Vena Vidi Vici!
We came, we saw and we conquered and had a whole heap of fun on the way!
Whoa OK, hold the horses, we are getting a little ahead of ourselves here.
It transpires that to avoid war, they played a board game using tiny tokens to represent their armies. All went well until suspicions that one of the Generals was cheating, was confirmed and he was caught red handed. Of course he said that others were cheating and bingo!, the game collapsed and promptly became an exchange of more than just words and insults.
Well we don't get to re-enact the battles they fought, no, we get to play their board game, however with it comes a twist. What we have here is a hybrid of a board game and video game, mixing a Risk style strategy game with the added flavour of a Columns or Bejeweled style puzzle game to resolve conflicts.
You'll start with a village that can be upgraded by stages to a city. As you upgrade the village, you can construct buildings like barracks and temples, and if on the coast, you can eventually build warships. You can then of course, use the barracks to employ different troop units.
These will vary depending on the empire you have selected, but in general you can enlist units such as scouts, archers and cavalry. You will move your token into neighbouring territories, and some will be occupied by forces that will oppose you, others will be unpopulated and here you can send scouts out to survey the region.
If you are lucky, they will find treasures that can be exchanged later for resources or perhaps a totem that can provide some kind of beneficial boon.
Now there is no need to manage armies, you can risk skipping the conflict resolution and keep your fingers crossed that it will all work out. But if you choose not too, then this is where the Bejeweled/Columns element comes into play.
You get a grid full of tokens that can be swapped around Columns style until you make rows of three or more. Get a column of five and you get a bonus move and these can be stacked. Under the board you get three options cards, icons and button prompts.
At any time you can skip the whole process, but that will not guarantee you victory at all.
Each of the different token types represents a unit class in your army. Bows and arrows represent archers, lightning bolts represent the fast striking cavalry, etc. There are 50 types of units in the game.
Each matched set of three or more tokens charges up the units for that colour, and once fully charged it allows them to attack one of the opposing teams units. Each unit has a number indicating their health, when this hits 0 it is completely destroyed. The battle ends when either all your units or the enemy units are all destroyed.
A nice, bright cartoon style of presentation that resembles the board game it's trying to emulate. Don't expect flashy graphics, polished textures, fiery explosions here. It's not that kind of game. If you are looking for a game full of marching empires and depictions of mass battles, then look elsewhere.
They are more than adequate to represent the games style and that's all that matters and all that is needed.
Not a broad sweeping epic soundtrack, but it does the job. It has a stirring military, marching type beat to the whole affair.
Game play modes
You can play through a campaign mode that takes you through history as it were. Your empire will grow with advances in fortifications and troop types (Ballistas become available for instance) but remember each leader provides different troop types.
There is an entirely random scenario generator, that once you have selected your leader, will drop you into different situations. Sometimes you'll have an edge over your competitors, at other times you'll be fighting with your back somewhat against the wall.
Challenging but fun.
Online play changes things again. Where as the puzzle section has you playing by taking it in turns to act and giving you time to think about where you are going, other more practiced players will be picking out their combos and going for it, so you'll need your wits about you. Mind you that all depends if you can find opponents, the lobbies were not always that busy sadly. Play this on line and it will open things up to new options and I hope people jump on board for online play. When and if you can find a game, it's fast and it's fun and will tax your brain and test your reflexes.
So this is a board game simulation, mixed with as said, a columns style puzzle game to resolve conflict. There is no resource management as it were, but you will raise revenue as you upgrade the village into a city and develop new buildings.
It's a turn based game that does it's job very well indeed and you won't have to worry about losing chips, dice etc.
It's easy to learn but can be tricky to master, but once it grips you, it won't let go easily. This game is fairly addictive (well it was for me) and seeing as how you can save at any time you like in the game, I often found myself meaning to save and quit but thinking, no a few more turns.
So save and save often, keep an eye on your opponents and you should be able to hold your own. Obviously as the campaign moves on, you'll be up against more than one opposing army (same of course with online play) and four empires can be battling for survival at the same time. It's in multiplayer that this game can really come to life, but single player mode is engaging enough to hold your attention if the lobbies are empty. Come on guys and girls, get in those lobbies and get the online community engaged!
This is a fun game and I hope that more people get tuned into it as we go along.
OK it's not the most earth shattering for graphic presentation or sound, but it is a nice change of pace and setting. As a board gamer as well, I can appreciate what they have attempted to do with this title and I whole heartedly recommend it on the whole.
Give it a go, at least try the demo. You may be surprised.