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Added: 13 Dec 2008
ANNALS OF ROME
Time to invade one of the four neighbouring regions.., but who will lead the legions?
Nothing less than the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, managed over several centuries and possibly millennia, is the subject of this unusual game from PSS. The game concentrates on simulating the broad sweep of Rome's military conquests in the early stage of the game, then its struggles to keep control of its captured provinces against native uprising and the increasingly likely threat of civil war. Details of individual battles are not gone into, and military decisions are limited to very broad-based movement of units from one country to another. But the player has control over strategic factors influencing political stability and long-term military success, such as the appointment of legates, tribunes and regional commanders, the setting of the tax rate and the option of bribing the army to remain loyal if a revolt seems to be brewing.
Unlike most other games from PSS, Annals of Rome has no arcade element, and does not take place in 'real time'. The enormous timescales involved would make either of these factors ridiculous, but it must be said that having high BASIC content (and being alarmingly easy to break into - on my copy at least) there are parts of the game which are close to being maddeningly slow. It is the kind of highly strategic, abstract game which may not be too affected by a slow processing speed, but the moderately impatient may find that it detracts from playability.
The main map display shows Europe approximately as it was divided at the time of the Romans, rather squashed into a corner by two panel displays. I say approximately because of course the political map of Europe changed regularly from 273BC, when the game starts, and as far as I'm aware it's possible to carry on playing Annals of Rome indefinitely. This is an unavoidable simplification, but it does typify a flaw in the idea behind the game design. There are twenty-eight states, including Italia itself - which you control from the beginning. Possessions of the other powers are shaded in a pattern distinctive to each race, though there is no index or description of these 'fillings' in the manual. The Romans do not have a pattern, and the visual impression created by this is that the Roman conquest of Europe made the continent look a lot tidier! The countries are not identified by name, unless there is no overall ruling power in the area, but a corresponding map in the manual does the job and prevents the screen becoming too cluttered with information. A symbol on each country shows either the military strength established in the area (if it is over 10,000) or the 'code' of the ruling power. An unnecessary complication arises when you start to conquer territories for yourself; Roman forces are displayed in units of 5,000. An over-large message window below the map throws up information in a computer-controlled fashion. The player has no real control over the sequence of play or the accessing of information, but this doesn't make itself felt; the computer-generated sequence is complicated enough.
The game opens with a series of 'football results', which tell the player which powers predominate (and where) in 'the known world circa 273BC.' A detailed breakdown of each country's population is then given, and this information is updated at the beginning of every turn. Most countries are occupied by more than one race, although in normal circumstances only one has any military strength. Every time an army captures a province it brings with it a small core of its own people, which expands if the occupation prospers, or dwindles away if another power captures the territory. Vestigial remains of former occupations have absolutely no effect on the gameplay - the only thing that really matters is the strength of the native population in a nation's homeland, because for several turns after you capture the territory they will be persistently revolting - but it is an interesting touch of authenticity.
The economics phas
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