Rise of the West

Empires of the Middle Ages as Freeware

Free Download
Greg Goheen

Rise of the West dates back to 1994, and looks as if it had been developed for Windows 3; it's a freeware implementation of Empires of the Middle Ages, Dunnigan's excellent boardgame which we reviewed a few days ago.

Its biggest problem is that, presumably because the developer was worried about getting sued, the accompanying readme is basically useless--it explains the options, but nothing about how to play, or what the interface features mean. Players of the boardgame should figure it out fairly quickly, but others may take some time to catch on.

It actually makes some improvements to the game; one is the addition of a "trade" endeavor, which is particularly useful for smaller powers as a means of earning small amounts of revenue with actions that might otherwise go unused. One flaw is that the scoring system doesn't reflect the handicap points of the boardgame, so smaller countries will almost never come out on top.

Unless learning the game for the first time, definitely turn on "Free Running" under options -- the game is excruciatingly slow without it.