This happy breed of men, this little world

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ORCS by Crom, hundreds of them. Is there no respite to this constant bombardment of vermin? Not content with killing the King of Aladda they must loot and pillage the entire city.

Even now they burn and destroy with mindles vigour, devilish faces bright with glee as they thrust their nature abhorred limbs into everything. By all the gods is there not one here enough of a champion to rid us of this curve?

Bit of a pointed question really. Of course there is someone who's woman (or indeed, man) enough to take on the task - but I have reviews to write, so someone else will have to save the land of Aragon. Some other heroine will have to repel the foe, shore up the city and settle the economy.

Then of course there's finding the three ancient relics, conquering huge armies of humans, subhumans and demonic hordes from the nether regions of Beelzebub's own satanic pits. Plus, of course, the obligatory dragon-slaying.

The game takes place mostly o the giant bitmapped map of Aragon, a hex landscape lovingly crafted from individual perfectly formed pixels. Doesn't look too pretty when it starts scrolling about the place though.

The map has been compiled from reports by the foremost cartographers of the time and, as the old favourite goes, they'd be very grateful if you would just fill it in as you go along - a large section (a very important one as it happens) is completely blank.

There are three things a traveller should do when encountering a foreign city in the wilderness. First, go and make a really big cup of tea, Early Grey I should think, a pint is probably about right. Second, put on some nice music, or Philip Glass if you haven't got any. Thirdly, make srue you have remembered to bring a grotesquely huge and colossal army with you. Now prepare to perspire for a very long time.

The units you have available are fairly typical - cavalry, infantry and artillery, er... I mean archers. By use of cunning tactics you should be able to prise the hated enemy from even the strongest fortresses. I should leave the individual strategy to yourselves but the way should note that the foe usually opt for a particular gameplay depending on what type of hateful creatures they are.

Some cities are walkovers but many require a lengthy siege or a very long drawn out battle. If you succeed the spoils of the city are yours. Or more accurately, there are a few thousand people more to burden your flagging economy. To really succeed at this game you need to be a bit of a Stafford-Cripps as well as a Napoleon. Set taxes, develop commerce or let your people starve.

Units are exactingly detailed down to their number, armour, weapons, missiles - even horses. Training and battle experience is taken into account, deciding group characteristics and the type of weapons available.

Graphically, apart from some of the nice map detail, it's a bit on the primitive side. Sounds are quite nice but there aren't very many of them (only three effects for combat, it doesn't matter how nice the stereo panning is) and to be quite honest they become a bit of a pain.

Your ultimate quest, to re-unite the kingdom, is well chronicled and a running total of points scored so far (out of 500 for some reason) pops up every month.

A sound knowledge of military strategy is required unless you have cash to burn on outfitting a completely new army for each succeeding campaign. Alas, the tragedy of having a large army - they consume a lot of money just standing around. In order to perpetuate their existence, justify their raison d'ètre, they must loot and burn and plunder.

Overall this is definitely more of a strategy game than a role-player and with some many options to totally customise your forces, it's a good one at that.

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So renommiert SSI als Hersteller von Strategiespielen und Konfliktsimulationen auch ist, gelegentlich produzieren die Jungs auch einfach bloß einen Haufen Langeweile - so wie bei diesem Game.

Sword of Aragon ist einer jener Billig-Clones in der Art von "Prince" oder "Sorcerer Lord". Schon die Story ist äußerst schlicht: Nach dem Tod deines Vaters sollst du jetzt den Thron besteigen und das Land Aragon von allen Bösewichten befreien. Im Spiel geht es dann hauptsächlich darum, die bedauernswerte Bevölkerung durch hohe Steuern zu knechten, um eine ausreichend große Armee finanzieren zu können. Die wird dringend gebraucht, da Unmengen von Goblins, Orcs und sonstigen Monstern durch das Land streifen und umgelegt werden müssen.

Gelegentlich eintreffende Spähermeldungen verschaffen einem Aufträge, deren erfolgreiche Erledigung einen schönen Batzen Geld bringt.

Vom an "Rings of Medusa" erinnernden Spielprinzip her wäre diese Handels- und Strategiesimulation gar nicht einmal so übel; aber die miese Grafik, der noch miesere Sound, die umständliche Handhabung und vor allem die an einen XT gemahnende "Geschwindigkeit" des Programms ersticken jede aufkommende Spielfreude im Keim.

Die vielen Tabellen in 64'er Grafik bieten einen mehr verwirrenden als erklärenden Überblick über Streitkräftestand und Steuereinnahmen. Klares Urteil: Finger weg! (wh)

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SSI/US Gold, Amiga £29.99

Dad's popped his clogs! He was the Duke of Aladda and his will dictates that you are to extend his dominion and eventually sit on the emperor's throne in the city of Tetrada. Easy for him to say, he's six foot under.

Anyway, 'cause your dad's will is law - even though he's pushing up daisies - you have to obey. This means raising and equipping an army so you may venture forth to wipe the floor with fearsome foes who are even now threatening Aladda and its surroundings.

Play takes place on two levels: the first leans more toward the economic and political than physical, and involves your control of factors concerned with governing a peaceful populace, i.e. tax collecting and finding wages for soldiers.

The second level is where you put your armies through their paces defending your lands and attempting to conquer new ones.

Your first move is to select a class for your character from a selection including knights, rangers, warriors and mages. Once chosen, data on your character is shown detailing weapons, armour, leadership abilities and combat prowess.

You then either select Standard Unit Setup (computer generated) for your army or build it from scratch - the former is recommended for inexperienced players. Army units vary, dependent on the class of character you've chosen to play and include cavalry, bowmen, infantry and so on.

The game begins with you in the relative safety of Aladda where you can survey your armies, city and income. From here you use funds raised from looting, rewards or taxes to train or equip armies. Or you can invest in your city's growth by pumping money into agriculture, mining, lumber and defence.

Once happy with the economic side of your hopefully ever-growing empire you set out to undertake quests or overthrow unfriendly cities. In fact your first (unavoidable) task is to vanquish the orc army that killed your father - thankfully this is relatively simple to accomplish and also quite rewarding.

Combat is fairly extensive with differing types of battle situations. once you've selected the units you wish to be involved in a particular battle, you're given move options such as Supply (load missile weapons, prepare spells and so on), Attack, Cast, Force or Entrench. You may also select an automatic-move option which gives your computer control of the move.

Although combat takes place in real-time, results of your non-conflict decisions are only seen once you advance time one month. This feature also provides information on happenings throughout the rest of the realm - it's also at this stage that quests are made known to you.

Success breeds success and the better you are at taking over the kingdom the more people will be drawn to you to add to your forces.

Sound in Sword of Aragon is odd and the theme music is particularly naff but, taking into account the strategic bent of the game, graphics are certainly adequate. There is, however, a lot to do in the game, and becoming emperor is not going to be easy even for skilled strategists. But it's not just a case of attacking and overthrowing enemy cities - much of the kingdom is unexplored. Danger and magic reside in these areas, testing your leadership abilities to the full should you venture there.

Sword of Aragon is a good game, which is quite exciting in places. The ruining of cities combined with combat, and the opportunity to undertake quests, give the game much depth. It should keep you playing for weeks!