Steam Challenge: Old Skool Strategy Weekend

This all started when I picked up Sid Meier’s Colonization for $2.37 on a Steam sale this weekend. Then, I suddenly decided to spend some time playing through some of the old-skool strategy games I own but have never tried out. Granted, I’m not a very good strategy game player, and there’s a very specific sweet spot for me when I do play them.

I need something that’s not too overwhelming, but that does have some depth and keeps my interest. Something easy to learn but hard to master — I have no qualms against learning a game in-depth, but please don’t let your game’s systems be so complex that they get in the way of basic enjoyment.

So, yeah. I’m a casual when it comes to strategy games. I usually play on easy mode and I’m mostly there for the experience, not for killing myself to figure things out.  So, all that being said, here’s how I fared with some fairly old skool games.

Game: Sid Meyer’s Colonization 
Time Played: 1.5 Hours

I thought I was old skool enough to handle a game that Steam still launches using DOS Box. No kidding. I’m likely to catch flack for it, because I know that to some folks who grew up with this game (I didn’t) or those who just love in-depth strategy, this is probably pure gold. For me, I couldn’t get into it.

I really liked the concept. I just couldn’t get past the UI, which defaults back to the days of memorizing keyboard letters to set up commands. While I don’t mind pixel graphics, it was difficult for me to sometimes tell things apart – such as the different professions my settlers were. For a while, I even lost my boat back in England somewhere, until I realized how to go and see the view from across the ocean. Not to mention I couldn’t really figure out what I was supposed to be doing (you should have seen me try to make landfall the first time). XD

So, I’m going to say that this game is probably exactly the way you’d play it back in 1994. For those who loved it then, you’ll probably enjoy the Steam version. I’m sure there’s a very complex and fun game here, but I’m going to set it aside for now. Maybe when I have more time and patience, and studied up on the game a little more, I’ll try it again.

It did have some really good music tracks, though. 😀

Game: Knights and Merchants
Time Played: 2 Hours

The original Knights and Merchants was released in 1998, and this is supposed to be pretty much that game. This is another one that folks love because they grew up with it, and I can understand why. It’s a very difficult and detailed game, however. It’s also incredibly sloooooow.

I liked the town building aspects of the game — I played through the tutorial, which taught you the basics of setting up your town. You build buildings, populate them with workers, and make sure they’re connected to the supply building by roads. Serfs do all the heavy lifting, moving supplies around… and this is part of what makes the game so slow.

For example, your Laborer is putting down a tile of road. They need stone to do this. The Serf goes and gets the stone from the stonecutter, but instead of walking it to the Laborer, they for some reason have to take it to the supply building first. Only THEN can it be carried out to the road tile. And this happens for all things you construct. Not to mention it seems like there’s collision issues and workers just can’t carry things to places if other workers are standing too close to it.

Once I finished the tutorial — took me quite a while just to build a few buildings and learn what I needed to know — I tried the first chapter of the campaign. It threw me right into battle. I got my butt handed to me, and at that point, it would have probably taken another hour to re-raise my army since it relied and the slowly gathered and processed wood to make the axes. It was about at that point that I hung the game up.

I can see how it could be fun, but it’s very, very time consuming. So while I could probably put some effort into learning what I need to know for this game, I’ll put it down.

Game: Crusader Kings Complete
Time Played: 3.9 Hours

Of the three strategy games I tried this weekend, this was the one that really hooked me. When I first started, I was totally overwhelmed and I had no idea what I was doing. There’s no tutorial, but I read the little help screen and some of the tips, and did my best to figure it out.

Oh, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. So you play as a ruler – I played the King of England – and you are pretty much raising your royal family line, keeping your people happy, keeping the nobles in line, and playing war/diplomacy with everything else. I really can’t even describe how this game plays because I’ve never played a game quite like it.

There’s just enough RNG to keep it interesting but not so much as to make you feel as if you have no control over the situation. I really like how you can make choices for your kids and watch what traits they end up with and such when it’s all done with. My original ruler is still on the throne right now, with all sorts of good traits and influence, but the next in line for the throne is… not really all that impressive when you stand him next to his dad. I’m kinda worried how the kingdom is going to run when the original king dies.

Anyhow. I learned that there’s a newer Crusader Kings II out, which can be much more complex from the sound of it. In a good way. I was so interested in the original that I put the next game on my wishlist! This is fun stuff! 🙂