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Publisher: Sillysoft    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.2    Hard Disk: 43 MB

Ancient Empires Lux
March 27, 2007 | Ronald Toland

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Time to take over the world! Or, at least, some very old pieces of it. Ancient Empires Lux is the latest in a series of Risk-based strategy games from Sillysoft Games. Think you have the mettle to fend off the mysterious Sea Peoples while uniting Upper and Lower Egypt? Or force the city-states of ancient Greece to unite under your iron fist? Ancient Empires Lux will let you give it a shot.

Ancient Empires Lux’s graphics are bright and pleasant. There’s nothing fancy here--no troops marching from territory to territory a la Europa Universalis--but it works. Each country’s colors are easy to distinguish. The graphic representing the number of troops you have in a territory changes based on the size of the army: from one soldier for less than 10 units to two soldiers for more than 10 to three soldiers for more than 25. Little arrows indicate which direction you can move to attack, fortify, etc. from a selected territory. The cards you earn by conquering territories look crisp and clean.

The game’s sound effects are minimal. You hear brief yells or explosions when attacking. A peppy score plays in the background during the game. It was good enough that I left the sound turned on and up.

Ancient Empires Lux’s gameplay should be familiar to anyone that’s played the Risk board game. You start out with a certain amount of territory and an income of fresh troops each round. Attack your neighbors to conquer more territory, expand your empire, and raise your troop income. Each turn in which you conquer a new territory you receive a card. Turn in three cards for more armies if you want, or hold them till later in the game when they’ll be worth more.

Ancient Empires Lux adds a few extra touches to this simple framework. For instance, cities are a special kind of territory on the map: they're harder to conquer, but are worth more armies. Trade-routes marked by dotted lines can link several cities across the map, making it possible to race across the board from city to city without conquering the intervening territories. The Egyptian scenario gave me a lot of problems until I learned to use the Nile River’s trade routes to my advantage.

The game’s creators seem to have taken the historical context of each scenario seriously. Barbarian hordes hover on the outskirts of the map, waiting for the civilized empires to exhaust themselves before sweeping over the board. Other empires will ignore you as long as you refrain from attacking them. It gives the game a much different feel than just “Risk with the territories named differently.”

It’s those differences that make this game such a great value. If the five levels of difficulty aren’t enough, each scenario--there are twelve in all--can be played as one of five or more empires, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. That’s 58 different empires to play throughout the game. It adds up to a lot of replay for just twenty bucks.

• Faithful Risk sim in historical setting
• Good but beatable AI
• 58 different countries to play as

• Have to “unlock” later scenarios by conquering early ones
• Some crash problems on 1.8 Ghz iMac G5 when loading Egyptian Kingdom

Ancient Empires Lux
Publisher: Sillysoft
Download Ancient Empires Lux Demo
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