Civilization IV: Warlords
Civilization IV: Warlords is the first add-on title to Civilization IV, the latest version of the epic strategy game. Like most updates, the added functionality seems like it could, or should, have been included in the original product. Luckily, buying the add-on is always optional. The saving grace for this one puts it barely into the Buy category, assuming that we're referring to those gamers who already own the original Civ IV.
The update has small but welcome improvements to the interface. For instance, now you can see thumbnails of all your units in a selected stack at the bottom of the main screen, instead of having to scroll left/right through just a few. Large unit stacks then are much easier to control
Each civ now has a unique city improvement building. The obelisk becomes the Egyptian unique building. It's replaced in the all-civ construction lists by the monument. Building the Stonehenge wonder now gives a free monument in each of your cities.
There are six new civilizations to lead (new to this fourth edition, that is): the Carthaginians and the Celts, the Koreans and the Zulu, the Vikings and the Ottomans. Each have their own new leaders, and there are new leaders for some of the original civs, such as Churchill and Stalin.
There are new units, including the trebuchet and the trireme, and new world wonders, including the Temple of Artemis, and the return of the Great Wall.
A new type of Great Person has been added, the Great General, who can appear after winning a battle. A Great General unit then can be moved around and converted into a warlord (thus the game's subtitle) by attaching it to a military unit. The stack in that square then immediately gets 20 experience points to spread promotions around. The attached unit also gets free upgrades for the rest of the game, a nice benefit. A Great General can also be spent to erect a military academy or become a super specialist that gives all units created in a city an experience bonus. And, last but not least, the warlord feature includes the possibility of attaching to naval units, so even though it's called a Great General it can be made into a seagoing warlord, to correct that glaring lack of admirals in the base game.
A Vassal relationship has been added to the diplomacy. You can negotiate peaceful vassal status or force it on an enemy civ via Capitulation during cease fire negotiations. Vassal status renders some benefits to the master country (territory access, happiness.) but can also allow earlier ending of hostilities and setting up buffer states between you and longer-term enemies.
All in all, there's not a whole lot you couldn't live without if you stayed with the original and passed on the upgrade. However, those enhancements and fixes combined with the elaborate, well-researched and intriguing scenarios just manage to put this sub-product over the top. The scenarios are practically distinct games in themselves and they serve to illustrate the imminent mod-ability of Civ4. In the "1206 AD: Ghengis Khan" scenario you control a true nomadic horde. You start with no cities and no settlers, but you do have two special camp units, which can move with, or independently of, your horde. These camps generate new units in a rule-based, random fashion. In the "Omens" mod, you play either the French or English in the pre-revolutionary Ohio Valley. Religious prophesies figure in and the game score is measured in religious influence. Five other scenarios promise to be as interesting.
Still quite deep, Civ IV is the unsurpassed standard by which all strategy games are measured. But for the scenarios, though, this add-on might deserve a pass; hopefully it's not a sign that this venerable franchise is running out of steam.