King of Dragon Pass is the saga of colonizing a magical land. You control the future of a ragged clan which has decided to settle the empty land of Dragon Pass. Your decisions determine whether they prosper over the course of a century, and whether they will be remembered forever as a great clan.
Of course, yours isn't the only clan which has emigrated to Dragon Pass. You will have to cooperate and compete with other clans of your own people, as well as folk you know nothing about. Each has their own personality.
Your goal is to become King of Dragon Pass, uniting all these people through diplomacy, magic, and battle. (The objective for a shorter game is to forge a tribe and remain king for ten years.)
The game is set in the magical world of Glorantha, explored in detail through the games HeroQuest and RuneQuest. This provides a rich background not seen in most computer games.
The game begins with an overview of the clan's legends and ancient history. You choose how your clan responded to important events. These choices define your clan, and provide goals for victory. They also serve as a gentle introduction to Glorantha.
The backbone of the game is the economic model. You can review the status of your clan in screens for Farming, War, Trade, Relations, Magic, and The Clan. In each of these areas, you're given advice from your clan council, or Ring, and can make changes or initiate activities (such as a raid or diplomatic mission).
Your clan's magic is directed towards worship of Glorantha's many gods. For example, you'll want to make sure the agriculture deities are worshipped properly to improve your harvest. As you develop temples and sacrifice to deities of different aspects, more magical options become available.
A detailed map shows what your clan has learned about Dragon Pass through exploration or from other clans.
You also have access to background about your people and their myths and history. And you can review your own deeds in the computer-written saga of your clan.
Although the game is centered around the clan as a whole, at any time 15-18 outstanding individuals are presented in more detail. Each has a distinct personality, which colors the advice they give. From these clan leaders you pick your Ring, and can attempt to nurture a Hero. Over time, these leaders gain knowledge, but grow old and eventually die, to be replaced by promising youngsters.
In each of the Gloranthan year's five seasons, you can make two changes (such as increasing the amount of land devoted to crops, enlarging a temple, or arming new warriors).
About once a season, you have to respond to an event (offers of alliance, visitors from distant lands, or raids). Your decisions can trigger other events, and have long-lasting consequences. Your clan Ring will advise you.
You also initiate activities, such as sending a trading mission to another clan, or building a new temple. And you can risk performing a heroquest, reenacting the mythical deeds of one of your gods in the hope of gaining a similar reward.
Combat is handled abstractly. After assigning your forces, you choose your tactics and objective. You may also get the chance to exploit battle opportunities through individual heroism.
The game is composed of hundreds of unique stories, which fit together into an overall saga.
At the beginning, the player's concern is the clan: building up magic potential, strengthening relations with other clans, responding to cattle raids, and exploring the new land in search of treasures.
The next phase of the game is the attempt to form a tribe, through a series of negotiations with neighboring clans.
Once there is a tribe, new problems arise, from the election of a king to warfare to tribal politics.
After the clans of Dragon Pass band into tribes, the final step is integrating them into a kingdom. This requires a series of tests, including making peace with enemies you've been fighting for dozens of game years, and fulfilling various prophecies.
A good degree of variability enhances replay. Different clans will be found in different locations, and local details (such as ruins, sacred groves, standing stones) are randomized. And your clan's leaders will be different each game. Their abilities are used to randomly resolve most situations.
Pre-game decisions also allow for replay, since they change the starting situation and victory conditions.
King of Dragon Pass runs on Windows (95 or later) and Mac OS (PowerPC). Hardware requirements are fairly minimal.
The game was designed by David Dunham, Greg Stafford, and Robin D. Laws, with additional design by Rob Heinsoo and Elise Bowditch.
King of Dragon Pass combines elements of turn-based strategy games and adventure games to create the feel of a Viking saga. It has strong story elements, but economic management is important, and there's high replay value. It takes advantage of a well-developed background. The result is a strategy game with a personal feel.
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