The Expansion

The expansion to the Time of Crisis – The Age of Iron and Rust – brings many new, interesting additions. One of them are the new Emperor types, the other new set of cards. Today however I would like to focus on astoundingly well-designed and intuitive bots.

Time of Crisis is one of my favorite light wargames. I fallen in love with it from my first game. Then I had a chance to play Vassal campaign and one more face-to-face game, but I really anxiously awaited the expansion. When it came, immediately a session was organized by me to test the new game mechanics – more about it in following post and its continuation. One thing which was left unchecked were bots. Finally, last week I got enough time during couple of consecutive evenings to play the full campaign with them.

Bots

Let us say a little more about the way they were designed. First of all, as you probably know, Time of Crisis is fueled by cards, played for influence points and events. They are in three types – military, populace and senate. The game accommodates up to four players so it was only intuitive to create three bots (allowing for solo play) each of them focusing on different strategy. The three AI bots are characterized as Emperors from the Year of Six Emperors (238 AD):

  • Maximinus Thrax focuses on Military aspects
  • Gordian III prefers Populace area
  • Pupienus and Balbinus focus on Senate influence.

Each AI has a dedicated player mat used to track main actions a development progress:

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Example AI mat

As we can see, each bot have three areas of influence, with preferred one at the top. As per rules, each turn, a bot will always have points to spend in two areas of influence, determined by the mode box that is selected for the bot. One area of influence will be primary, providing more points to spend, and the other area of influence will be secondary, providing a lesser number of points to spend. The bot will generally increase its power in preferred area fastest and will therefore tend to focus more on actions that use these points.

AI turn consist from similar phases as human players:

  • AI Crisis Phase – a standard 2d6 roll, which activates barbarians or cases and event to jump in
  • AI Take Actions Phase – as mentioned above, two influence point types are taken into account; their exact usage is defined very neatly by and A4 size instruction, prepared for easy reading.
  • AI Buy/Trash Cards Phase – instead of actually determining specific cards for the AI bot to buy or trash, the improvement of the bot’s deck is represented by determining if it can increase the value of one or more of its influence areas.

Gameplay

Having read the rules and playing the first two turns with three Bots according to playbook, I decided to continue. I was green, playing against Thrax (Red),  Pupienus and Balbinus (blue) and Gordian (Yellow). Below short session report and then some of my impressions.

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Starting situation after Turn 2 – playbook example end (click to enlarge in the new window)

And now the quick glimpse on main actions of the game:

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Results:

  1. me (green) – 89
  2. Pupienus and Balbinus – 71
  3. Gordian III – 62
  4. Thrax – 40
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End-game situation (click to enlarge in the new window)

Summary

I played many games in solo mode but I think this is one to which I will be coming back most often. The bots are so intuitive, well written and fast to play, without sacrificing depth of strategy, that this is pure fun to play against them. Sometimes you need to decide for AI which action will be better (even though charts are very clear). Still, number of uncertain situations was very limited.

Should you have a chance, I strongly encourage you guys to test the Bots! It is worth the devoted time!

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