The RTSC Games List

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The Historical RTS List
RTS games with a strong historical bent, usually focusing on just a small period, or significant event in time.

Ancient Art of War, The (1984)

Yes, that is the right date. This is an old Apple II game, and a definite contender for the First RTS of All Time. Actually, I'm sure it got around to many other platforms, because I swear I saw a port on a PDP-11 UNIX mainframe when I was a uni student once. It wasn't so much a big scrolling map like your usual RTS but a slow moving minimap view that you'd organize your campaign around. It would switch to an orthographic battlefield to resolve the actual fighting where all your guys would be presented as monochromatic sprites. If nothing else, it was one of the first games to use the paper-scissor-rock dynamic. It was ostensibly based on the writings of Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese general of Ancient Times.

This is so basic, harking back to a happy, carefree time where the developers might actually be a guy and his mate - where it was possible to write a game from home and have a hit. A really big game might take a whole three months to come out and fill an entire floppy disk - a five and a quarter inch floppy, that is. Ironically, some of those ancient titles have more spark, creativity, imagination and, well, playability than a lot of the hollow, bloated, unremarkable graphic demos that infest the shelves these days. :/ In part, that's due to gaming back then really being unexplored territory, and also, expectations of what makes a good game these days is astronomical by comparison. There was something more personable at least, more of a one on one with you and the (obviously enthusiastic) creator. Just showing my age, there - heh, don't worry kids, you'll be old and ignored soon enough!

This game was popular enough to spawn a sequel: The Ancient Art of War, At Sea (1987).Back

Celtic Kings series

A historical series by Bulgarian developer Haemimont Games covering the long history of the Roman Empire. Its not really that well known in the English speaking world, but it seems to have thrived elsewhere in Europe, especially in Spain and Italy. Its notable for its strong use of history , using historical Heroes in a combination of military strategy gaming, real time strategy, and interactive storytelling via roleplaying games using actual historical figures of the period.

Celtic Kings: Rage of War (2002)
The first title in the series that pits historical European Celts against the might of the encroaching Roman Empire at the time when Caesar invaded Gaul. (Or put another way, during the Asterix's time!) You play one of two powers: Gaul (ancient France) or the Roman Empire. There is Druidic magic and Heroes, although they seem to be placed more in a pseudo-historical context than a purely fantasy one.

Celtic Kings: The Punic Wars (2004)
The sequel, also known as Imperivm II: Conquest of Hispania in Spain - covers the three wars between Carthage and Rome (including Hannibal's famous elephant trip). The game expanded on a number of its old features, and added two new sides: Carthage, the influential trading empire at its height around the coastal Mediterranean in the 3rd Century BC (before being destroyed in the Third Punic War), and the Iberians (ancient Spanish), renowned for their vigorous resistance to the Roman invaders.

Imperivm III: Great Battles of Rome (2007)
A standalone expansion which adds five new cultures to the mix: the Britons, two Roman "factions" (Imperial Rome and Republican Rome), the Egyptians and the Germans.

The Celtic Kings/Imperivm series appears to have spun off its own series of Roman city building sims: Glory of the Roman Empire and Imperivm Romanvm.Back

Europa Universalis series

This is the sort of historical strategy game that shows up exactly what the regular "mainstream" strategy games and publishers don't generally do. Unlike the bland, context-free worlds of Age of Empires, or the Saturday morning cartoon sensibilities of WarCraft, Europa Universalis - like many games from developer Paradox and Strategy First (and other smaller publishers like SSG) delves deep into the heart of geopolitics, economics, intrigue, diplomacy, and the ideology, culture and religion of the nation state or political system or empire that is trying to impose its ambitions on the world. Like many of the Civ strategy games, culture and nation building is as important as going on the warpath, and the relationship between competing states is a complex and interesting one.

Obviously, this is the sequel to Europa Universalis (2000), which starts from the "discovery" of the New World in 1492 and tracks three centuries of European history and imperialism across the globe, as seen through the eyes of 75 European Nations. Europa Universalis II is simply a more sophisticated update; it covers the same time and theme as the original, except with a lot more detail and depth. You get to mess with up to 180 different nations, including a number outside Europe, like China or the Native Americans - and you can either conquer or play any one of them! This isn't just a RISK style game of moving armies about: religious struggles, missionaries, expeditions, diplomacy and a wealth of other details are also just as important. Policy decisions are a big factor - tight centralised control? strengthen the aristocracy? type of government? personal freedom for your citizens? National stability? Europa Universalis goes as far to reproduce cultural, religious and linguistic differences between states and peoples, making it tricky to conquer and hang on to a foreign nation with a different religion and language. On top of that, it also recognises the vast role religion played in all those European wars during the period. This is historical gaming that - for once - really is historical!

Its all somewhat daunting. But, like all high calibre games, once you've put in the effort to learn it, you'll almost certainly get a lot more out of it. Just be prepared for a long and involved learning curve.

Europa Universalis (2000)
The original PC game was based on an old French board game.

Europa Universalis II (2001)
Expanded on the initial premise, adding more detail to all the facets of the game, and extending the time period it covered, from the Middle Ages to the 19th Century.

An expansion: Europa Universalis: Crown of the North (2003) which goes backwards in time (1275-1340) and heads north to Scandinavia to the only civil war Sweden ever had.

Europa Universalis III (2007)
This took the 3D route. Like the previous sequel it feels more like an enhancement to the game than an extension.

It has its own expansion, Europa Universalis III: Napoleon's Ambition.

Europa Universalis: Rome (2008) takes a completely different tack and places the game classical Ancient Times.

There's also an expansion coming for it, too: Vae Victis.Back

Imperial Glory (2005)

A Total War clone developed by Pyro Studios and published by Eidos, set around the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Imperial Glory pits the large European empires of the day against each other. This uses a turn based map to stage the global picture, and resolves individual battles in a real time tactical engine that stretches from the deserts of the middle east, the green hills of England, the frozen Russian steppes and a new environment of naval warfare on the high seas, when the entire world's oceans became battlegrounds for the first time.Back


See Celtic Kings Series.

Medieval: Total War (2002)

This is an excellent turn based strategy that resolves its battles in an expansive, sprawling real time environment. The battles are amazing (although the graphics might seem a bit dated these days) and the turn based strategy component was so good that it almost overshadows the battles themselves! A beautiful blend of big picture strategy and the down and dirty tactics of an actual battle. Definitely worthy of classic status. See also Total War Series.Back

Rome: Total War (2004)

See Total War Series.Back

Stronghold: Crusader (2002)

The next title in the Stronghold (2001) game series. Stronghold was a castle building, management and sieging game set during the Crusades. Stronghold: Crusader is not quite a sequel, but not an expansion pack either. This stand-alone title reigns in the castle building angle to concentrate more on the battles around them.You can play the single player campaign either as Richard the Lionheart or the great Arab leader Saladin, contesting the Holy Land during the Crusades. Single player and multiplayer modes also offer a large number of game variations where you can fine tune the game parameters to a high degree for different types of games. This adopts simplified versions of economic elements you've seen in The Settlers - or rather, like the Caesar series of games, crossing them with the straightforward RTS model of Age of Empires.

Its more strategy orientated than build orientated, though. You still get to plant farms, chop trees, mine metals and hammer stone, but all these details have been stripped back and streamlined in favour of a fast paced, strategic game. Stronghold wasn't as much about castle building as it was about building a town with walls and a keep and constantly fighting marauding AI's. Graphics are 2D and a wee bit plain, but its well worth a look, though.Back

Total War series

This is a huge historical war series that's been running over a decade now. Developed by Creative Assembly and more recently in tandem with Sega Studio Brisbane, each release picks a particular era and place and simulates the political, economic and military aspects of that time. The big picture is handled by a turn based game, while individual battles are resolved tactically in a real time engine and environment.

Shogun: Total War (2000)

Widescreen strategy action with samurai
Set in 1530, Feudal Japan is gripped by civil war while you're carving out a campaign to become its new Shogun. There are eight different factions vying for supremacy, and the game campaign involves intrigue, assassinations and battles in full 3D. While using a full 3D environment, your guys are only small sprites. Your role is that of supreme commander sitting on a hill somewhere. There's a fair degree of remoteness here, and battles can literally involve casts of thousands while your camera never gets any closer than a broad helicopter shot.

There's no individual unit control at all: orders are issued to entire regiments at a time. Regiment control centres around selecting a regimental flag and issuing orders to it. There are the usual basic moves and attacks, and adopting different stances and formations. You can group regiments of different units together and issue the same orders to them. Grouped regiments - hell, your entire army! - also have their own amazing formations, where you can order formations to defend, attack head on or savage the flanks of the other army. Your individual units scramble about to make formation and the AI's pretty amazing watching all those archers, cavalry, samurai and spear men organising themselves into position.

Strategy revolves around the usual unit types trumping each other, advantages from high and sloping ground, weariness of the troops and knowing how to best deploy your forces on the field. Its all very Kurosawan.

Expansion: Mongol Invasion (2001).

There's now a Shogun: Total War Warlord Edition which bundles both Shogun titles into the one package.

Medieval: Total War (2002)
Twelve European powers in the Middle Ages duke it out for supremacy in the same epic style. See the RTSC Medieval: Total War page.

Rome: Total War (2004)
This does the same as its predecessors in this series, changing the scene to the Ancient World, and going for the obvious first choice in ancient empires, the Romans. This time your 3D view can get right down into the heart of the action to take in some mind boggling vistas of fully rendered troops and units fighting it out hand to hand. The game engine itself was actually used to illustrate ancient battles in the History Channel documentary series called Decisive Battles, and a BBC game show called Time Commander, where teams of contestants get the chance to restage historical battles and see how they might change the outcomes.

Unfortunately, there also seemed to be a trend where they were seriously dumbing down the game to pack the general public in. It seemed very hard not to lose in the campaigns.

There's an expansion: Rome: Total War: Barbarian Invasion (2005)

And a second expansion: Rome: Total War: Alexander (2006), featuring Alexander the Great.

Medieval 2: Total War (2006)
This is an update and enhancement of the original Medieval: Total War. It uses an immersive real time 3D battlefield engine and it looks like the turn based component has been extended, too. It didn't seem anywhere near as gripping at the first version. Battles were nice, but! See for yourself.


Empire: Total War (2009)
Disappointing entry to the series, although it was a huge hit as far as strategy games went. Set in the 18th Century when the Europeans were merrily conquering the world, it covers everything from Europe to the colonisation of Africa and the Americas, and all the ocean in between. It was huge: packed full of stuff covering a vast chunk of the globe: art, maps, sides,, etc., and it even contained fully working sailing ships with animated crews, physical water and working sails. Nice as the naval stuff was, it just.... well, it just didn't seem to do anything with it. It wasn't so much that working the ships were hard, its just that it felt everything ran on rails and progressing through the game was more like sliding inexorably to a predetermined conclusion where you, the player, was destined to win no matter what.

Napoleon: Total War (2010)
This looks like a return to Total War's old form, before being sidetracked catering to the tourists and clogging up its arteries with more multimedia than actual gameplay. Napoleon, unlike its more recent bloated predecessors, seems quite lean and mean by comparison - and more focused on getting the gameplay right. There's the usual widescreen visuals of course, but this time around it seems far more engaging and the battles themselves seem more like an actual strategy game that you can really get lost in and not a television replay.

Shogun 2: Total War (2011)
A definite improvement in the series' fare, and an excellent update to the old Shogun title that kicked off the whole series.Back

Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun (2003)

Developed by Paradox Entertainment and published by Strategy First, this is geopolitics, economics, strategy and the scheming of the British Empire, set during the reign of Queen Victoria when that Empire was at its apogee. You're turning that world map red ("when red meant British!") and expanding the British Empire so that the sun can never set upon it it. Starting off in the late 19th Century, you must guide the British through the awkward process of industrialisation, technological development, diplomacy and empire building, while at the same time, making sure that the burgeoning democratic process and the changing social landscape brought on by industrialisation doesn't disintegrate the state. This is serious and complex historical gaming in the same vein as Europa Universalis.Back

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Last modified Sun, Aug 14 2011 by Lindsay Fleay