“Just one more turn” is usually the sign of a classic turn-based strategy game. From the likes of Civilisation to Championship Manager, the classics all aspire to push you to keep playing the game and then take a furtive and disbelieving look at your clock when you see its ten to two in the morning! But just one more turn and I’ll have researched chariots! Then I’ll show those Egyptians whose boss!
Conqueror 940 AD is built around the need for one more turn. A casual turn-based kingdom sim, you play the unnamed young King of a similarly unnamed Kingdom that begins the game with nothing but a tent on a hill. The back-story, told in a quaint little comic book, sees you as the only one of seven younger brothers of the King to survive him coming to power and the “accidents” that befell your siblings.
Each turn you have a limited number of actions to take to research new technologies such as buildings you can build or weapons you can craft, as well as personal skills such as charm or stealth. You can also build unlocked buildings to improve your fledgling Kingdom, harvesting food, wood, stone, or iron and then crafting it into more usable things
You can also train your unnamed young King, gaining health, bartering, or other skills that you need to unlock such as stealth. You can also send emissaries to neighboring kingdoms to learn more about them and perhaps become friends.
Once you’ve got something of a relationship with another Kingdom, another option that opens up is to send a caravan laden with goods to sell which is a good way to boost your initially anemic economy. You can also buy goods that you struggle to get hold of, though complex goods such as weapons cost a pretty penny.
A King alone isn’t King for very long and you’ll gradually be introduced to your throne-room where a series of NPCs will appear to give you advice and then present petitions. This is really the most narratively interesting part of the game as they’ll offer you three options with varying results on your or your Kingdoms fortunes. These can sometimes be unavailable as they are based on your stats. IE you can take part in a horse race but only get the option if your agility is above a certain level.
There’s no way to know for sure how these events will go until you’ve played the game for a while and seen them before. Sometimes it’s fairly obvious what is going to have a good outcome or not and there’s little real incentive to roleplay, you can just make the best choice for you or your kingdom each time.
In addition, your faithful courtiers, you can begin to develop a relationship with neighboring princesses to court them and eventually marry them. On tying the knot with a lovely princess, you’ll likely get a major boost to your relationship with that Kingdom up to and including them becoming a vassal of your Kingdom!
You can also eventually build a tavern to unlock some stealthy subterfuge options such as spying, sewing dissent and even murdering enemy leaders to weaken them ready for your later invasion.
Speaking of warfare, after a while you’ll research troops to train, though you’ll need to build or buy weapons to arm them and a barracks to house them. Sometimes you’ll get an option to hire mercenaries which, contrary to historical records, is actually far cheaper as the troops come fully trained and fully armed!
Once you’ve gone through the large number of steps to build up an army, be it a peasant horde of “staffers” and “slingers” or a decent army with lances and swords, you can target a neighbor you don’t like and send your army to smash them in battle.
Battles are quite simple and your only real input, beyond actions taken to assemble the army and to weaken the enemy beforehand, is whether to retreat when the going gets hard. Conqueror, despite the name, isn’t really much of a wargame but more of a casual Kingdom builder.
The casual tone of the game is there to see from the start as many turns you’ll simply click on the hourglass to end the turn until something happens. The game is largely text-based and your dashboard will report things that have happened, such as buildings completed or research unlocked.
You interact with your Kingdom by clicking on a yes/no toggle to dedicate resources and then click on the tiny little buttons to say what you’d like to do. It has to be said that Conqueror’s UI is very basic and at times doesn’t make very good use of space, with some icons incredibly small and hard to read.
Graphically, Conqueror is old-fashioned and basic, harking back to old games like Kings Bounty or Defender of the Crown. There’s a quaint comic book feel to things but the graphics aren’t much to write home about.
The sound is a bit better, with some nice period-feeling music and options to loop or skip. The in-game sound effects are functional but nothing more.
Conqueror’s game play is very simplistic and slowly drip feeds new ideas in as you go, unlocking new options and things you can do. At times the game is a bit counter-intuitive but there is a simple guide available at the top of the screen to explain things. But, again, the weak UI doesn’t exactly make the game intuitive or easy to pick up!
In terms of pure character, whilst your courtiers and potential wife have quirky personalities, they don’t really remember anything about you, this is no Crusader Kings. After a while, you’ll likely forget about them as characters and just try to figure out the best Min/Max outcome.
There are no options either to vary the gender or pronouns of your character or their potential bride, you can’t be gay or bisexual in this game, all the blushing brides are female.
In conclusion, whilst Conqueror is an inoffensive game that will not tax your brainpower or patience, it’ll do little more than whittle away some time. Once you build up a decent in-game economy and make friends with some other Kingdoms, you’ll find yourself clicking away to get to the conclusions but many actions, especially courtship and diplomacy, are maddeningly slow. At the current price point (£11 full price, on sale for £8), it’s hard to justify the simplicity of the game, though it is an indie game. At a lower price point or part of a bundle, you may find that this game justifies its cost. Conqueror feels like the sort of game you’d download on your phone or tablet and perhaps that’s where it would be more at home. On the PC, there’s just too much competition that it can’t beat.