Had a chance to play a two player game of Viktory last night. I had some concerns going in. The first was the normal concern that comes from playing any multiplayer strategy game with 2 players and the second was the size of the two player map.
My concerns were unwarrented in one fashion, but opened an entirely new issue which is either a concern or exciting twist depending on your taste.
First, playing most multiplayer games leads to a dramatic drop in depth and texture to play. There is much less of the subtle nuances of choosing who to strike and when and you lose alot of the complex decisions of trying to predict actions of multiple opponents. I was concerned this would be exaggerated in Viktory because so much of the 4 player game involves diplomacy and threats of betrayal. Well, that is true in Viktory, but it didn't matter. There is SO much crazyness going on in the two player set up that I never missed the added players.
That crazyness comes from the size of the map. The two player map is tight. REALLY tight. In the 4 player game there are a few early turns of land grab where people aren't (and usually can't) be aggressive. There is ZERO land grab time on the two player map. My first build was within 2 hex striking distance of my opponent's first build...both of those were grassland towns quickly upgraded to cities which made for nearly immediate no holds barred assaults. My second build (also a grassland city) was within 3 hexes of his capital.
The twist I noted above comes from this tight map. There is no down time, no safe zone, at most 1 (maybe two) of your towns that are "safe" (i.e. can't be immediately reached by the enemy), and you are thrown into the meet grinder immediately. I quickly learned that where in the 4 player game you may have the luxury of waiting for an ideal heavy attack in the two player game you just attack with what ever you have. MOST of my attacks (and I mean my REAL attacks not my spoiler attacks) were 3 attack dice vs. 4 defense or 2 vs. 3 simply because there was no time to wait to acquire 4 attack dice and no surplus men to concentrate anyway. Even more so than the 4 player game, the 2 player is attack attack attack attack.
Its also EXTREMELY unforgiving. Making a mistake in the two player game is MUCH harder to recover from than in the 4 player. You don't have any help from other players to knock down the winner and you don't have anywhere to rally and counter attack.
How did the actual game go. A real seesaw. Both of us felt the other had us between a rock and a hard place from turn one. The two facing grassland cities I mentioned above were the keystone of our respective efforts. I flubbed an early advantage to hit him when it was just a town with 1 infantry and I had a cavalry and infantry to attack with. I was repulsed with total casualties on both sides. After that the city was upgraded and the attacker was always rolling fewer dice. I had the advantage because I attacked first which meant I could keep his troops largely in reserve but that situation reversed on another flubbed attack.
My next effort was a desperation attack. I had worked one infantry to within 2 spaces of his capital and he tried to clear it out with only 1 infantry. He failed and was prevented from attacking again so I was able to leave off hitting his cavalry city and instead send my second cav and that infantry against his capital TOWN and 1 infantry. Not only did I win, but I suffered no casualties.
I thought the game was mine, but he managed to scavage a couple of infantry and the cavalry from his 1 grassland city that I'd failed to knock out and this time HE took the city with no casualties.
So the capital attack failed but it at least returned the initiative to me on the cavalry city vs cavalry city battle and I managed to take that city but then lost it again.
Interestingly, of the 7 woodland hexes in the game only 1 wound up eligible to build on due to positioning of other towns. He had that one, and finally managed to upgrade to a frigate. Frigates aren't ALL that useful as a rule on a two player map given the short distances involved, but a Frigate adjacent to his capital helped defend on his turn and gave him striking range to one of my cities (the one behind my main cavalry city) that he couldn't reach before...ack..danger danger Will Robinson.
Meanwhile on my left things had been quiet. We had both built artillery cities on the far left but I purposefully placed mine 3 hexes from his (I could have done 2) because I wanted to have some breathing room on the left while I focused on the right. That worked very well initially but now that my attacks on the right had stalled my lack of ability to launch a good offensive on the left was a concern.
At this point it was all or nothing. My opponent had built a plains town within striking distance of my second cavalry city (the one in the middle I'd hit his capital from) and combined with a nearby artillery and his one cavalry was in a very threatening position in the center.
I had one advantage. He had one more build than I, but I had upgraded all 5 of my towns to cities where he only had 3 (and one of those was a frigate). So I had more advanced units. I threw everything I had at that same cavalry city we'd been fighting over. I'd managed to move 1 cannon close enough to bombard that city and another to bombard the threatening plains city (to hinder its threat against my second cav city).
I then suicided an infantry on my left (again thankful I had built a space of breathing room on the left) so I could redeploy it to the right and center. I took that cavalry city but man oh man I didn't feel like I had nearly enough to defend given the presence of that frigate which could hit behind the front line.
But my opponent couldn't concentrate enough forces and his attacks were repulsed. On my turn I pressed my luck again and hit his capital with everything. If it hadn't worked I'd have been very vulnerable. But it did and it left hit with only 2 infantry and a frigate to try and take it back. The death of his last 2 infantry meant game over without his capital and I came away with the win.
It was a hectic, nail biting, crazy crazy "what the heck do I do now kind of game". That played to completion in about 45 minutes.
This game also drove home the strategic importance of town placement and city upgrade choices.
Advice to new players. The BUILD portion of your move is as important (one could argue MORE important) than the move and attack portion. More important because a screwed up attack may be salvageable since you can get the units back right away. A screwed up town placement choice lingers for the entire game.
In this game I made two good Build choices. The first was to forgo an early town and sieze the offense early with an early cavalry upgrade. My initial attack using that cavalry could have won me the game very early. It didn't but it did secure me the initiative (i.e. it was I keeping my opponent's men in reserve for most of the game). The second was keeping breathing room on the left so I didn't have a war on two fronts.
My opponent on the other hand ran into some difficulty with his build choices. One was caused by the decision to build a couple towns 3 spaces away from an existing town rather than 2. All of my cities were within 2 hexes of another city making it much easier to reinforce the front lines and shuffle units for defense. A couple of his towns were out of position to do this and this cost him having as many infantry at the front lines as he could have. In a see saw battle like we had that certainly factored in. The second difficulty was in choosing to build another town rather than upgrade. At the turning point in the game I had 2 cavalry and 2 artillery to draw on. He had 1 cavalry and 1 artillery (and a frigate). That definitely factored in.