Three Moves Ahead is the leading strategy game themed podcast on the internet. Every week a panel of knowledgeable gamers with strong opinions meets to talk about the strategy and war games of the day, design issues and games in the wider world.
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Len and Jon are joined by Sin Vega and Well There's Your Problem's Justin Roczniak (donoteat01) to discuss Cities: Skylines 2. We have some mixed feelings about this much anticipated sequel, and we don't shy away from pointing out what doesn't work while giving a few nods to what is new and cool. If you understand how garbage works in this game, please leave a comment.
Len and Ian are joined by freelance writer Josh Broadwell to discuss Total War: Pharaoh, the first properly historical Total War in an actual age. We dig into the new campaign mechanics, the feel of the battles, and the scope of the map. Has Creative Assembly Sophia come from behind to take the title of Total War's A-Team?
This week, Jon is joined by RPS Editor in Chief Katherine Castle and freelance writer Dominic Tarason to discuss Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew. Mimimi's swan song, as we sadly learned after recording, is a follow-up and an evolution to Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun and Desperados 3, both games that we loved. What makes this one even better? Why is Len using dashes instead of colons to separate the show number from the game title now? I don't know if I like this.
Len, Jon, and Ian are joined by Brian "Chef Lu Bu" Smawley to delve into Baldur's Gate 3. We discuss what really makes this a CRPG that can be enthusiastically recommended to tactics fans, what our favorite races, classes, and companions have been, and the ridiculous antics we've gotten up to with Larian's "Yes, and..." engine and quest design. Is this the best version of Dungeons & Dragons you can play on the computer? Give it a listen and roll Insight to find out.
Rob, Len, and Rowan are in the pipe, five-by-five, to discuss Aliens: Dark Descent. An unconventional squad-based stealth game that brings James Cameron's sci-fi classic to a new (and dare we say better) perspective, we discuss similarities to the likes of Darkest Dungeon and how clever escalation mechanics can dynamically imitate the structure of a horror movie.
This week, Len is joined by Sin Vega and Dominic Tarason to discuss Jagged Alliance 3, the long-awaited sequel to one of the greatest tactical games of all time. Did they do a good job of recapturing what made the original so memorable? Is this just another XCOM, or is there more to see here?
It's the... Summer of Wargaming? When a game comes along that's even too obscure and spreadsheet-y for our normal panel, we light the Grognard Beacon. And this week, first-timers Wesley Livesay and Benjamin Magnus answered the call. The subject? Rule the Waves 3. If you love mid-90s PC productivity software interfaces and big boats of all shapes and sizes, you're in for a treat. We discuss what makes this crunchy Secretary of the Navy simulator so compelling, and why it's worth overcoming the steep barriers to entry.
Len, Rowan, and Jon step through the portal into Age of Wonders 4, the latest fantasy 4X from Triumph and Paradox. We dig deep into the strategic and tactical pacing and why so much of it hits the spot in a world of ultra marathon strategy campaigns. What is so satisfying about its empire customization and progression? And did we actually manage to make an episode about a game we like that's not 75 percent complaining?
Rowan, Len, and Nerium hitch their wagon to Darkest Dungeon 2 and set in for the long haul on this epic-length episode. We discuss some of the ways this sequel is an improvement over one of 3MA's consensus favorite games of all time (that we somehow never did a dedicated episode on), and several ways in which it's not. What kind of parties did we like to roll with? How have things changed since early access? And is there a cooler narrator than Wayne June? By the end, you might even get to hear us have a Meltdown!
Rowan, Nerium, and Luke set off into the fantasy landscape of Wartales to give a glimpse at one of the most robust tactical management games we've seen in a while. They discuss how it's a counterpoint to – and possibly even a commentary on – Battle Brothers in a couple of interesting ways. You'll also hear perspectives from both of its world scaling settings, to help you decide if you'd rather have everything automatically scale to your current party, or tackle the more dangerous, "MMO-style" version where each region comes with a set level and may be deadlier than you're ready for.
It's an all-star panel as Len and Mike Williams are joined by Mohawk Games' and Idle Thumbs' own Soren Johnson and Paradox Tinto's Johan Andersson to chip away at a tricky target: the different design goals between a more "Board Gamey" strategy game like Civilization and the "Simulationist" breed exemplified by Europa Universalis. We discuss what we like and don't like about each one, who the audiences are for each, and how to navigate the significant overlap in those audiences. In the end, maybe it's not as adversarial after all...
This week, Len and Ian welcome military historian Brett Devereaux back to the show to talk about The Great War: Western Front. We discuss what it gets right and what it gets wrong about the trenches, artillery bombardments, and innovative tactics that eventually broke the stalemate. But at the end of the day, does the Western Front of World War I just suck as a setting for a strategy game?
This week, Rowan teams up with Fanbyte's Mike Williams and Kotaku's Luke Plunkett to discuss Terra Nil, a "city builder in reverse" about restoring the natural ecosystem of a devastated planet. We break down what makes this concept so compelling, feelgood, and relaxing, as well as what it could have done differently to fill a more simulationist niche.
Len and Ian are joined once again by our official unofficial historical consultant, UNC Chapel Hill's Dr. Bret Devereaux, to discuss a couple of interrelated topics: Snowballing in strategy games and the process of industrialization. We take a wide-ranging trek through games and history that touches on different ways developers have tried to put checks on snowballing, what factors prevented real societies from hitting that exponential growth until the 1800s, and which games portray it best. There's also a lot of chat on our exploits in the recent 1.2 patch for Victoria 3, because of course there would be.
We have a packed panel this week as Jon is joined by Fanbyte's Mike Williams and Nerium Strom, Waypoint's Renata Price, and Freehold Games' Brian Bucklew to hop into the cockpit on Phantom Brigade. This is far from the first turn-based mech game we've talked about, so why were there so many people excited to talk about it that we couldn't even include them all on one show? What are our biggest criticisms, and why did we end up digging it regardless?
Rob and Ian are joined by Kotaku's Luke Plunkett to dig in to Company of Heroes 3. The long-awaited World War II RTS left us with mixed feelings, between a dynamic campaign that just doesn't really work and some of the best battle maps the series has ever seen. So how does it all stack up when the smoke clears? And what about that North Africa operation?
Len, Jon, and Ian kick off what is to be an ongoing series revisiting some big ideas in strategy games that we haven't covered since Ye Olde Podcast Days of Yore. This time around, we're taking a fresh look at religion, which we last gave its own show waaay back in 2009. How have strategy games changed their depiction of spiritual practices in the last decade or so, and how are they still stuck in certain ruts? We also discuss some of our favorite non-standard takes on religion like Frostpunk and Terra Invicta, and share some thoughts on what we'd like to see done differently.
It's a NoCBcast semi-reunion as Len is joined by Lambert (https://www.youtube.com/Lambert2191) and Father Lorris (https://www.chapelcomic.com/) to discuss Anbennar, our favorite Europa Universalis IV total conversion mod. Have you ever wondered how elite elven archers would fare against 18th Century line infantry? What if the Protestant Reformation was kicked off by the literal death of a god? It's epic high fantasy meets the early modern world and we can't recommend it enough.
Len, Rowan, and Mike Gillis take peek ahead at the roster of strategy games that are maybe, probably, or definitely coming out (or coming out of Early Access) in 2023. We also take an aside for some informed speculation on what some suspiciously quiet heavy-hitters like Total War and Civilization might be concocting. Also, who is Hooded Horse and why are they publishing everything we're into now?
Len is joined by PCGamesN's Ian Boudreau, Fanbyte's Mike Williams, and 3MA Janitor Emeritus Mike Gillis to give a thoughtful post-mortem on the year that was 2022. What were the big ideas? What were our favorite games? What disappointed us?
Len and Fraser are joined by PC Gamer's Evan Lahti to discuss Marvel's Midnight Suns. This tactical card battle RPG from Firaxis is a big departure from XCOM... or is it? We gush and grumble about our most and least favorite characters, respectively, break down the combat and progression systems, and learn an important lesson about the true meaning of friendship.
Jon and Len are joined by Fanbyte's Mike Williams and freelance writer Gita Jackson to celebrate and discuss the steam release of Dwarf Fortress. We dig greedily and deep into what makes this game so special, the moments we'll always remember, and some of our favorite little guys.
Len and Rowan are joined by Brian "Chef Lu Bu" Smawley and Axe of the Blood God's Eric Van Allen to discuss Marvel Snap, the latest free-to-play comic book card battle sensation. We talk about how it sets itself apart from the likes of Magic or Hearthstone, what our favorite cards are, and which deck archetypes make you an objectively bad person if you play them.
Len and John are joined once again by UNC Chapel Hill's Dr. Bret Devereaux to finally, at long last, discuss Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. We have some mixed feelings about it. What did we love and what did we really not? How do the systems and battles stand up to a military historian's eyes? And at the end of the day, is it actually good?
Len is joined this week by a full squad of developers from Creative Assembly to talk about Total War: Warhammer 3's Immortal Empires beta launch, and what may be to come in the near future. DLC Director Richard Aldridge, Lead Designer Sean Macdonald, Lead UI Programmer Mikaela Lidstrom, and designer William Hakestad talk about everything from the challenges of getting this beast working to their personal favorite start positions, while Len only revels a little bit in the fact that she's the only one here allowed to say "Chaos Dwarfs" without being tackled by a PR handler.
The long-awaited steel and steam macroeconomics simulator from Paradox has finally graced us with its presence, and we've assembled a League of Extraordinary Lady and Gentlemen to discuss it. Len and Jon are joined by Kotaku's Luke Plunkett, PCGamesN's Ian Boudreau, and our good friend from UNC Chapel Hill, Dr. Bret Devereaux to analyze this absolute behemoth of a game from every angle. Hold on tight and keep your arms and legs completely inside the podcast. We're about to leave the station for an epic episode.
Rowan is joined by Firaxis Narrative Lead Cat Manning and freelance writer Ruth Cassidy to discuss Crusader Kings 3, two years on. How do we feel about it after all the patches and DLCs? What's great about it, and what's still not so great? And what would our dream version of this game look like?
This week, Len and Jon discuss the concept of the Forever Game: the strategy game you could keep playing from now until the end of time. Do they even really exist? What has come closest for us? And has the trend of continuous development brought them into existence only recently?
SPOILER WARNING! Skip from 44:00 to 58:43 if you want to experience your first playthrough blind to the truths behind the alien threat. Len and Jon take to the stars with Terra Invicta: a wildly ambitious, solar-system-spanning, alien invasion grand strategy games from the makers of XCOM and XCOM 2's Long War mods. The ambition is incredible, but with ambition comes hubris. Is this even a working video game? And if so, who is it for?
The promise of the Civil War game that does everything is enticing but elusive. Now that it's out of early access, is Grand Tactician: The Civil War that game? Is it even close? Rowan and Rob get into the weeds on its officer promotion system, AI, brilliant little touches, and missed opportunities.
Len, Rowan, Jon, and Kotaku's Luke Plunkett take the plunge into Total War: Warhammer 3's Immortal Empires beta. It's the fullest realization of the promise Creative Assembly made six years ago and one of the most ambitious strategy campaigns of all time. Did the madlads actually pull it off?
Len and Jon are joined again by UNC Chapel Hill's Dr. Bret Devereaux to discuss Farthest Frontier, a survival city-builder with an uncommon level of historical authenticity. From clearing brush to crop blights, the attention the devs have given to inflicting realistic suffering on our villagers captured our imagination. But does it hold up at this early stage of early access?
Len and Jon are joined once again by Fanbyte's Mike Williams to talk about their semester abroad in Two Point Campus. Is the humor a bonus or a drawback? How is it, really, as a management game? And what exactly does the Scientography machine... do? We have written a thesis on all of these topics and are ready to defend it.
Len is joined by two special guests, Strategy Lead at Vortex Games Trent Murray and Head of Esports at Frost Giant Studios, Trevor "TorcH" Housten. From the glory days of Brood War in Korea to the modern era of "ded gaem", we go over the history of RTS esports, why it was overshadowed by other genres, and what the future may hold. In particular, Trevor has some insights to share on what Frost Giant is doing to create the first "social RTS."
Rowan, Troy, and Ian Boudreau dig into Strategic Command: American Civil War. Taking a very high-level look at the conflict, the focus is much more on the operation than individual battles. It's an ambitious approach for a relatively small studio. Does it pass muster from serious Civil War buffs? And what about Ian?
Rob sits down with Company of Heroes 3 Lead Gameplay Designer Matt Philip and Senior Designer Will Ward to talk about the recently-released North Africa alpha, which you can play from today until July 19. The Deutsch Afrika Korps is the second German faction to be announced, so what sets them apart from the Wehrmacht? And how do you balance around player attention in a game where you're supposed to zoom in and admire the detail?
Len is joined by Sin Vega to discuss Starship Troopers: Terran Command, a bug-splattering RTS that happens to be the first licensed Starship Troopers game in far longer than you may realize. And there's a bit more to it than just StarCraft or Dawn of War with a cult hit sci fi license tagged on, too. I feel like I can't make the "Would you like to know more?" joke again so I'll spare you all that.
Len and 3MA Radar Technician Mike are joined by Sports Business Journal's Jason Wilson to talk about Songs of Conquest, an early access aspiring successor to Heroes of Might and Magic. We've got frog men. We've got zombies. We've got Generic Human Fantasy Kingdom. Is it worth a look?
Len and Rowan are joined by Kotaku's Luke Plunkett and Twitch streamer Casey Explosion to talk about Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters, and also more than a little bit of Mechanicus since we seem to have slept on that one. Is this just XCOM with space marines? And why should you be paying attention to this, the 40,000th Warhammer 40,000 game to release just in the last decade alone?
Len and Jon are joined by Leyla and Soren Johnson to talk about Old World's Steam launch and its first big expansion. We got their thoughts on the Early Access process, figuring out how to depict historical cultures like the Hittites when sources are sparse, and where the ancient era 4X might go next.
Len and Rowan are joined by Fanbyte's Steven Strom to test fly a new episode format. Our usual episodes covering a specific game or digging deep on a single topic aren't going anywhere, but this week we're just sitting down to have a chat about what we've been playing and what's on our minds relating to the world of strategy games. Steven needs a new management game to sink their teeth into. Rowan has been moving and putting Civ through its paces on the Nintendo Switch. And Len has some good and bad news about class warfare. If you enjoyed the show this month, we always really appreciate your support over at Patreon.com/3ma