154 BC, the expansion of the Roman Empire into Hispania continues. The city of Segada begins reinforcing its defensive walls, an act that Rome sees as a violation of a treaty established twenty years prior. Despite claims by Segada that no violation occurred, Rome prepares for war and deploys a massive Roman force to Segada. In response, the people of Segada, their walls not complete, sought refuge with the Arevaci. Shortly afterwards, they successfully ambush the main Roman force, inflicting thousands of casualties on both sides. The Arevaci are victorious, leaving the Romans humiliated and giving pause to their advance. They assemble at the town of Numantia, known for its strong natural defences, and prepare for the inevitable Roman retaliation.
Numantia is a turn-based hex grid game, based on true historic events, where you’ll be taking the role of either the Numantian people defending against the encroachment if the Roman Empire, or as the Roman Empire itself. Both factions have access to unique rosters of soldiers, as well as unique campaign benefits and challenges that they face.
You’ll be navigating Numantia’s campaign through two primary screens. The Settlement screen is where you’ll be resolving domestic disputes, crises, and direct assaults by enemy forces, as well as purchasing and upgrading troops and acquiring gear for them to equip. The Campaign screen is where you’ll be resolving issues and combats farther away from home. You may have to choose how a character approaches an argument between two other important figures, how to address conflicting demands of potential allies, how to handle the presence of enemy forces, or how to react to events that occur near and far. Your choices will most directly affect resources you gain, the moral of your troops, as well as access to some rarer units, for better or worse.
When the time comes for combat, you’ll be called to put together your army roster from the various units you’ve purchased or gained through the campaign up to that point. The size of your army largely depends on the type of engagements – larger combats can have a limitation of around sixteen or more units, while smaller ambush missions may only allow you to take around six. When choosing and purchasing units, you have a choice between heroes (who are powerful single man units that boost the morale of allies) as well as Melee, Ranged, and Cavalry units who are self-explanatory. Finally, Special Units tend to be powerful units that cannot normally be purchased but are gained as a result of your choices in the campaign.
Once in the actual combat, the two combatting sides alternate activating batches of their units, the order of which is based on the initiative value of those units. The order is set, so if all the units in a batch are killed, that batch is skipped, resulting in the other player being able to activate two batches concurrently. Furthermore, you’re always aware of the next batch of enemy troops to activate, allowing you react or proactively assault those units. The order in which units activate can throw one a bit, though, as you may deploy your ranged units behind a line of melee infantry, only to have the ranged unit activate first with no way to move forward to get into range.
This is important as the effectiveness of units degrade as the battle continues. As units take damage and suffer casualties, they’ll lose a lot of their damage output. Furthermore, all units have morale which determines an additional damage bonus, which fluctuates depending on the level of morale. High morale will result in an impressive damage boost, while a complete lack of morale will see damage fall below a unit’s base damage, drastically reducing their effectiveness. Morale is normally gained by proximity to friendly units, as well as inflicting casualties and wiping out enemy units, and it’s lost by proximity to enemy units and suffering casualties in turn. Campaign effects can also affect the level of moral your forces begin combat at, giving increased weight to your choices outside of simply winning and losing battles.
This affects combat in two interesting ways: Firstly, there’s always some value in damaging enemy units, even if you can’t immediately cripple or remove them, as they’ll slowly suffer penalties to their damage output. Secondly, once a unit has been devastated it can often be safely ignored, allowing you to focus on more pressing threats before cleaning up. Finally, unit facing is crucial. The front three sides of a unit’s hex are the sides a unit is most prepared to defend, but attacking from the flanks and particularly when attacking a unit’s rear provides considerable damage bonuses. A healthy unit with full Morale attacking another unit’s rear can deal immense damage
The combat is really enjoyable, and the damage, morale, and facing mechanics add a really fun and intriguing tactical layer to the experience. Many of the combat scenarios often seem overwhelming at first, and the game certainly throws you into the deep end to begin with, but good play will see you through, as the tide slowly but surely turns your way.
It’s unfortunate then that I had to push through several difficulties to reach that point of enjoyment, as the game suffers from poor UI (both in and outside of combat), some frustrating bugs, and a tutorial that rushes through itself while piling on a lot of information.
The tutorial technically presents the most important information for the most part, but its presentation means it’s often difficult for a lot of it to stick, especially as a result of the UI. It comes across as something that was used in development but never given a proper pre-release polish. A lot of the basic visual details are there, but poor presentation means they’re hard to intuitively notice – it took me several games to fully understand exactly how the initiative system was being visually presented to me, as well as how to properly use unit abilities. While the initiative track showed which enemy units would activate next, it simply showed their portraits without allowing me to click on them and have the game show me exactly which units it was, forcing me to go through enemy units until I found the ones with matching portraits.
Furthermore, I only noticed the visual indicator to tell you if you’ll be attacking a weaker flank much further into the game, when I’d started to question if attacking flanks actually had any bonus as I simply hadn’t picked up on any visual cues to suggest this before then. I had to re-learn a lot of what they game had tried to initially teach me through trial and error, often leading to frustration.
The UI also has issues outside of combat, particularly when it comes to managing your units. It took me ages to figure out how to scroll through gear I’d bought and equip anything other than the default selection. I’ve still no idea how unit upgrades are unlocked, whether they become available through story progression or if I simply couldn’t afford them – the game simply would not respond in any way when I couldn’t upgrade.
Finally, I repeatedly encountered a bug where I’d be browsing either through buildings to manage my units, or through my units in a mission, and the game would get stuck, preventing me from interacting with the game in any way, forcing me to quit and restart – particularly as one can’t save within missions.
Visually, the game is a bit of a strange hybrid. When in combat the visuals of troops, as well as the environment, are perfectly fine, albeit a bit sparse at times. On the campaign screen, however, there seems to be a conflict of several notably different artistic styles. While individually they’re fine (for the most part), having all three hurts the game’s sense of cohesive design.
In the end, Numantia really does feel like it needs one or two more rounds of good polish to clean up the UI, as I feel that actively hurts the player experience. On the other hand, once I clicked with how the game worked, I really started enjoying it, and there’s a strong sense that the game has great potential if those issues were to be addressed. It’s unfortunate that it was released before it was entirely ready, but if you’re a fan of hex-based combat and you’re willing to push through all those issues, there’s a good game lying beneath.
Last Updated: November 21, 2017