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Centurion: Defender of Rome (Amiga)

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4.1
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Written by  :  David Ledgard (63)
Written on  :  Feb 10, 2005
Platform  :  Amiga
Rating  :  3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars

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Summary

Become Caesar, conquer the known world.

The Good

The manual described Roman history including famous battles, the Generals in the game are historic, the provinces and largely historic but Britain for example was never entirely conquered (perhaps that's why they stay angry). Going up in rank allowing better and more legions and fleets. Provinces gradually being civilized going from Occupied or Ally to Colony and Citizens and paying higher taxes. The capitol province of Italia falling and taxes stopping, makes the game very difficult at higher levels. You have to increase taxes when you reconquer it and risk rebellion.

Review: Centurion, Defender of Rome - or Centurion, Defender of Boredom as I remember it, good for killing time. You begin as a Roman Officer in charge of the Roman Empire's one and only province - Italia, with one Legion, and Rome's Garrison, which can not attack, only defend Italia. You must rise through the ranks (Centurion, Tribune, Legatus, General, Praetor, Consul, Proconsul, Caesar), by gaining (and holding!) Provinces & Legions, and winning Games. You can only become Caesar by conquering the entire known world (Europe and the Mediterranean).

There are five main sections to the game: The province map, land battles, sea battles, gladiatorial games, and chariot racing. Each can be set at a different level of difficulty, so if you are bad at one thing, and good at another, you can compensate.

There are 27 Provinces, most can be brought into the Empire by negotiation. Some will join as Allies, but will never advance beyond this, and will always be in an Angry state. There are 3 options at a time in negotiation, only one will be the right one. Some options are far more effective than others. A negotiation ends in 3 ways, the legion withdraws from the provinces, goes to war, or the Province becomes an Ally and the legion stays in place that turn. Some Provinces join sooner than others, as Allies, depending on your rank, and how many turns have passed. Do not bring Provinces into your empire you can not protect, as once lost, they will never re-negotiate, and must be conquered, joining the Empire in an Occupied state. You can also negotiate your way into Cleopatra's bed. Sometimes it is better to invade than wait for an Alliance, as that province may raise 2 or 3 barbarians armies in that time.

Provinces can be in four states: Occupied, Ally, Colony, and Citizens. They change state over time, providing they are not lost, and bring in more taxes with each improvement in state. They also provide reinforcement troops to repair damaged legions. Legions fight best when at full strength, and commanded by a good General. Allied provinces provide a vast number of recruits the first turn, enough to raise a Legion, sometimes.

Taxes are required to repair and raise Legions. Also to hold games to keep provinces in order. Each province has morale: Content, Restless, Angry, and Rebellious. If Rebellious, you will soon lose that Province unless you hold games, reduce taxes (or have none for a while in that province), or maintain a Garrison to crush any uprisings. Soon after it is likely to raise a barbarian army to threaten your borders. Tribute levels can be raised for a few turns, if necessary, but rebellious feeling will sweep your empire, so don't keep them high too long.

When Rome becomes unhappy you must have a Gladiatorial game, you can't just pay for this, you must fight it. Make sure to fight well, or the people will remain unhappy, deciding whether the opponent lives or dies greatly affects happiness, so please the crowd, or else! Paying for a better Gladiator helps, but also drains your treasury. If Rome rebels, you don't get any new taxes until it is reconquered. The Romans seem to want games, very often, the game would have been a lot better if this feature could have been turned off, as in one game you have to fight several dozens games, all the same, lasting 5 minutes each, EXTREMELY BORING, but very necessary. You can play without looking, so I used to flip over to a TV channel for the duration.

Another problem is the fleet, you need several dozen ships to transport a legion - which costs a fortune, yet minor kingdoms regularly raise fleets to send armies to attack you. If you wait to save enough tribute to build a fleet, you will have conquered enough provinces to attack North Africa by land! Fortunately some countries can be gained (if not held) by a small force sent to negotiate. Tribute can be gained gambling at the chariot races, lose a little money a few times, and your odds will go up, then gamble a lot, and win. It seems an unrealistic way to build your fleet though. I can only win chariot races at the lower levels. They can also be quite boring, as you have to do several laps, and bet several times, to make any real money, you also have to start with a reasonable stake.

Fleet battles are extremely tough, fight them at your own risk. If you are defeated you will lose expensive ships, plus the troops in them.

Land battles are the core of the game. Each legion gets a different general, Scipio Africanus, is the best. DON'T LOSE HIM! There are a number of infantry and cavalry (for speed) cohorts which can either be automated or directed. They fight better attacking at the side, or ganging up. You fare better, if you control all the cohorts, but this is tedious, and tricky. If you lose your General the armies courage goes down, and you can no longer direct cohorts, the same applies for your enemy, so try and get his General if you can.

You get better armies once you become a Tribune, gaining some two Cavalry groups, fighting without Cavalry is a nightmare. When you become Consul, you get two more Cavalry groups, (though they are not very easy to field), and more & higher strength cohorts, so they fight longer before folding and inflict more damage. Of course against Elephant or Cavalry, you will lose more troops. Once you have Consular Armies, you lose much less often, but have a new problem of finding lots more recruits to replace the higher casualties, and upgrade to larger armies (previous to this only Rome's Garrison is Consular, so sometimes it is a good idea to retreat a weak army and let the Garrison fight).

Much depends on which formation your enemy chooses, it's largely random. Each legion has a courage level, which improves over time (training): Panicky (only one Province luckily), Weak, Good, and Fierce. Courage, is effected by how high a regard they have for their general, and how many casualties the cohort has taken. The courage of each Province varies so try and recruit Fierce troops, all the time (they come mainly from the west), so in the costly eastern battles, you may not have enough good recruits (or they may be too far away), so you will have to compromise.

At higher levels, enemy elephants (you are not allowed any, even if you capture Provinces which have them), act very much like tanks, and decimate your Legions.

Most provinces in the east are weak but can't be taken, as they can't be held eg. Pontus, with weak mercenary troops, where Caesar did his 'I came, I saw, I conquered' thing. It's interesting to note the mighty Julius came to Britain, but did not conquer it, it was 100 years until Cladius mounted a successful invasion (shipping problems?). The Romans thought they would fall off the end of the earth, when they went to Britain.

Barbarian armies are forever appearing in Provinces, and rampage through other provinces (without ANY loses - not very realistic), until they get to you. They always terminate in Italia, either conquering it, or being defeated.

To conclude the game is great fun, and absorbing. You can suffer great defeats, but with sacrifice fight back. There are however too many tedious bits, which you should have been able to turn off. The fleet is too expensive, perhaps you should begin with one. Historically Rome attacked Sicilia, Hispania, Carthago, and Macedonia by sea, before expanding elsewhere. Also you should be able to make peace with the Cathagian, Greek, Egyptian, and Persian Empires (but not the barbarians) - perhaps for tribute, of course they could decide to break the peace if you get too strong, or attack each other - but the chance of unprovoked attack should be greatly reduced. And it would be good to play as one of the other powers, perhaps with Elephants. The casualty rate at the end is interesting, I usually take about 100,000 dead to make the empire. Worth it? Perhaps, better than endless barbarism.

The Bad

The DOS hack doesn't negotiate alliances correctly. Having to play gladiator games every few turns over and over again, a real drag, should have been able to turn this feature off. But I suppose Roman Emperors had to attend games. The fleet costs far to much, you can't take the war to the Carthaginians as the Romans did in history. Barbarians being able to cross other territories without fighting their armies. Both should be reduced making defense and attack easier. Perhaps alliances could be introduced so several territories can fight as one.

The Bottom Line

Good strategic game teaches you history.