beauty in both the current incarnation and the projected one for 7.0. Though I am no cartographic historian, it also seems wise to bet that RTR’s map is more accurate. However, they have also produced a map, which, though longer and “bigger” is on a much smaller scale than SPQR’s, and which features many more cities. In short, RTR’s map has the effect of creating many more sieges than field battles (and the screen shots from the latest incarnation do not dissuade me from assuming this will continue). SPQR’s features a nice balance between the two. I understand that RTR has a large player base comprised of fans of the various Greek kingdoms, necessitating the need for a dimensionally smaller, though total area-wise larger, map, but I do feel it hampers game play quite a bit and leads to RTR campaigns often becoming stale long before they are finished.
Another area where SPQR’s map outshines RTR Gold’s is in the various provinces and their rebellion characteristics. For example, though taking Spain is certainly aggravating in RTR, it is a downright nightmare in SPQR. This is certainly accurate, and makes for an interesting challenge. I hope that such considerations are included in RTR 7.0.
Finally, SPQR has the current decisive advantages of the 1.5 game engine. Loyalty is a key consideration one must consider, with generals discovering that they are popular, powerful, and in position to take your faction on often deciding to do so. This has, 150 turns in, already made for some interesting moments, and should only increase as the game goes on. For this reason, and others hinted at by its creator though not disclosed (likely revolts or rebellions arising through scripting), SPQR promises to be a challenging game from start to finish. RTR, though I love it, is simply too easy after Italy and Greece are conquered, and only gets easier and easier as the game progresses. Even so, 7.0 will also feature the benefits of detailed scripting, and it will be very interesting to see how they apply it.
In closing, I have to say that I have enjoyed both mods immensely, and highly recommend players of one to try the other. In fact, I think SPQR, though perhaps too fantasy based for hardcore realism fans, would be a fine way for most RTR fans to pass the time until 7.0 is released, as it is a very addictive, very fun mod that showcases a few things that will probably be featured in 7.0 in some form or another.
I salute both teams efforts, think both did a great job in accomplishing their respective mission statements, and feel both mods are top tier in this community. I think that if both mods leaned a bit more towards each other they’d produce the ultimate mods ever produced. RTR could certainly stand less sieges and more trying battles, while SPQR would do well to get rid of some of the more silly imaginations.
In brief, here is where each excels:
Historical Accuracy – RTR hands down, though SPQR does prove promising in certain areas.
Battle Accuracy – In terms of army compositions, unit stats and “feel,” and frequency of huge battles, RTR wins.
Battle Challenge – Without any doubt, this goes to SPQR. Facilitated both by the 1.5 engine, and the inaccurate (though challenging) enemy army compositions.
Game play – I’d have to give the edge to SPQR. RTR tends to stagnate after certain areas are conquered, and most games are inevitably beaten long before they’re actually ended. Also, losing a number of battles is fun – Fun which doesn’t often happen in RTR.
Logistics System – I’ll give this a tie, though each uses a very different system. RTR’s forces a player to invest much before certain provinces are fully Romanized, while SPQR’s ensures that some provinces will always need to be garrisoned by units recruited from far off lands.
Logistics Challenge – This one is split. RTR is more logistically challenging during the early game while SPQR’s is much more so as the game progresses.
Map – Though both are works of art and despite the fact that RTR’s is more accurate, in terms of game play and more diverse battle locations, SPQR wins hands down.
Overall – It all depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a simulation, go with RTR. If you want a game, go with SPQR. If you have a hectic schedule, RTR may very well suit your needs better. If you want huge, difficult battles with frequency, SPQR is the one for you.