Forces: addictive, turn-based game of global domination


FORCES (also known as BattleForces) is a free, online turn-based strategy game that is played in the browser in single player or online multiplayer modes.

It takes elements from RISK as well as concepts from other strategy wargames and blends them into a game that is surprisingly playable and addictive.

My strategy for this review is as follows: I will begin with how this game is similar to RISK, as I think many readers are familiar with that game; next I will pivot to all the novel concepts employed that are completely unlike RISK, and finally I will go on to shed light on some of the game dynamics in detail.
The ways in which this is similar to RISK
Players will instantly see the visual resemblance, but specifically just as in RISK territories you own that are surrounded by other territories are shielded from direct invasion, and each territory has a pre-determined income value that it produces each turn.

The innovations: how Forces is different from RISK
Forces is unlike RISK in that turns are played simultaneously rather than in sequence, and there is no additional income bonus inherent in holding entire continents. Each player will have a capital that, if lost for more than a single turn will result in immediate defeat. Units are produced in factories, which can be built anywhere but will differ in their per-turn output capacity based on the income potential of each territory. There are, moreover, multiple unit types with different functions, different attack, defence, and movement points, and different costs to build (and both naval and air warfare is thrown into the mix). Finally, there can be various victory conditions such as any combination of the following: controlling a certain number of capitals, occupying a certain number of territories, achieving a certain amount of income per turn, or accumulating a certain amount of money.
Battle: land, air, and sea
Units have different attack, defense, and movement capabilities, and a different pricetag for each. Some have special functions such as troop transporter ships (needed for an invasion from the sea) and SAM antiaircraft batteries. Infantry are cheap and are good defenders, but are limited to moving a single territory per turn. Tanks are better at attacking, and can move two tiles per turn, but are more expensive. Air units can attack from many tiles away to provide support for your land units, but cannot occupy a territory and need a friendly territory or aircraft carrier nearby to land in. SAM units can be placed in tiles to shoot down enemy air units. Naval units are used to control ocean territories, to transport land-based units, or provide a landing strip for air units in the case of aircraft carriers.

Naval units placed in territories “block” these from invasion (unless, of course, an opponent sends enough naval units to defeat yours and move through). Transporter units can transport land units on sea tiles, but are generally weak and will often require protection in the form of escorts of  stronger naval units.

Single Player
Is extremely addictive; however, the computer AI tends not to be too sophisticated and generally speaking (and with some patience) computer opponent are fairly easy to defeat once you get the hang of the game. The AI players inexplicably tend NOT to gang up on you even when you’re clearly on your way to win the game.

It is easy to find and join games; there’s a lot of them going on. Each game will have a turn length that is determined by whoever creates the game (usually 24 hours), during which players can submit their turn otherwise lose a turn. What this means, essentially, is that depending on the turn length and the enthusiasm and promptness of players games can go on for months. There’s also a Windows Vista Widget that can tell you when its your turn to play and give other game-related info.

The best way to do multiplayer, I think, is to create a private game with a bunch of people you know that you know will submit their turns promptly. Lots of fun will be had by all.

Wish list: (or how this game can be even better)

  • Better computer AI: for those, like me, who like single player games and would like them to be more challenging.
  • A desktop client: please. It would be nice to be able to play this offline as well (for single player).
  • An iPhone App: I would be willing to pay for an iPhone app to play this on-the-go.

The verdict: if you have a strategy wargamer in you, check this one out. It is an extremely well put together game that is fairly easy to get into and extremely addictive once you do. The developers deserve credit for what is quite the achievement. Highly recommended.

[Thanks to reader Michael for letting me know about this one]

Compatibility: a modern browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc). You will need to create a user account using a valid email.

Go to the Forces home page to play.