Seeing some numbers attack some other numbers may not seem the height of amusement. But there's just something so satisfying when those numbers are labeling a world map. Mwahahaha! My ten units in British Columbia have just wiped out Alberta! Take that, oil and cows! Warlight, a strategy game with both single player and play-by-email multiplayer modes, provides the satisfying experience of conquering Europe, the world, Middle Earth, or even Mr. T, all in the comfort of your browser. Fans of Risk, Galcon, or Dice Wars will feel right at home here!
You'll want to learn the ropes in the single player levels first. There are hotkeys you can use, but the game recommends learning how to play with the cursor first, so once you think you have the game down, check out the "help" tab at the top of the screen to learn the shortcuts. You can play the single player mode without registering, but registration is free and allows you to associate your best scores with your profile. The single player mode contains an excellent tutorial, but I'll go over the basics here as well.
You'll start out every level with at least one territory under your control and gain at least five armies at the start of every turn. The first phase is deployment where you can place new armies on any territory you control by clicking on it. One click increases the number of armies in the territory by one. The second step is attack and transfer. In this phase, you can order the armies in a territory to attack an enemy or uncontrolled territory, or to transfer between two territories that you control. Click on the territory you wish to send armies from and then click on the one you wish to attack. Confirm all your actions, then either commit to or clear your moves and watch what happens!
Analysis: The game introduces many features as you progress through the single player to keep things interesting. Bonus areas are probably the most important strategy-wise. Certain groupings of territories, such as Europe and Asia on the first map, Britain and Bulgaria on the "Europe Challenge" map, and the so-called "Fist of Power" on the "Mr. T" map, give a bonus to the number of armies you gain per turn when you control all the territories in the area. Some areas are more valuable than others, and some are easier to defend than others. Britain in the Europe Challenge map is both valuable and easy to defend. Bulgaria, on the other hand, is both almost worthless and difficult to defend. Obviously, getting and keeping control of Britain will be a high priority, whereas capturing or keeping Bulgaria will be low.
The other two aspects worth mentioning are cards and the fog. In later single player levels you'll be introduced to cards, and in the multiplayer there are nine different possible cards as options when setting up a game. You gain pieces of cards every turn that you capture a territory, and once you have a complete card you can play it at the start of the turn. The reinforcement card, as an example, gives you a one time bonus of extra armies. Fog, as you might have guessed, covers territories for a completely new level of strategy.
The first screenshot was taken from a multiplayer game between myself and everyone's favorite neighborhood Chiktionary. Although we look fairly evenly matched in the picture, because I had been careful to take and control bonus areas and she hadn't, I was earning 55 armies a turn at this point and she was earning 10. I don't need to tell you who ended up winning. (Thanks for being a good sport, Chiktionary!)
If there's one thing I've learned from playing joye, and being sorely trounced in a multiplayer game of Warlight, it's that strategy counts as soon as you begin. For a good game, players have to be strong right from the start, weakness becomes evident very quickly. Thankfully there's no messing around with dice or quibbling with your opponent in this Risk-style game. You simply make your moves, submit them and then watch the ensuing carnage. I think I became over-confident by playing the single player games, because I blitzed the games against an AI opponent.
It seems that time is a major factor in multiplayer games, simply in terms of waiting for your team-mates and/or opponents to take their turns. The game between Joye and myself took a few days to play, and averaged about two to three turns per day. Fortunately, you don't have to sit staring at the screen for hours waiting for your turn, as you'll be notified by e-mail when other players have completed theirs.
The only reservations I have about Warlight include the lack of ease in exiting a multiplayer game when you wish to quit; you can surrender but you need the approval of other players to do so. Also, there is a chat feature in multiplayer games which apparently can't be disabled, so there is the potential for unpleasant encounters online. But so far in the games I've played and am currently playing, people seem less interested in chatting and more interested in world domination.
What I really like about Warlight is the swift introduction of challenge, the interesting playing fields, the variety of maps, and the ability to create your own boards. Overall, Warlight is a fabulous gaming experience for fans of the traditional game of Risk and for those who are yet to experience strategic gameplay and the thrill of world domination.
NOTE: For multiplayer and play-by-email modes, you must play at Warlight.net