Civilization IV: Warlords review

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Warlords is the latest in a long line of releases or updates to Sid Meier’s Civilization series; an expansion pack that needs the original Civ IV to play.

Civilization IV: Warlords review

The name of the new pack more accurately reflects what’s always been the goal in Civ: conquering. It’s made more explicit now, though, with a new Great Person type, the Great General, affording experience points to all military units in the city and boosting individual units when attached to a given outfit as a Warlord.

There are six new civilisations, chosen to stay in keeping with the war theme and the new scenarios. You get Carthage, led by Hannibal, the Celts, Korea, the Ottoman Empire, Scandinavia and – hurrah! – the Zulus.

Dusting down an historical term you probably haven’t heard since school, Warlords introduces the concept of vassal states – the notion of conquered empires that essentially pay protection money (and research and technology points) and go to war on your behalf in return for an umbrella of military protection. The land of a vassal state counts as yours too, so you can achieve domination victories by dint of being in control of a large enough swathe of country.

The AI is pretty good when it comes to making use of vassals, sometimes leading civilisations to enter into a vassal agreement without being conquered first, to give a safety-in-numbers effect. This gives a lot more scope for realistic twists to conflicts; when a few civilisations have formed vassal relationships on one side, and a few more have networked into a vassal group on the other, minor skirmishes can suddenly snowball into full-scale wars. It keeps things interesting when it comes to invasions too, since a weak civilisation that you’re confident of crushing can suddenly form a vassal relationship and you’ve got a real fight on your hands.

The crux of this expansion is the eight new turn-based scenarios based around major historical warmongering nations and events. The lesser-known Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta gives way to Alexander’s Conquests, The Rise of Rome – in which you can make use of a new trireme – and a great one simply called Vikings, in which you loot and plunder in England and Ireland, ransoming conquered cities, sacking them if you can’t be bothered with the ransoming and amassing a target quantity of gold within 200 turns. The Genghis Khan scenario is as much fun as it sounds, starting you off with no city of your own, just your Mongol army with which to lay waste to as much of Asia as possible. The lack of a starting city is made up for by special camp units that are able to generate attack units appropriate to the terrain, and the objective is to destroy all cities, or turn them into vassals, to gain enough victory points within 300 turns.

These short scenarios obviously mean technology development is less extensive: you can do some research, but you can’t develop stealth bombers while you’re trying to win the Seven Years War.

New features and units are thin on the ground: you get three new World Wonders, including the rather excellent Great Wall (which you can use to keep out hording barbarians), the Temple of Artemis and the University of Sankore, which allows you to tap into Civ IV’s new religious angle, using the power of your religious buildings to increase your religious builders’ capabilities. As well as the new trireme unit, there’s a trebuchet, which is ridiculously effective against standing fortifications, allowing you to bash your way through a city’s defences in short order and take out a lot of the defenders at the same time. In the more modern eras, though, there are no entertaining new novelties. All 24 civilisations have a unique building type of their own, though; England amusingly gains a stock exchange, while Spain gets a citadel.

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