What you have in front of you is a game that lies somewhere between a miniatures strategy game and a more traditional board game. However, the overall design, impression, and implementation is definitely one that could be created as a board game, particularly if you used a variable hex tile map. As you might infer from the title, the game revolves around the strategic conquest of a medieval realm. You are merely one of six forces vying for control.
The premise of the game is conquest. You have a bunch of bigjobs (militia, archers, and cavalry) whom you wish to utilise to expand your land like the Soviet frontier in the beginning of the Cold War. You will merrily acquire lands from your disgruntled neighbours to satisfy your imperialist expansionism – whether you wish to call it Manifest Destiny or the Hobbesian state of nature – you are essentially engaged in the process of military expansion. However, this is the medieval era, and it probably occurs some time before the Westphalian Peace, so the state of nature is more of a zeitgeist.
Commentary aside, the game requires you to win by controlling 80% of the land, and the first player to achieve this will win at the end of their turn. Naturally, this tends to slightly favour the first player, as they are more likely to have more actions to reach this crucial point. A slight balancing would be to suggest whomever has that 80% at the end of all six players turns, as this would allow the opponents one last chance to respond and deny you that outright control.
One of the interesting twists about this game is that you don’t start with a single unified area. You have a number of allied areas (presumably other vassal lords under subinfeudation) and each of them has their own autonomous military units and economic system. This means there is no aggregate pool of money that can be used on all the units. There is a strategic balance between attempting to connect your various territories early for a single unified field, or to skirmish a number of different areas simultaneously. Most of the time you’ll want a singular large territory, but there are times where it is advantageous to keep those territories independent (there is a minor defensive bonus).
So, how does one go about conquering 80% of the domain before you. There are two main things to be aware of, the first is economic support, and the later is military strategy. Of the former, you have to remember that all units cost a certain amount of money each turn, and to ensure that you have sufficient economic buildings to generate more money than you expend each turn. Not having enough money to support units will turn them into rebels in your territory.
Beyond that, you simply have to remember that militia beats cavalry, which beats archers, which beat militia. There are three ranks of units, and higher ranked units beat lesser-ranked units of the same type, but may not necessarily beat the superior unit of a lower rank. There are other defensive bonuses that can be gained from towns, towers, and fortresses, in their immediate radius.
Lastly, the default unit is the militia. In order to make archers and cavalry, you need to build special military buildings (archeries and stables respectively). To build these, you must build them on forests and plains (also respectively), and so depending on the layout of the map and the scarcity of these types of terrains you might find they become crucial in strategic gains.
The game itself is done fairly well, although it does lack a bit of elegance. It gives you a variety of options in how you wish to play, including varying levels of difficulty (both in terms of AI and distribution of land). The designers have taken good care to ensure that the User Interface is intuitive, and after a recent update, has been made a bit more seamless.
It is fortunate that the recent update came in before I completed my review as one of the things I was going to comment to its detriment is the lack of ability to save games. There is a game option available that is effectively world conquest, where you defeat map after map to slowly take over a region. However, unless you played this in one single sitting you would never complete it. If the application closed it would reset, and there was no option to save. This has now been rectified, I’m happy to report.
One of the other issues that has come up is that the need to conquer 80% of the realm, as opposed to a smaller threshold seems to unnecessarily drag the game out. By the time someone has conquered 60% of the game it’s effectively a fait d’accomplis.
6/10: Not the most original game out there, but it does reasonably well with what it’s got.