We're moving here into what I take to be fairly serious war-gaming in space, with a very complicated and well-designed strategy game. Described as 'the game of interstellar empires', the closest analogy I can dredge from my mind is the board game Risk, with slow exploration and conquest of space as the object.
The game can become quite amazingly complex and this short review can only hint at the depth of play involved; for instance, basic options allow one player against the computer, two players against each other on the same computer or two players on their own computers, linked via the RS423.
Each player on start-up begins with five colonies in five adjacent sectors of a 160 square sector display of space and ten star-forces. These starforces then go out to explore new sectors and, when exploration is 100% complete, colonisation. At each turn colonies may be upgraded technically, supplies sent out, new explorations undertaken, revenue collected and the likelihood of catastrophe and battle outcome calculated.
It sounds complicated. It is complicated. But there are several scenarios of increasing complexity and the game can soon be understood. Mastery is something else, however; this is a game that I believe you could spend months playing and enjoying, especially with like-minded friends.
The displays are simple, the amount of information floating around the screen and your brain is frightening, but there is a slow logic to the game plays that will appeal to many gamers. There is nothing flashy here but if your tastes run to complex mental stimulation then I strongly advise you to track down a copy of this game.
An excellent piece of software which, I predict, will generate its own cult following. Well done to John Hanson, the programmer!