HISTORIAN Edward Gilbon in his book Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire reckoned it was Christianity which caused the end of the empire, corrupting the moral fibre of that warlike race. The Fall of Rome from ASP Software places the blame firmly on those hordes of Visigoths, Goths, Osragoths, Huns, Saxons and countless other exotically-named barbarian tribes.
The Fall of Rome is a strategic war game in which you have to steer the vast empire through 60 years of fierce fighting as the barbarians march into your provinces. At the beginning of the game in 395BC you control the Mediterranean and most of southern Europe, from Britain in the west to Syria in the east. Your task is to survive for 12 turns of five years each and try to preserve as much of your empire as possible.
The mechanics are moderately simple for a war game. Each province generates an income which can be used to maintain permanent legions and raise new ones, as well as temporary units which disband at the end of a term. Units have offensive and defensive values and while some must remain in their province, others can be moved to a neighbouring province as reinforcements. The money can also be shifted and it is possible to use the order in which you deal with the provinces to transfer the cash a considerable distance through a chain of provinces.
When you have finished arranging your forces the computer takes a leisurely minute or two to generate the barbarian hordes, some of which appear to breed like flies. You then have the opportunity to fight.
The game is slow, much of it being written in Basic, and can become frustrating at times but requires much intelligent thought to play skilfully. There is one serious bug in the program; it is possible, if a province has become isolated, that there is nowhere where money can be transferred from that province. Unfortunately the program does not tell you at the time, so that if you try to transfer money you will be asked continually to transfer it somewhere else, with no possibility of escaping the loop. Perhaps ASP will clear the problem in future editions.
Bugs apart, the game appears to catch the flavour and likely events of the times reasonably accurately. All the provinces and tribes are given their Latin names, the map is clear, and the instructions adequate. We found that it is virtually impossible to retain Gaul and Illyria - modern France and Yugoslavia - for more than a few turns and, as happened eventually in history, the barbarians manage to capture Italy, leaving you to fight on in the east. At the end of the game you are given a rating based on the resources remaining.
In itself it is a fine game but its faults, which could so easily be rectified, make it unlikely to win too many converts.