Updated 03 February 2016
This page has not yet been fully updated to reflect changes in v1.06 in Arulco Vacations
At first I thought my tweaks of the Arulcan Army (sometimes referred to here as "Enemy") were perfect for my tastes. The beginning game was nice -- not too hard and not too easy. After playing a hit and run style game for a bit (almost four weeks game time) things had gotten easier and I thought maybe I made the Army a bit too weak. I was having an easy time of it picking off stray squads of Arulcan Army soldiers wandering about the backwaters. But when it came time to take all of Drassen (I had 2/3 of it) so I could get John & Mary Kulba out of the country . . . well then, the fun really started!
No, I did not make the Army too weak. When the Army started getting serious about us the whole tempo of the game changed again, and this time I was the one running to retreat! The notorious Drassen Counter-Attack was a bloodbath on both sides -- not even my newly bought machinguns and sniper rifles could stem the onrushing tide of Red & Black Shirts. As I ran my Mercs from one side of Drassen (D13) to the other I watched the Militia being outnumbered, outgunned and slaughtered. My mouth hung open while a hidden Army sniper picked off the Militia two at a time (Holy Cow! I can't even do that!), and the rest of the forces laughed and taunted as they charged us. I hung in until the end, but halfway through my 9 Mercs (including Raven, Vickie & Meltdown!) were already inching toward retreat -- the outcome was never in doubt. I just didn't have the heart to leave the battle while the Militia bravely continued to defend the town. I did, however, make sure I could get away when it was over. I was also hoping to inflict enough damage to the Army's force to stop the counter-attack from continuing throughout all of Drassen.
At the same time as the Bloodbath in Drassen the Chitzena Counter-Attack was developing (the .INI setting for Arulco Vacations is that the Queen can counter-attack anywhere she wishes). I could see the Army massing along the road, and knew it was going to be even worse than Drassen -- after all, just Miguel, Carlos and a handful of Militia were up in Chitzena (early recruitment of Rebels tweak). And, as you can see below, the intended reinforcements (Blood, Snake, Razor & Hector) were having troubles of their own in the middle of the country.
|Blood, Snake, Razor & Hector beating feet!|
Ah, yes! This is Jagged Alliance 2, yo! As they say, if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen. Things were heating up nicely in Arulco . . . and I knew my Tweak of the Army was a Good Thing (tm). After all is said and done, the JA series (commercial and mod) is about tactics and strategy -- small unit tactics first and foremost, and the strategic use of your small units. This is not a game where you banzai charge to victory. This is a game where you learn to use good tactics, and are always making important strategic decisions. This is a game where you defend your flanks and keep someone guarding the rear so you don't get shot in the back. This is a game where waiting for the enemy can be more important than going to the enemy. This is a thinking game with lots of action. Ya gotta love it!
Later, after much play-testing I was again dismayed at how easy it was to advance if I refrained from taking whole cities (and thereby not activating the massive counter-attack). That is until I took 3/4 of Grumm . . . and saw this coming . . . and then knew everything was A-OK, yo:
|Yes, that's 80 to the east, and 12 to the west . . . and then there's the ones I can't see!|
But enough of my chatter. You came to this page to see what I did to the Arulcan Army, and in particular, the weapon progression tables. Everybody wants to tweak the weapon tables. It is one of the least thought-out pieces of JA2, and it shows in the fact that everybody wants to fiddle with them.
First, the idea of a weapon progression is mostly pure gaming fudgyness, and hardly anything at all to do with reality. It is the epitome of linear game design. I do not like linear game design. The progression, as it is, seems to try to accomplish two things: slowly bring the Player along from pistols to SMGs to rifles to RPGs, etc., and to showcase all the weapons in the weapon database. Neither of those things have anything at all to do with fighting against a realistic army. So yeah, Players are unsatisfied. After all, the depth of JA2 is one of its finest features, and this shallowness is glaring.
So, what did I do? Two things, basically: decided on what constitutes the Arulcan armoury, and decided on how those weapons are distributed. There is indeed a progression evident -- but it is much more subtle and reasonable. That is, the Army gets better weapons not because C follows B follows A, but because the war intensifies and you're not surprising some rejects stationed in the back-country after the initial assault.
Then, of course, after some victories, the Queen sends out the Elite Forces. Of course, my tweak is still a gamey one, and it is not the be-all and end-all of weapon progression tweaks. It isn't designed to be. It is designed to fit one conception of how the Arulcan Army is outfitted, and how that will be presented to the Player. One thing to note: the Army never, I repeat never, is restricted to pistols. Who does that?
I imagine Arulco is in the Central American Caribbean, and therefore within the sphere of influence of the United States. It is a tiny country, smaller than any real country in the area. It has not had a history of warfare or of a militarized state until the Queen usurped power. She has instituted a very repressive police state, and is gearing up for a much bigger conflict -- hence her biological weapons of mass destruction programs (the Bloodcats, the giant bug creatures & the zombies) and her futuristic weapons program (the rocket rifles, Compound 18, and newer weapons than were available in this supposed time period).
Since coming to power the Queen has been diversifying her military procurement. Being Romanian in the mold of Vlad the Impaler and Nicolae Ceausescu, I imagine she has opted to bolster her old U.S.A. armaments with new Eastern European & Russian weapons -- but that switch is ongoing and only the elite have the new weapons. The rank and file army of this tiny country have a mix of surplus weaponry from WWII onward. Some of the ordinary soldiers in the back-country will have bolt-action rifles, carbines, and old sub- and light machine-guns (and maybe a few pistols . . . but not .38's, yo -- that's a civilian weapon). The quality increases within the Regular Army to reach M14 and FN-FAL rifles and mid-range automatic weapons. The Elite start out with M14/M16 rifles, newer machine-guns, and get better equipment as the war progresses. The Admin troops . . . well, that's a totally new story . . . read on!
It seems that most Players/Modders expect the Arulcan Army to have mainly Eastern European & Russian weaponry. That is completely backwards to reality. True, lots of Central American Caribbean countries have such weaponry nowadays, and have had them for decades. That is because the rebels in those countries overthrew the U.S.A.-backed dictators with Soviet aid. The dictators were supplied by the United States, and had American weaponry.
In fact, there are still ex-military officers from the U.S.A. in Arulco working for the Queen, most notably The General in Alma. However, it must be that these foreign military officers are renegade as well as mercenary -- else the U.S.A. would squash any rebellion that threatened the current regime. Most certainly the U.S.A. would retaliate in force when you kill The General, and would not allow Soviet/Russian tanks in the Arulcan Army in the first place. The General is a hired gun just like you, but working for the Queen.
That aside, if you want Eastern European & Russian weaponry in Arulco you have to supply it to the rebels. The rebels are not getting any aid from Russia or the ex-WP nations. Yes, there are a few Russians in Arulco also, but again they must be extremely low in priority and importance because dispatching them causes absolutely no consequences from the Russian government. The rebels in Arulco are not getting aid from anywhere except from you. Arulco at this time and in its past is not even a blip on the U.S.A.-Soviet/Russia Cold War radar screen. Before the Queen took over the country 10 years ago there was no armed rebellion (though Miguel Cordona (the rebel leader) and Enrico Chivaldori (the elected monarch) had been at odds with each other for the previous decade), and Arulco was completely in the sphere of influence of the United States.
Nowadays the choice of new weaponry for the Army is more diversified, and there's a definite influence coming from organized crime (that is, Kingpin and Tony mainly -- and in other mods the international corporations come into the picture in a big way). However, consider also that Arulcan monetary reserves are not large, and certainly not endless. The Queen is spending a lot of that money on new (i.e. sci-fi & WMD) weaponry.
True, she's bankrupting the people by stealing all their wealth. She's ruined the major industry (tourism) by this destruction of the middle and working classes, and the secondary industry, precious metal mining, is coming to the end of its profitable span (as the Players find out themselves). The international mining corporation, Ricci Corp., helped finance the Queen's rise to power, and helps keep her in power and fund her research. JA2: Unfinished Business takes this storyline a lot further. I must confess that I have played only a little of JA2: Unfinished Business, and that was a while ago.
Body armour (which is in the Item Choice picklist and will be detailed separately, not the Gun Choice picklist) is restricted to army coats, jungle fatigues, battle dress, kevlar and twaron -- the newer body armor materials are not available for this imagined time period for the Arulcan Army. Non-armoured jungle fatigues are standard for the Arulcan Regulars.
You are free to purchase whatever you wish from Bobby Ray's (the international weapons dealer in-game), and from Tony & others as the in-game merchant inventories have also been greatly expanded in Arulco Vacations. The .INI tweak that goes along with all this sets Bobby Ray's quantity and quality at "Awesome" -- because after all, this is a game for the Player's enjoyment. Outfit your Mercs however you want, and supply your militia with whatever you want. This whole tweak centers around the Arulcan Army, not your Mercs -- except to expand the available options for your Mercs, such as much better starting gear.
Just a quick note to remind that this Army Tweak is nestled into a lot of other tweaks, such as the Coolness By Sector Tweak, and is intended to be used with all the other tweaks that make up the Arulco Vacations Tweak. By themselves, each part is unbalanced. Together, I think they make for a challenging game right from the start.
There is a third type of military in JA2 -- the so-called "Admin" troops, popularly known in other mods and the vanilla game as Yellow Shirts because of their in-game characterization (Regulars are Red Shirts, Elites are Black Shirts). They are supposed to be the desk jockeys and police . . . but they are really just fodder for the beginning player to slaughter. In most mods they disappear quite soon, which in my opinion is a dreadful waste of a game resource. Arulco Vacations has changed the Admin troops. They now are the White Shirts, and they represent the so-called 'Men-In-Black', the black suit/white shirt guys. They are all the undercover guys from police detectives to secret agents. They are the secret police, the death squads, the Federali, the alphabet soup agency guys -- the ones who torture and otherwise oppress and suppress the people for the Queen.
As such, yes, some of the Federali have pistols at the start because they aren't expecting to fight mercenaries, only unarmed civilians. But even then they have such pistols as the UDAR-94, which is no joke in urban battles. They also have shotguns and other normal police-type weaponry. Quickly they become SWAT teams (Special Weapons And Tactics, yo -- these ain't desk jockeys!), and then secret agents with the newest weaponry (i.e. they get the rocket rifles and newest weapons as well as the Elite Forces) -- but always remembering they are Men-In-Black and not army soldiers. The Army Composition files have been tweaked also to allow for this new representation.
Now, you have a good reason to be killing these non-army guys -- as they are the the worst of the "naughty men" (as Hamous would say), not the most incompetent of the incompetent. Slaughter them with impunity because otherwise they will laugh as they do unspeakable tortures to you. You will find them in more places than in other mods -- like the secret prison, the capitol city, the resort town, and every place you would expect to find the gestapo keeping tabs on everyone.
I have also added some garrisons to the map in appropriate places for appropriate reasons -- thinking like I think the Queen (or Elliott & Joe, or the Generals) actually would in these circumstances. The composition and numbers of the existing garrisons and patrols have also been tweaked. Their priorities to the Queen, and the patrol orders for the patrols, are also tweaked. I will let all that be some of the surprises you will have on this vacation. I have tried to make Arulco Vacations more like a vacation for the Player who has gamed this Arulco scenario for a decade or so, and wants a little different take on the whole thing. I also am trying to make it seem more like a real war that you are engaged in. Yeah, I set the bar high, yo -- vacation and war at the same time . . .
For v1.04 I have included Army personnel on-map outfitted as medics, mechanics and radio operators. The incidence of this kind of equipment being assigned by the game engine was too low for my tastes. These personnel will not be in every squad as they are randomly assigned to squads by the game engine.
For v1.05 I fine-tuned the Gun & Item Choice lists, and I also changed the Coolness/Progress Modifier for the Arulcan Army, The net result is to slow the advance of weaponry a little, and to have the Regulars outfitted more non-standard at the end of the game -- when you have depleted the Army of it's best weapons and best soldiers. Of course, at the very end you will still face the queen's Praetorian Guard -- and they will be outfitted with the best arms and armour that you will face all game long. As well, I adjusted the composition of the Arulcan Army so that there is a more realistic pecentage of Elites to Regulars. That means there are may more Regulars and fewer Elites than in previous versions of Arulco Vacations. The Elites are now mainly stationed in strategic locations and in the special counter-attacks, while the Regulars are everywhere else.
For v1.06 I further adjusted the Garrison compositions, the Queen's pool of recruits, and added to & modified the Patrol routes in order to focus the Queen's military strategy more effectively. The roads are more heavily patrolled, and the Army will seek to re-capture strategic locations such as mines, military bases, and airports more aggressively. I also adjusted the Army's Gun & Item Choice progression. The enemy is now a more capable opponent, and strategic choices by the Player have more importance on the progression of the war.
Previously, I had the Gun Choice lists on this page in XML format as they are within the game itself. It was for those with some modding experience to see what I was doing to the weapon progression and choices for the Arulcan Army. Those lists have become outdated so I removed them. At some point soon I will detail the Arulcan Army order of battle in plain language
Once again, thanks to all the modders of this game!