Rule the Waves is a game about building, maintaining, and commanding a great navy in the age of the dreadnought. In peacetime, you design, construct and deploy your ships, handle your budget, respond to events, play politics, and exert some influence on other areas of policy. In times of war, you do all this and additionally play out the naval battles yourself in the tactical layer.
I initially wanted to review this game for Stellar Relic, but Tim Stone already said almost everything I would say. Here’s an abbreviated version of my review: I love this game dearly. The best way to explain why is to write up a playthrough and show you some of the amazing emergent storytelling that this 1990s-looking oddity can produce. That’s what this is.
So! What nation shall we play? There’s a lot to choose from – all the European Great Powers of the turn of the century, plus Japan and the USA. The two included “custom nations” are Spain and the Confederate States of America.
I’ve gone with Germany. A game of Britain would be too easy. France and Italy are fun but I’ve played them a lot, and I’m a little tired of the Mediterranean. Austria-Hungary’s economy is too weak to be much fun. Germany, now… large economy, good technology, research advantages galore. It should be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. I’m excited to see how I might stack up against Russia or the UK.
Tirpitz? No, we’d like Grossadmiral von Howell, please. I check the “manual build of legacy fleet” box and go for it.
Every nation obviously has to begin with a navy when the game starts – it’s not like someone came up with the idea of putting guns on boats in January 1900. Normally, this “legacy fleet” is automatically designed and generated by the AI; “manual build of legacy fleet” means I get to throw it together myself. As technology unlocks, I’ll be able to build better ships, but the legacy fleet is limited to baseline tech. Above is me designing the current pride of the Imperial German Navy: the Wörth-class battleship. I’ll go more into ship design in the next post, but for now, it suffices to say that it’s not as complicated and terrifying as it appears.
Here’s what the High Seas Fleet looks like I’m done: a core of six pre-dreadnought battleships (“B”), five armoured cruisers (“CA”), eight light cruisers (“CL”), and a hungry pack of 500-ton torpedo boats. They’re all fairly reasonable, balanced designs for their tonnage. Nothing crazy yet! This is just the legacy fleet. Oh, and I threw some cash at building bigger docks, too, so I can construct larger vessels in the future.
There’s a research component to the game, as well. I bump up my budget to the maximum 10% and prioritize ship design, armour development, and damage control, while deprioritizing submarines and a few other subsystems. This is a bit of a gamble, but I’ve decided to focus on Germany’s strengths. The Kaiser’s fleet will be tough.
The world of Rule The Waves is broken up into various zones. The vast majority of the German fleet is in Germany, of course, but I do in fact own colonial possessions that need protecting in Africa and the Pacific.
I decide to build up my defenses in the Pacific, improving the base in the Caroline Islands. I don’t expect to get in a war with Japan or the US (the great Pacific powers), but it’s nice to be prepared, and I can use the Carolines as a base for long-range raiders on other powers.
So: most of my preparations are done. I’ve advanced the game a couple of the monthly turns at this point, and since I’m not constructing any ships right now, the German Navy is flush with cash. I’ve got a decent battleline, I’m improving my bases, and with the benefit of hindsight, I’m ready to jump on any breakthrough in ship design.
In September 1900, my first three key technological advances are made.
With these research improvements and a massive $76 million budget surplus that needs to be spent, I decide it’s time to build the next generation of German battleships. And maybe start poking the Russians a little. I suspect a nice, easy war with the Tsar will help
my the Imperial Navy’s prestige immensely. My intelligence budget is jacked up to the maximum and a wave of German spies are dispatched to the Slavic empire.
I have no idea how stupidly arrogant I’m being. Join me next time to find out!