When you think of games about Vikings, you tend to conjure up images of violence. Lots of violence. Big hairy men chopping people up type violence. Innocent farm animals fleeing in mortal terror sort of violence.
And that's 'cos the Vikings feature at number 49 in the List of All Time Really Nasty Crimes Against Humanity. Fiftieth is the man who said 'of course you can have 400 billion pounds, go an make another Genesis album'.
It may come as a bit of a turnip then, to find that Vikings - Fields of Conquest (to give it its full title) doesn't actually dwell too heavily on chopping people up. There's a wee bit of chopping involved but it's surrounded by strategy and stuff. Which is a bit alarming really. You might just as well call the game Birkenhead OAP's Crown Green Bowling, and use the Vikings idea in something more violent.
But, to be fair, this game actually puts you in the place of an olden days lord, and asks you to build up your kingdom and repel the scummy Viking hordes.
However, as history has shown, it doesn't work and the Vikings invade. Or do they? That's up to you, matey Jim. Select how many players there are going to be, and which are going to be computer-
Right, you start off with a home territory with your castle and armies in, and the adjacent territories are yours as well. Free. No extra cost, guv.
Now, as with most war games, you play by turns. During each turn you can keep your people fed, raise more armies, mine each territory for raw materials, move armies into new territories and start work on new strongholds.
At the end of each turn, and providing your armies have invaded a new territory, you enter the combat section. If it's a 'blank' territory then you just have to duff up a few peasants to claim it, but if it's a rival territory then a slightly more tricky hullabaloo is in order.
If they run out of men before you, then the territory is added to your kingdom and you can then reap taxes from it, mine it and park your car in the city centre on a Sunday.
Righty ho, criticism time. First of all, my infamous 'grumpy bobble hat' for the bad points. Hrrmph. The whole game is run via the usual clickety icons and information boxes. And, well, I found it all a bit boring. Not very, very boring, but after about an hour of going through the same routine every turn, my attention started to wander. I just didn't feel too gutted when I had to reach for the of switch to write the review.
Plus, given the aforementioned violence quota of Vikings and the olden days in general, the combat is a bit amp. You just watch two gauges, representing your army and the enemy, and see which one reaches the bottom first. Not terribly inspiring.
And now, my 'comfy slippers' for the good points. It looks very nice, not counting the Commodore 64 loading screen that seems to have slipped in there. A nice "mappy" looking map and, er, not a lot else really, but the map does look nice.
It's also easy to get into. This may mean that seasoned war gamers tire of it fairly quickly, but for those who just want to dabble then it's just about right.
There are some hidden depths, but they're neither deep or very well hidden. So they're not really hidden depths are they? But you can quite happily fiddle around for a half hour or so, before you start to realise you've seen everything there is to see.
Basically, Vikings is a fairly inoffensive game. It's well thought out, and well implemented, but it leaves you with a hollow feeling. Not bad as a sorbet to clear the palette but hardly a three course meal, to use a seriously crap metaphor. Too limited, I'm afraid.