first of all I want thank the team of widelands developers, designers, mappers and all other contributers: This game is what I have missed so long (beeing a settlers II fan). Widelands really captures the spirit of the old days and the fun in building a fruitful settlement :) Also the game is of surprising high quality. Congratulations on that! And it's running on Linux, yay!
So, already having "wasted" many hours wuseling against the AI (build17 and trunk in build18 feature freeze), yesterday I have played online with a friend for the first time. After the game, we had some discussion about the gameplay and I have some questions about warfare mechanics and game balance.
I have been playing the barbarians mostly (although I also played the campaigns in build17) in single player AI and multiplayer games. In all my games, my goal was to defeat my opponents via conquering his land or at least to defend my land agains the opponents. I assume the majority of widelands players play it this way, but other goals might lead to other conclusions.
In widelands, land is mostly equal to ressources which are ultimately required for warfare. Thus conquering a lot of land and exploiting the ressources is the dominant strategy. Losing land means losing ressources, winning land means winning ressources. This obviously leads to a virtous cycle: more land -> more ressources -> more soldiers -> more land; or to a vicous cycle: less land -> less ressources -> less soldiers -> less land. Of course I'm just stating the obvious as this is not uncommon for economy centric strategy games.
Following this logic, I mostly rush to conquer as much land as possible. When hitting on the enemy, sooner or later a battle will emerge. Given a suffient number of millitary buildings at the border, the outcome of that battle will be a simple function of the number existing and supply of new soldiers. Most of the time it would make no sense to retreat because giving up land ultimately leads to the vicious cycle. So the party with the higher number of soldiers and the better supply in new soldiers at that point will win this first battle. To win this battle both parties mostly have to get all the soldiers from the interiour country to the border leaving everything behind the border vulnerable once the frontline breaks. Thus, when you win the first battle, the interiour country of the opponent is mostly defenseless. When your supply of new soldiers is only a slight bit higher than that of the opponent, at some point there will be a tipping point where you can take building after building, destroying more and more of your opponents economy. It is this single tipping point that will decide the game.
Basically the game is over after the first battle because either you have won and can subsequently destroy more and more of the opponents country or you have lost and will be the victim of his ever faster and stronger attacks.
Is this what everyone is seeing or are multiplayer games between more advanced players different?
Also (because I think it might be related to the effect), what is the difference between a barrier and a donjon in terms of warfare mechanics?