Hack and slash strategy

Warlords logo

Publisher: SSI Price: £24.95

If your idea of a relaxing evening in is to guide an army into combat, hacking and slashing its way to victory, then SSL's latest release is for you. It's based in the days of swords and sorcery, dragons and fair maidens, a time when men were men and women were most certainly women (if a tad butch).

In true armchair general style, Warlords is a strategic wargame that can be played by up to eight human players, all of whom must outdo the others to gain eventual control of the lands of Illuria.

You can, of course, play it on your lonesome, with the computer taking control of the remaining armies, but playing with your self is no where near as fun as taking on a group of friends.

Take it from me, to get the most enjoyment from Warlords, it really is worth inviting a few like minded friends to partake in a little feudal conquest. This way, you get the opportunity to smile at them smugly as their armies are slaughtered at your hands.

To win the game you must gain control of the cities of Illuria. Sounds simple enough, but there are 80 of them in all, most of which are heavily defended. At the start of the game there are many which are under neutral control.

These tend to be easy picking, so it's worth grabbing as many as possible to build up your influence at an early stage. It's not necessary to control all 80 cities - if you have control of more than 40 and your nearest opponent is still at least 15 cities behind you, all seven remaining armies can choose to surrender and accept the inevitable.

Each time you overrun a city, its resources fall at your disposal. Each is capable of producing an income which is automatically used to keep your armies at their peak of performance. If you start to lose these sources of income (enemy forces capture some of your cities, for example), then this can have an effect on the fighting ability of your armies.

Money isn't the only thing that a city can produce. If nurtured, some can also produce armies which can be sent into battle to achieve further conquest. All this costs money though, so it's just as important to keep your eyes on your finances as it is to maintain a decent plan of campaign.

If your finances become dire, you will be doomed to failure - without sufficient funds, you'll be unable to keep your armies supplied, which will eventually make them too weak to defend themselves against attack.

In true fantasy style, you can enlist the services of wizards and dragons, both of which will add a bit of extra kick to your army's fighting potential. You can also send your knights off on quests to search out magical swords which can be used to tip the scales of success in your favour.

These prove to be particularly important as your opposing forces become more powerful. Anyway, if you don't use magical weapons, you can guarantee that your opponents will!

I'm not the greatest fan of wargames, but I must admit that Warlords had me completed engrossed. Most of the time my feeble attempts at military strategy ended in my entire forces being wiped out, but there's something very satisfying about it all when your do eventually succeed.

Unless you've got a really deep-rooted hatred of wargames, Warlords is very definitely wort checking out. It will not appeal to everyone, but if you persevere with it, you'll find it to be a real cracker of a game.

Warlords logo

STRATEGIC STUDIES GROUP * £29.99 Keyboard and Mouse (one Meg required)

When a race becomes a civilisation, there's only one clear path forward: war. Warlords is a fantasy-based war-game. Eight players battle it out to become the ruler of the fabled land of Illuria. Each has the same aim: to kill their chose race of people to until they are the only ones left in the land. (So much for love thy neighbour).

This end is met, in the main, by fighting each other and capturing one another's territory. A number of castles cover the landscape, 80 in all. The key to the kingdom is to capture every last one of these strongholds. At the offset all but eight are neutral (but still, these are no push-over).

Captured castles produce troops, which can be sent out to capture yet more fortresses. This is the way that the empires expand, inevitably encroaching on to each other's territory and leading to conflict.

It's not all down to brute force. There are other more subtle ways to further your cause. Being fantasy based, the search for powerful magical artefacts can aid you in your war efforts. Alliances can be made between human and computer players - and just as easily broken.

Not daft
An awful lot of computer intelligence is apparent. When moving from one location to another, for instance, the computer will work out your most movement-efficient route. Simply click on your destination and the piece will skirt round rivers or along roads if that's the quickest, rather than the most direct, way.

Make no mistake, Warlords is a long and involved strategy game, taking days rather than hours to come to its conclusion. For this reason the save-game command is jolly useful, and allows you to return to long campaigns at your own convenience.

As you get further and further into the game you get more and more pieces, inevitably, under your control. It gets difficult to remember exactly what all your pieces were supposed to be doing. There are a number of special functions that are intended to make this somewhat easier, but it still can be rather confusing.

Playing at war
For a war-game of such obvious complexity Warlords is surprisingly intuitive to use. Right at the beginning of the manual, a step-by-step tutorial guides you through your first movements. From there on on you quickly get the hang of things, and you soon will be slaughtering your foes with a vengeance.

Not that they're that easy to slaughter, mind. To win you have to be victorious over the seven other clans. Each computer player can be independently set to play at a variety of difficulty levels, and you can vary the competence of the opposition to provide as easy or as challenging a game as you like.

Playing against human opposition adds more to the game, as you can gang up on the computer players (or, depending on how treacherous you are are, you can go straight for each other's throats).

Warlords is a deep an challenging game that can be picked up almost from the word go. It does take a long time to play, but that will be a bonus, rather than a disadvantage, to the serious wargamer.

Warlords: User-interface explanation
  1. The main window on the world. This close-up view shows the local area in all its glory. Here is where you see your troops and castles - and those of your enemies!
  2. This row of buttons is mainly concerned with making your armies easier to manipulate. It gets more useful later on when things start to get confusing.
  3. Overall map of the continent of Illuria. Here you see everything there is to see, but you'll need to zoom in for a more detailed view. Click in this area to get there quickly.
  4. The status panel tells you what's going on. Most of the text from the computer to you appears in this area, such as informationa bout the terrain, and troop details.

Warlords logo

Wer an Australien denkt, der denkt an Känguruhs - softwaremäßig macht der Kontinent nur selten von sich reden. Aber durch die digitale Völkerschlacht der Strategic Studies Group wird das jetzt alles anders! Oder etwa doch nicht?

Wie der Firmenname schon vermuten läßt, kommt hier ein Strategical reinsten Wassers auf uns zu: Im Fantasyland Illuria tummeln sich acht verschiedene Völker: Zwerge etwa, Orks, Elfen und dergleichen mehr.

Bis zu acht Mitspieler dürfen sich nun ihren Lieblingsverein herauspicken und fortan versuchen, die Vorherrschaft im Ländle zu erringen (fehlende Kontrahenten übernimmt der Computer).

Die Grundausstattung besteht aus einer Stadt, ein bißchen Geld und einem besonders rauflustigen Burschen als Vorstreiter.

Das Gerangel nimmt dann im Rundenturnus seinen Lauf, man stellt Armeen auf und erobert Städte, auf daß die Einnahmen fließen. Geplant werden die Feldzüge auf einem strategischen Übersichtspan, bzw. Einer taktischen Bewegungskarte. Eingenommene Städte produzieren immer neue und verschiedenartige Armeen - Infanteristen und Reiter können ebenso angeheuert werden wie fliegende Gäule oder Marineeinheiten; gelegentlich bitten auch ein paar Untote oder Dämonen um Aufnahme in die glorreichen Streitkräfte.

Alle diese Prügelknaben wollen natürlich finanziert sein, was weitere (luktrative) Eroberungen nötig macht. Auf diese Weise sind die vielen anfänglich neutralen Ortschaften rasch vergeben, danach geht es ans Eingemachte.

Jeder ist zwar grundsätzlich der Feind eines jeden, doch werden die Aktionen der Computergegner durch ein abgestuftes Netzwerk unterschiedlich schlechter Beziehungen gesteuert: Wer von seinem Nachbarn gehaßt wird, darf sich auf einiges gefaßt machen; steht das Barometer dagegen auf Gleichgültigkeit, kann man sich vorerst anderen "Kollegen" zuwenden. Gewürzt wird die Suppe durch besondere Items oder Schätze, die es in Tempeln oder alten Ruinen aufzustöbern gilt.

Wer bei Warlords der große Sieger sein möchte, muß ebensosehr auf das ökonomische Gleichwicht wie auf die militärische Stärke achten, er muß strategisch wie auch diplomatisch richtige Entscheidungen fällen. Klingt gut, was? Die traurige Wahrheit ist jedoch, daß das Spiel nicht wirklich zu fesseln vermag, es erreicht bei weitem nicht die Komplexität und Faszination des (in mancher Hinsicht ähnlichen) Uralt-Schinkens "Empire".

Die Maussteuerung mit Hilfe von Icons und Menüs wirkt gelegentlich umständlich und schlecht durchdacht, etwa bei der Befehlsvergabe an die Armeen. Auch in puncto Grafik und Sound haben die Programmierer auf Sparflamme gekocht: Was sich am Screen tut, ist alles andere als berauschend, und aus den Boxen kommen nur ein paar dürftige FX bzw. Eine Vorspannmelodie, die sich alle fünf Sekunden wiederholt.

Die bescheidene Präsentation könnte man einem Strategiegame nachsehen, eine unausgewogene Handhabung und mangelnder Spielreiz sind jedoch auch und gerade in diesem Game unverzeihlich. Schade, aber vielleicht hat ja das nächste Kanguruh etwas Aufregenderes im Brustbeutel? (jn)

Warlords logo

A good, easy to understand wargame is a rare thing nowadays. Warlords from SSG is one such game. It's very well presented, using a simple point and click system and there are no complicated commands or lists.

The objective is simple. Destroy the seven rival warlords and place yourself as ruler of the country. To win you need to conquer cities. Each lord starts with just one city, all the others are computer controlled. Cities generate money, and the more money you have the more armies you can buy.

Almost every city can produce light infantry units. Depending on their location they can also generate special armies such as giant infantry, wolf riders, cavalry and griffins. These units are usually extra strong and fast and score movement bonuses on certain types of terrain.

Plenty of normal wargame features are used. The distance a unit can travel is determined by its movement rating; its combat strength is worked out by using the units strength in conjunction with the type of terrain.

Warlords is extremely simple and very playable. There's no challenge here for experienced wargamers, but I'd definitely recommend this for amateurs.