With a yo ho ho and a ruddy big axe, here comes the...

Vikings: Fields of Conquest logo

KRISALIS * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Mouse * Out now

When you think of games about Vikings, you tend to conjure up images of violence. Lots of violence. Big hairy men chopping people up type violence. Innocent farm animals fleeing in mortal terror sort of violence.

And that's 'cos the Vikings feature at number 49 in the List of All Time Really Nasty Crimes Against Humanity. Fiftieth is the man who said 'of course you can have 400 billion pounds, go an make another Genesis album'.
It may come as a bit of a turnip then, to find that Vikings - Fields of Conquest (to give it its full title) doesn't actually dwell too heavily on chopping people up. There's a wee bit of chopping involved but it's surrounded by strategy and stuff. Which is a bit alarming really. You might just as well call the game Birkenhead OAP's Crown Green Bowling, and use the Vikings idea in something more violent.

But, to be fair, this game actually puts you in the place of an olden days lord, and asks you to build up your kingdom and repel the scummy Viking hordes.
However, as history has shown, it doesn't work and the Vikings invade. Or do they? That's up to you, matey Jim. Select how many players there are going to be, and which are going to be computer-controlled Vikings.

Right, you start off with a home territory with your castle and armies in, and the adjacent territories are yours as well. Free. No extra cost, guv.
Now, as with most war games, you play by turns. During each turn you can keep your people fed, raise more armies, mine each territory for raw materials, move armies into new territories and start work on new strongholds.

At the end of each turn, and providing your armies have invaded a new territory, you enter the combat section. If it's a 'blank' territory then you just have to duff up a few peasants to claim it, but if it's a rival territory then a slightly more tricky hullabaloo is in order.
If they run out of men before you, then the territory is added to your kingdom and you can then reap taxes from it, mine it and park your car in the city centre on a Sunday.

Righty ho, criticism time. First of all, my infamous 'grumpy bobble hat' for the bad points. Hrrmph. The whole game is run via the usual clickety icons and information boxes. And, well, I found it all a bit boring. Not very, very boring, but after about an hour of going through the same routine every turn, my attention started to wander. I just didn't feel too gutted when I had to reach for the of switch to write the review.

Plus, given the aforementioned violence quota of Vikings and the olden days in general, the combat is a bit amp. You just watch two gauges, representing your army and the enemy, and see which one reaches the bottom first. Not terribly inspiring.

And now, my 'comfy slippers' for the good points. It looks very nice, not counting the Commodore 64 loading screen that seems to have slipped in there. A nice "mappy" looking map and, er, not a lot else really, but the map does look nice.
It's also easy to get into. This may mean that seasoned war gamers tire of it fairly quickly, but for those who just want to dabble then it's just about right.

There are some hidden depths, but they're neither deep or very well hidden. So they're not really hidden depths are they? But you can quite happily fiddle around for a half hour or so, before you start to realise you've seen everything there is to see.

Basically, Vikings is a fairly inoffensive game. It's well thought out, and well implemented, but it leaves you with a hollow feeling. Not bad as a sorbet to clear the palette but hardly a three course meal, to use a seriously crap metaphor. Too limited, I'm afraid.

Vikings: Fields of Conquest logo

Big blond blokes singing about Spam? Well not really. It's actually a historical strategy game.

Fur coats, horned helmets, longships with shields down the side - that's what the word 'vikings' conjures up for most of us. But in this pseudo-historical strategy game you're on the side of the goodies. It's the baddies who have all the fun.

This American-produced game evades a few historical realities to place you as the leader of a warlike community in England around the 11th century. Up to six players can take part, which gives a choice of two scenarios. When playing against humans, each one of you is leader of a different kingdom. Each one must build his realm into a workable society; building castles and managing resources plus invading neighboring lands to slaughter the population and plunder the wealth.

Thordar Skullsplitter
On your own, however, you can face up to five computer-controlled viking chiefs. These guys play differently though. Which means you have to be more constructive and less violent if you are to outwit them.

After a pretty HAM loading screen you set the type of game and number of players, then choose where your home castle is to be placed. Among the many options, all the regions of the country can be occupied or switched off and there are five difficulty levels which range from easy to very tough. Most important, perhaps, you can set the target for the number of territories you have to occupy before you win.

The game display, in a full 64 colours, is just a map with icons on it and a few other bits on the left-hand side. It benefits from nicely drawn sprites and terrain, but don't hold your breath for the sound effects.

Nigel Bonecracker
The game is played in turns, and the first job is to make sure your people are fed. A scroll appears at the bottom of the screen with Food and Harvest written on it. You can then move the pointer around the map and over your territories to see how much food your country needs (or has if it has produced a surplus).

Next step is to look to your armies. You can create and add them by buying more soldiers and equipment, then allocate them to individual task forces to go about the business of beating up your peace-loving neighbours.

Battle is a simple affair. The manual says you should have twice as many people as your opponents, so bully-boy tactics win the day. As battle wears on, you are updated on how many men each side are losing, so if your guys are being whipped, you can always pull out.

Once your invasion attempts has succeeded or failed, it's on to the king's turn to try to take over some land. As the game progresses, other factors come into play: you may need to create a port with a small convoy of ships to take your armies abroad, for example, and you'll need to look for and mine ore to keep your weapon supply.

Roger Todgerthumper
Different types of troops and technologies are important. To storm castles you need catapults to weaken the walls, but the defending castle can shoot at the catapults with their archers.

You will also need to build castles to defend your land, but you first have to clear the land, then build a tower, followed by a keep, then a small castle and finally a large castle. Each piece of land can only produce so many soldiers - only large castles and the home castle can produce armies.

Castles also influence your troop's performance when fighting and their presence in a territory increases the taxes coming from that area. And, of course, as well as money from the taxes, all of these things need raw materials, so someone has to go and look for them.

There is hardly any way of getting raw materials except for going into a territory with mountains, trees or other things. To get money you have to get miners to look for gold, silver and iron mines and this costs money as well.

Vikings is a reasonably intelligent strategy game, but a few more active additions, like the ability to control the action in battles and new weapons every few years, would improve its accessibility. There's simply not enough variation in the pattern of events and in the factors that govern success or failure. You can't help feel it would have benefited from a more detailed, historical feel or from a more fun, arcadey, Defender of the Crown-like approach. As it is, it's mediocre.

Vikings: Fields of Conquest logo

Der wenig bekannte Vorgänger "Kingdoms of England" wurde von vielen voreilig als simpler Klon des Cinemaware-Oldies "Defender of the Crown" abgetan - bis sie ihn wirklich gespielt hatten! Dem Nachfolger droht nun ein ähnliches Schicksal...

Denn auch er hält mehr, als er verspricht! Zugegeben, grafisch macht Vikings wirklich nicht viel her - wenn man immer nur Landkarten und Tabellen zu sehen bekommt, hilft auch der Extrahalfbrite-Modus mit 64 Farben nicht viel. Dasselbe gilt für den Sound, der nach dem Verklingen der mittelalterlichen Weise zu Spielbeginn praktisch nicht mehr vorhanden ist.

Die Steuerung wurde dagegen genial gelöst: Eine kleine Anzeige am Mauszeiger informiert den Spieler über so bedeutsame Dinge wie die Steuerquote, den Ernteertrag oder die Bodenschätze der einzelnen Territorien. Aber was für ein Game verbirgt sich nun eigentlich hinter der bescheidenen Oberfläche?

Ein Spiel für ein bis sechs Adlige, die wahlweise menschlichen oder digitalen Kommandos gehorchen und es unbedingt zum König von England bringen wollen. Und weil England halt nur einen König braucht, sind Konflikte natürlich vorprogrammiert. Gelöst werden sie wie üblich mit Waffengewalt, wobei man in die Kämpfe selbst nicht direkt eingreifen kann; die Schlachten lassen sich nur anhand einer eingeblendeten Auflistung der beteiligten Truppen verfolgen, während der Rechner im Hintergrund das Ergebnis ausknobelt.

Umsomehr ist dafür im strategischen Vorfeld zu tun: Für die Eroberung der (insgesamt 199) Territorien müssen Armeen aufgestellt, trainiert und auf den Weg geschickt werden: Häfen, Festungen und Burgen sollte man errichten. Nahrungsmittel müssen angebaut, ge- oder verkauft, Bodenschätze gesucht und gefördert werden - und auch die Besteuerung seiner Leute darf man nicht vergessen, weil nix im Leben umsonst ist.

Das alles ist freilich nur ein grober Überblick der vielfältigen Betätigungsmöglichkeiten, hinzu kommen noch allerlei wohlüberlegte Details. Beispielsweise benötigen einige Aktionen eine bestimmte Zeit, so daß sehr genau überlegt sein will, was man in jeder Spielrunde macht. Dann gibt's tausenderlei technische Kleinprobleme wie die Reparatur beschädigter Befestigungsanlagen, der ewige Rohstoff- und/oder Geldmangel beim Anschaffen bzw. Bauen neuer Waffen, Burgen etc, etc.

Schließlich kann auch das Schicksal ganz unerwartet in Gestalt des Wikingerkönigs Eric zuschlagen und alle fein ausgetüftelten Pläne plötzlich wider zunichte machen...

Wie bereits erwähnt, klappt die Handhabung tadellos, so wird etwa die allesentscheidende Karte einfach mit der rechten Maustaste gescrollt, auch die vielen Menüs und Statistiken sind sehr durchdacht aufgebaut.

Kurzum, Vikings ist ein nicht unbedingt originelles, aber spielerisch ausgefeiltes und dabei einfach zu bedienendes Strategie-Game. Schade daß es rein äußerlich halt arg wenig hermacht. (mm)

Vikings: Fields of Conquest logo

(Cue serene violine music...) You know, some of my best childhood memories are of sitting with my friends, playing Risk - an excellent old boardgame all about good old fashioned world domination.

Now, I'm not saying that Vikings is in any way a rip-off of that game, but it does somehow have the same air about it. Perhaps it's the way that, although it's a (eek!) strategy wargame thing, it doesn't look ugly or contain too many statistics. Perhaps it's simply the fact that in both games the objectives is to rise up and conquer. Or perhaps I'm just desperate for a reference point.

Before taking part in any domination operations, the number of warlords (for lack of a better word) must be specified. There can be up to eight of these wacky funsters, but don't fret if you don't have eight friends... the computer can take over any number of roles. In fact, it's a good idea to give the computer a couple of characters to control, because although human players must play the role of responsible lords, the computer can be given control of viking leaders.

Being the lord of the manor, you see, involves building up armies, training peasants, ensuring that farming and harvesting is done wisely, and empire-building goes smoothly. To continually grow takes a lot of coordination, you see, and some pretty beefy armies. Then there's mining to worry about, new fortresses to build, and harbours and boats to construct. The vikings on the other hand simply want either to steal it or to kill it. Oh for the simple life, eh?

So what Vikings basically offers is a Defender Of The Crown sort of arrair, but without the action sequences. Wow, sounds tedious, right? That's what I expected, but unlike so many of the lacklustere wargames out there, Vikings has some kind of magical addictive ingredient.

I suspect it's because the programmers have used a similar recipe to that used for Battle Isle - slick map presentation, simple point-and-click menu system (without too many windows), intelligent computer players plus the option to compete against friends. Yep, that must be it.

Vikings: Fields of Conquest logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Eat, drink, and pillage in Krisalis's medieval strategy game. James Marlow gets down to some serious slaughter as he explores Digitek's world...

After a hard day at the office, there's nothing better than to come home, hang up the brolly and bowler, and settle down for a couple of hours of unbridalled slaughter and subjugation. And now, Digitek's strategic romp puts you in charge of your very own unruly mob of Barbarians, ready to take the Vikings on at their own rough 'n' ready game.

Up to six human or computer-controlled players can take part in what is best described as a medieval Supremacy. Each player assumes the role of a Lord in control of a small kingdom with up to twenty armies under their control. The overall aim is to become the king of medieval England, Scotland, Ireland and, curiously, a bit of Greenland

The game is mouse-controlled and orders can be given with a couple of clicks of the button. The intuitive control system is so straightforward that you can get stuck in almost straight away, so there's no need to consult the manual.

The game offers several different scenarios depending on the number of players taking part. If you're playing against another human opponent it's a race against time to build up a wealthy and expanding kingdom with which to fund a bigger and better army than the opposition. All things being equal, it's merely a question of strategically out-guessing the other players while keeping an eye out for the main chance.

A head-to-head against a computer opponent is a completely different affair. These are Viking invaders and they don't play by the same rules. Their aim is to gain wealth by conquest with no thought for the indigenous population. They act as barbarians, but it is up to you to outwit the computer player whilst abiding by the rules of fair play. You old softy!

The game begins slowly as you have to build up your embryonic empire from scratch. Driving your people too hard at this stage, however, will cause resentment and you'll find a revolt on your hands in no time at all. As a result, it's sometimes a tedious task to build up the infrastructure of your society before getting stuck into some serious bone crushing - but the later stages are sufficiently rewarding to make it worthwhile. Thankfully for a game as large as this, there's also a save option.

The game has a massive selection of options to choose from. For example, you may decide to search for ores in the mountain so that you can build castles, weapons and boats.

Alternatively, you may think it prudent to save the money and deploy what few troops you already have. If bloodlust doesn't course through your veins, however, there's even the chance to slowly build up your kingdom and make the world a better place to live in (ahhhh!).

From the main screen, a flag-pole icon is used to give command to your troops, a question mark to find out information about any particular area, and a mine icon to search for precious ore reserves. Below the three icons and four bars which represent how much food, wood, stone and iron you already have.

Remember, without resources you cannot build anything! To the right of the bank of icons is the main map area. This shows the whereabouts of your opponent as well as detailing how much land has fallen under his control. Another map system is used for a close-up of the immediate playing area and its possible to rapidly scroll to other areas by forcing the mouse pointer to leave the screen in the required direction.

The game's graphics are functional, with detailed maps and well-thought out icons. Each country is clearly defined and it's possible to tell at a glance what the state of play is at any given time. Each country which falls under your control assumes the colour of your clan and armies are represented by banners, so it's easy to work out what's going on. As time progresses, the need to develop more forts and even castles becomes imperative as the arms race goes on relentless. Very soon, you'll find a formidable arsenal under your control, and the screen bristling with your troops.

Unfortunately, there's little in the way of in-game sound effects and this robs the game of some much needed atmosphere. Also, when rival armies clash, there's little on-screen action to watch - maybe a Battle Chess-style encounter of the opposing forces fighting it out would have been a good idea. Even some kind of stirring military tune or a pulsing beat ala Powermonger wouldn't have gone amiss.

There are five difficulty levels, ranging from easy to very high. These work to either limit the number of countries you need to win the game or increase them to such a ridiculous level that emerging victorious is nigh-on impossible.

Vikings will appeal to anyone who got a kick out of Virgin's Supremacy. Instead of planets to conquer, you're given counties and the basic raw materials of food, energy and ore have been replaced with food, iron and wood. The major difference between the two, is in the combat system. In Supremacy it was possible to pull your men out if things looked nasty, or send additional troops if necessary. In Vikings, the only option is to retreat if you're wildly outnumbered - a major flaw. Holding troops in reserve is a major tactical ploy, and to deny the player this cuts down the strategic worth of the game dramatically.

That said, Vikings is a highly polished game and well worth a look.


Once you've commissioned an army, a number of commands are available to a budding military dictator:
March - use this to move your troops around the map.
Forced March - If you haven't got enough movement points, then using this option will reduce the number of points needed and hopefully get your army on the move.
Exchange Troops and Items - this allows you to move soldiers and items between armies.
Make Camp and Rest - after a number of battles, it's best to let your troops make camp and get some much needed R&R.
Army Status - lists the morale, fatigue and composition of your army.