Betrayal logo

Supplier: Micropros Price: £24.95

Give me a game where treachery is the altar on which friends are sacrificed, where nefarious deeds are not just the order of the day, but one of the Ten Commandments, and where tongues have more forks than a set of stainless steel cutlery from Sheffield, and I'll give you a knife in the back.

Generosity is a strong character trait of mine, in games like Betrayal, I give away a lot of knives.
This Rainbird offering has been touted as the next biggy after Midwinter, but alas lacks the cutting edge to take it there. The aim is to secure a majority of courtiers in both the court of the king and bishop, and then install your own puppet rulers, making you Mister/Ms Big.

To this end, you travel around the poorly drawn land of the West Marches, capturing villages belonging to the other knights - four players, in any human/computer combination - flogging your own peasants and harvesting the land for cash, then eventually buying more seats in the two courts. Alternatively, find blasphemous evidence against someone and blackmail them out.

Betrayal is a reasonable game, but is hardly distinctive or impressive in any way, and those graphics look like they were designed on a C64.

Betrayal logo

RAINBIRD £29.99 * Joystick or Keyboard

And thus I clove my naked villainy... and seem a saint when I play the devil!" The Book of Betrayal foretells a time when four Lords will wrestle for power against their rightful King and Church. And it is in the book we find the true story of the West Marches' darkest hour.

Four equally-matched nobles seek power. They must dominate the courts of both King and Bishop, then depose them. Either noble has to manage estates, gather taxes, build armies, wage wars, spy and thwart the similar plots of his peers.

The four players each choose a starting station - Knight, Baron, Earl or Duke - which allots them a variety of villages and a number of courtiers. They must then travel to the villages collecting harvests and return to court for political manoeuvres. Your aim, playing in rotation over turns, is to control the twin courts and thus take power in the West Marches.

Vaulting ambitions are still governed by three major factors. Firstly, a Lord must have representatives at both courts, which requires the payment of taxes. Secondly the Lord must have some spare cash and an army for travelling. And finally he will need peasants, who make all the money and supply the soldiers.

In the Villages
As Lord and Master over a number of villages you have total command of the peasants' lives and actions. Villagers serve four vital purposes: growing wheat to eat, making pottery to sell, forming militias for defence and supplementing your personal army. Villages should be self-,wbr>financing units, after they've paid taxes, otherwise their up keep comes out of your personal fortune.

The economic balancing act is as tricky to master as it is to understand. Making the most of fluctuating prices and the grouping of villages into units is vital as you try to offset expenditure (on the armies) against production (corn). The proximity to court becomes important as well, because each harvest has to be overseen personally.

At Court
In a court comprised of 24 courtiers, a majority of 13 is needed to overthrow the Monarch or Bishop - and both must be replaced to win. Your numbers can be increased in various ways, of which the most moral means is tax payment. For each Lord one unit of tax must be paid per twelve-moon cycle. If you offer more, and there are vacancies, then the King or Bishop may let you have more places.

There aren't always openings for thrusting young courtiers, so some have to be engineered. Assassins can be hired and enemies can be accused of treason if you've collected some evidence scrolls, or they can be purely outbid for position. Each action in court, though, requires your presence and takes a whole game turn to execute, whereas with moves outside the court the turn is split into six segments. So very few power moves can be attempted per twelve-turn year.

On the Road
The least predictable element in a world awash with betrayal is travel. The overall game map is quite unreliable, medieval cartography being made realistically duff. While travelling, as well as the problem of getting lost, you run the risk of being attacked by bandits or other Lords. On the up side you can also attack them and their villages or stumble upon goodies that have been left lying around.

Battles for villages and between warring groups can be fought out as small arcade games. Two lines of troops wander towards each other, with you controlling one warrior. Below is a battle bar which shows who the next combatant is for either side. The fight continues until one team runs out of troops, so it pays to borrow the occasional soldier from friendly militia whenever possible.
If defeated, you're captured and can be held ransom or even banished, events which can both terminally hamper your game-winning chances.

Playing forces you have to combine all these elements into an overall strategy. The choice has to be made between using all six turn segments to ride around the West Marches managing your serfs, or going to court and trying a power play. Both must be done at least once every twelve turns, but which will pay the biggest dividends? Can your fellow players be trusted to keep their word or will they attack? Have you enough courtiers or is it open season for assassins? All these questions have no definite answer in a world of Betrayal!


Betrayal is a strategy game, so the graphics are subservient to the intricate gameplay. Yet the graphics maintain a respectable level. The scenes involving your Lord are mainly notational, intended to convey information via symbols, and so lack great realism. The battles are the highlight, with trolls trashing troops and heaps of broken bodies lying around.

Initially appearing patchy, the graphics hang together as a shorthand system that makes the game prettier and more playable. As for sound the only real feature, apart from the Olde England style theme, is the mad horse you ride whinnying at every turn.


Betrayal has great appeal to groups of players. It works as a 'one man versus the world' game but is far harder to understand and win. Playing alongside fellow novices nullifies the learning problems. Then, as they learn the parameters, players will start exploiting the game's strategic elements and rely less on sheer military power.

Single players must be read for a long manual session and many inglorious defeats. The economics are sound, but awkward, and four playing heads united in understanding their mechanics are far superior to one. The board-game style makes Betrayal a brilliant three or four way confrontation but frighteningly one-sided against the solo Baron.


Betrayal must be played by at least three players to be fully appreciated. Play it alone and you have to beat three experts immediately. The complexity of the game makes it initially tough but after a few abortive wars and stupid errors, it's possible to start some really messy backstabbing political battles. The more the game is played, the clearer it becomes that no one route leads to victory and that the possibilities for betrayal along the way are endless.

Betrayal logo

Verrat und Treuebruch, Meuchelmord, Lügen und Intrigen - lauter nette Sachen gibst es hier! Nur mit Fairplay wird man bei diesem Strategiegame der beinharten Sorte nicht weit kommen...

Ein mittelalterliches Königreich liefert das Hintergrundszenario: König und Bischof teilen sich brüderlich die Macht im Staat. Diesen Zustand zu änderen, ist das oberste Ziel von vier edlen Rittern - die natürlich nicht mit - sondern gegeneinander um die Herrschaft ringen.

Grundsätzlich bestehen drei Möglichkeiten, den noblen Vorsatz in die Tat umzusetzen. Da wäre als erstes der militärische Weg: Man kann versuchen, mit seiner Armee strategisch wichtige Orte zu besetzen, sich mit den Kollegen keilen, etc.. Oder man probiert es auf die "ökonomische" Tour und beutet die leidgeplagten Untertanen mit Zöllen, Abgaben und Steuern aus.

Schließlich gibt es noch die politische Variante, bei der es vornehmlich darum geht, sich bei König und Bischof beliebt machen - durch Bestechung, Rufmord, Spionage und dergleichen unsaubere Mittel mehr.

Das ist aber erst ein Bruchteil dessen, was sich hier so alles veranstalten läßt. Man kann beispielsweise unliebsame Konkurrenten gefangennehmen, Attentate verüben, Dörfer besuchen oder selbst ins Exil verbannt werden. Und dann erst die vielen Gewissenentscheidungen: Soll man die mühsam erpressten Abgaben jetzt wirklich dem nimmersatten König in den Rachen werfen? Oder wäre es nicht höchste Zeit, mal an die Einführung einer schnuckeligen Privatzsteuer zu denken? Oder...?

Aber nicht nur Strategie und Taktik sind gefragt, in verschiedenen Actionsequenzen darf man auch seine Geschicklichkeit beim Umgang mit dem Joystick unter Beweis stellen. Wer dazu keine Lust hat, überlässt diesen Teil halt einfach dem Computer und sieht sich das Spektakel gemütlich am Monitor an (oder schaltet die Actionszenen ganz ab und läßt sich nur das Ergebnis mitteilen).

Betrayal ist ein äußerst vielseitiges Game, streckenweise fühlt man sich an "Defender of the Crown" erinnert, zum Teil auch an "Powermonger", und bei den Actionabschnitten an den (indizierten) Vorläufer von "Barbarian 2". Gespielt wird mit Joystick und Tastatur (F-Tasten), die Maus ist (leider) arbeitslos.

Der Schwierigkeitsgrad kann nahezu grenzenlos variiert werden und ist für jeden Spieler getrennt einstellbar, wodurch man für Anfanger und erfahrene Strategen gleiche Voraussetzungen schaffen kann. Die Grafik bietet nichts Spektakuläres, ist aber deutlich besser als bei den meisten Strategiespielen.

Soundtechnsich werden eine sehr atmosphärische Musik und ein paar hübsche Effekte geboten. Negativ fallen eigentlich bloß einige Umständlichkeiten bei der Handhabung auf, ansonsten trübt kein Mangel das sonnige Bild.

Besonders bei mehreren Mitspielern macht Betrayal einen Höllenspaß, da man miteinander, gegeneinander oder auch im wechselnden Bündnissen antreten kann. Erstklassige Strategiekost also, die wirklich nur wärmstens zu empfehlen ist! (mm)

Betrayal logo

If Betrayal was a board game it would be the sort of thing that would be brought out during a party or a boozy night in. The aim of the game is to gain absolute power over the land of West Marches by trickery, bribery, conquest or underhanded deceit.

Jockeying for position are four knights, who are either computer or human controlled. Each knight starts off with number of villages, soldiers, trolls (who are basically twelve foot high blue killing machines) and a purse of money.

At the start of the game two powers are in control, the courts of the King and of the church. In each court there are three courtiers from each player. These at like a parliament voting on decisions and aiding the ruler of the court they're in. So the more courtiers you have the more power you have in your area. When somebody has a sufficient amount of courtiers they can try to depose the head of that court (the King or Bishop) if that's successful you install your own puppet ruler and effectively control an area. Should you control both courts you then have absolute power over that land and the game is won.

Preparing to overthrow a monarch takes a lot of wheeling and dealing. First you need to set up your villages to provide a source of income, taxes for the king and bishop. And then you need to search for recruits for your army, before deciding if it's worth attacking villages belonging to other players, or to build up your strength to generate bigger harvests.

Travelling between villages isn't easy. The map screen only shows the last one you were in, so once you're out in the open it's easy to get lost. Each screen has between one and eight exits, push the joystick in the appropriate direction and your horse rears up and carries you off to the next one.

Occasionally you find cash lying around, or signs of another player's wrongdoings that can be presented in court as evidence to be used to dismiss one or more of their courtiers. Barbarians inhabit the land and are quite happy to run off with your money after slaughtering your body guard.

Should you come across another player you automatically launch into battle. The winner is then given a set of options: you can release the prisoner, ransom him, banish him to court, or dump him in the middle of the wild outback, which is guaranteed to slow the enemy down a bit.

Invading someone's territory can be satisfying. Normally there's not too many troops left behind to guard the place so you can steam in, ransack the village and run off with some money.

You can get up to all sorts of badness when you get to the courts. You can hire assassins and spies to deal with opposing courtiers, accuse your opponents of heresy or treason. Here's where you pay taxes as well. A handsome sum curries favour with the recipient, who will be more favourably disposed to admit courtiers who work to your advantage.

Betrayal comes into its own when you play with a friend, although it takes experience to play the game to the level where it begins to be fun. Beginners tend to spend most of their time at court dishing the dirt on everyone else while annoying the king and bishop to the point where their courtiers are banished.

I've reservations about the long term playability of this game. I could imagine playing it once in a while, but any more regularly than that and you'd have to be a fanatic.

If you get kicks out of being one up on a friend and not a computer, you might want to shell out for this game - otherwise, to my liking there's just not enough variety to keep interest in Betrayal sustained for any length of time.


When playing against computer opponents keep the screens which show what they think screens on. It's important to keep track of them. Establish strongly defended villages to provide you with taxes for the king and bishop.

A rich monarch is a happy monarch, so cough up taxes whenever the opportunity arises; this will usually buy you more courtiers. Keep a strong personal force with you at all times, as you're bound to come across another player. If your army is superior to his he'll become your prisoner.

Betrayal logo

Rainbird, Amiga £29.99

The West Marches is ruled by a duopoly. The King and Bishop each has a court filled by courtiers presented by the knights of the land - you are one of them. Now, courtiers hold great influence as all matters of State are put to a vote in the respective Courts.

If, by some chance or design, one of the knights could have more courtiers in each Court than any other then that knight would gain a majority. A chance to seize power and depose both Bishop and King would then present itself, replacing them with a suitable puppet ruler. If both Courts are so ruled then that knight is declared the winner. This is your task.

In Betrayal, four knights battle it out: managing estates, collecting taxes, creating armies, declaring war on a regular basis, spying and other noble acts. After a difficulty level has been decided upon in addition to other game options, you must travel to different villages. Villages supply taxes, wheat (the harvest of which you must personally initiate), pottery to sell and militias (for defence and for your army). A self-sufficient village is your aim, otherwise you'll have to finance it out of your own pocket. You'll also have to watch out for your popularity which, if it falls below a specified level, will result in rebellion.

At Court you must have at least 13 courtiers to overthrow the King or Bishop. To gain courtiers you must pay regular taxes, assassinate other courtiers, accuse them of treason and so on.

When travelling you will see your knight on horseback, traversing the countryside between villages. During this time he can find cash lying around on the floor and be mugged by... er, muggers. Combat is a simple arcade beat-'em-up viewed side-on.

Actually it is in the combat area that the whole game falls down. Here we have a game which promotes quite a bit of depth in its gameplay. Intrigue, assassinations, treason, economics etc, all combine to make a promising game. Then the combat comes along and spoils it. The combat is far too simplistic and lacking in any skill or judgement to be of any use to anybody. It reduces the game to a lottery. Frustrating, as combat is an important area of the game. What a shame.