Lords Of ConquestTodd Heimarck
Lords Of Conquest from Electronic Arts is a lot like the popular board game Risk, and in some ways, it's even better.
King Of The World
A game of Risk begins with a world map divided into a number of countries owned by various players. By shaking the dice, you win and lose territories. Some countries are isolated (Eastern Australia, Japan, and Argentina), while others are busy crossroads (the Middle East and the Ukraine, to name a couple). The ultimate goal is to build up your armies and win enough battles to conquer the world.
In Lords Of Conquest, the basic idea is to take over the world, but you win by building or capturing a certain number of cities—from three to six. Some of your territories produce raw materials such as gold, iron, coal, timber, and horses. When you've acquired certain combinations of materials, you can buy weapons or place a new city on the map.
Before the game starts, you split up the available territories. It's important to choose countries that contain coal mines, gold mines, forests, and the like, so you can start building up your stockpile of raw materials. At the same time, you should pick areas that are near each other, because your defenses will be stronger if you have friendly countries as neighbors.
Up To Four Players
You can play one-on-one against the computer, or you can involve as many as four human players. The disk contains 20 maps, including Europe, Africa, North America, the Middle East, South America, Japan, Australia, and the Mediterranean. If you're not satisfied with the built-in maps, you can ask the computer to generate a random battlefield from parameters you supply. You can also create your own map. It takes some time to build a map, but you can fine-tune it until it looks just the way you want. These new maps can be saved to disk for use in later games.
Select a level of play: beginner, intermediate, advanced, or expert. In the beginner level, there are only pastures (a source of horses) and gold mines; this level is suitable for playing with children. More challenging is the expert level, featuring horses, gold, timber, coal, and iron.
Should you choose to play the computer, you must also select a level of difficulty. Level 1 gives you a big advantage (four extra territories) and level 9 skews the game in favor of the computer.
After you divvy up the territory, the game begins. Each round has several phases. During development, you can use your gold and other commodities to create weapons, boats, or cities. Production comes next; more raw materials are added to your inventory. You then have a chance to move your stockpile to a new country. The stockpile is like an imperial treasury; if another player captures it, he or she will get all your gold, iron, coal, and timber. Finally, there's a combat phase during which each player can send forces against the other players. You're limited to two attacks per round.
To create a city, you have two choices: Spend one unit of iron, coal, timber, and gold, or use four gold units. In the advanced and expert games you can build a boat (a naval force) with three timber units, or buy one with three units of gold. A boat can carry a horse and a weapon, which makes it a valuable offensive force.
Offense Or Defense?
There's a lot to be said for building cities. The ultimate goal is to own three or more cities, so each one you build brings you one step closer to winning. Cities also increase production in the neighboring countries. If you place a city next to a gold mine, its output will double from one unit to two.
But cities are fairly expensive. And if you spend all your resources on cities while your opponents build up their horses, weapons, and boats, you may eventually lose the game. Your opponent will likely attack and conquer your cities. Ownership of a certain number of cities is the goal. It doesn't matter whether you build the cities or capture them.
Each game of Lords Of Conquest has a definite rhythm. In the first couple of rounds, weak and isolated countries are overrun by invaders, especially if the country produces a valuable commodity. As the territories coalesce in the middle rounds, powerful armies build up along the borders between empires. When boats first appear, the complexion of the game changes. Suddenly, any coastal country is vulnerable to an attack from the sea. It's difficult to defend a coastal country from marauding Vikings.
The mechanics of the game are fairly simple; there are four commodities, three weapons, and the cities. But Lords Of Conquest requires a good sense of strategy. On your way to the goal of building cities, you have to watch your resources and try to keep them from your opponents. If you own no country with a gold mine, you may have to develop a short-term strategy to capture one. You should spend your money wisely, occasionally forgoing a new weapon to save up for a city.
Geography and distribution of resources are also important factors. The strategy that works best on one map might fail miserably on another. Boats are valuable when islands are plentiful, but they're relatively unimportant when the map contains mostly land.
The Role Of Diplomacy
The computer plays a tough game; at the higher levels you won't often beat it. And when you play with other people, diplomacy plays a role: "I won't attack you if you won't attack me." The multiplayer game also allows for alliances. When more than two players are near a battle, the uninvolved players can send forces to the attacker or defender, or they can remain neutral. You also have a chance to trade commodities—a gold and an iron for two coal mines, for example.
If you're a Risk player, you'll enjoy Lords Of Conquest, and if you get tired of conquering one world, you can easily find or build another. A second useful feature is the one-player game: When you want to play, but can't round up a group of opponents, you can test the computer's abilities. The only negative comments I've heard concern the graphics. There's nothing particularly wrong with them; they're just simple. The countries, for example, are made up of colored squares. This doesn't affect the playability of the game, so it's a minor criticism.Lords Of Conquest
1820 Gateway Drive
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Commodore version $32.95
Apple II and Atari 8-bit versions soon to be released; no prices available.