War! Age of Imperialism Download (2003 Board Game)

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Steer a burgeoning nation through the age of Imperialism (1830-1900), and build it into an empire. Deploy explorers to search for resources and persuade the natives to join your empire. Create and train armies -- complete with infantry, cavalry, artillery, and generals -- and send them against those foolish enough to oppose you. Through turn-based, strategic play, players can choose to work together with neighboring states, or battle against rivals for control of key regions. Economics play an important role in building the empire, too, as players must be able to fund their country's continuing expansion. Cities can be improved with factories, railroads, ports, forts, and schools, to provide a solid infrastructure that can support the growth of the nation. Technological advancement and diplomacy will also offer key advantages to clever imperialists.

For over a decade we've been hearing about how computer games derived from board games go sour because the conversions simplify the rules. This PC version of War! Age of Imperialism finally proves that total fidelity has major pros and cons.

Based on Eagle Games' critically acclaimed empire-building game, this counter-pushing conquest-fest pits you against up to seven human or computer opponents, in hotseat or online play. With only a handful of unit types, a few dozen provinces, and a short technology ladder, the game zips along in rapid-fire movement phases punctuated by exploration and combat rounds.

One of War!'s strongest assets is its AI, which forces you to watch its build and battle strategies carefully to learn how to beat it. It's wicked smart, and even on the easiest settings it'll give you a serious run for your money. The artwork is equally superb, with a distinct hand-painted style that matches War!'s cardboard cousin perfectly.

Solo games go by fast, and in what seems a bid to buff up game length, you actually spend more time clicking through your opponents' result screens than managing your own. Here's the real kicker: the highlight of the game's shiny computer-ific interface is that you can watch the dice rolls (don't collapse from excitement!). An extreme minority will dig this glimpse under the hood - otherwise, it's basically filler to suggest that what most games do behind the scenes is worth the main stage here.

Eagle Games is one of those companies you just want to reach over and kiss: its standard for quality has stimulated a renaissance in Risk-style boardgames. (I own two.) Kicking it up a notch with a computer translation was a great idea, and War! will definitely satisfy fans of dice-driven strategy games. But the game's apples-to-apples translation keeps it only good instead of great. I kept wishing the developers had done more to capitalize on the new platform.


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Diplomacy, Risk 2, Advanced Civilization, Axis & Allies: Iron Blitz Edition, Axis & Allies, Wizards, Dogs of War, Monopoly (1999)


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