Anyone looking for a simple yet engaging fantasy based war game should be relatively happy with Heirs to the Throne. The major ingredients of the game consist of economic management and military might with many other strategic elements thrown in for good measure. The first thing you notice in the game, though, is the incredible number of customization options available before beginning your quest to subvert the entire continent. No less than six screens give you options such as number of (human) players, continent size (between 16 and 99 provinces), number of villages within the provinces (5 to 99), and attitude (hostile, neutral or friendly) of the computer controlled Royalists (troops still loyal to the dead king and holding most of the provinces). And that is just the first screen of options! The rest deal with dozens of other issues like how Royalists enter captured provinces, interest rates, strength of fortifications, new village costs, terrain considerations, likelihood of random events, weather, reappearance (yes, no, when, etc.) of the true king's heir and his troops (he starts off away on some crusade), distribution of Royalists, army size of the four Barons (10 to 99 soldiers), initial worth of the Barons (0 to 99 gold pieces), composition of your army (infantry, cavalry, pioneers, archers), whether to watch battles between computer controlled armies, amount of village production of supplies, rate of rearmament of Royalist soldiers (how much of the budget goes toward recruiting) and much more.
The four Barons (human or computer controlled) and Royalists (strictly computer controlled), each have a specific phase tree to negotiate every turn. Looking at those will give you an idea of the subtle complexity of this relatively simple, straightforward game. The Barons (another option is the order in which they take turns) will have a Title Phase (your possessions are evaluated and a title of Earl, Duke, Prince, Elector or King bestowed on your Baron), Income and Production Phase, Distribution of Supplies, Phase of Events, Attacking Phase, Combat, Movement Phase, Investment Phase and finally Composition of Troops. Any or all of these will occur depending upon your pre-game selections during the option screens. The Royalists only have three phases (seen by human players): Attacking, Movement and Investment phases.
The interface is a simple mouse point-and-click system in conjunction with pop-up menus and right clicking gives you an assortment of maps, tables and charts. Each game starts with a randomly generated map. Combat is achieved by clicking on the province you're interested in attacking then selecting the province housing the troops you wish to use -- even then you still have a choice whether to attack or withdraw after a computer generated analysis of troop strengths, terrain and weapons. Game play is extremely smooth as is the screen scrolling function. A word of caution: the computer AI is one very strong element in this game so don't underestimate those computer controlled Barons or Royalists. They're sneaky, cutthroat and smart and will even gang up on you if the chance arises.
Graphics: A bit cartoonish and simplistic.
Enjoyment: Limited combat sequences, almost anti-climactic after all the posturing, but more than made up for by the majority of program functions. Tremendous selection of pre-game options allows for nearly total control of the type of game you wish to play.
Replay Value: With so many customizable options that directly impact on game play and the random map generated every game, it's highly likely that no campaign will ever be the same.
Fantasy-themed strategic/managerial wargame. The premise is that in a vast continent made up of warring fiefdoms a king arose and unified the whole land. Eventually the once warring barons agreed that they couldn't live peacefully with each other and the king was assassinated while the sole heir was conveniently out fighting in the Crusades. You play one of this barons who must expand his starting territory and conquer the entire kingdom. Gameplay is phase-based and you have to do all sort of things from commanding armies and devicing combat strategies to managing your budding villages and fiefdoms by collecting taxes, recruiting, and balancing your checkbook.
The game includes a series of gameplay options to modify and create your own game modes. You can select the size of the kingdom, the amount of territory to be explored, the chances of random events, and there's even an option that makes the game a race against the clock as you try to get the kingdom before the rightful heir returns. Includes hot-seat multiplayer support for up to 4 players.
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