AN AUDIENCE WITH MACHIAVELLI'S PRINCE
DUPLICITY, cunning and self-interest are the keynotes of the 1984 Cambridge Award winner, The Prince, written by John Sherry and published by CCS. The title is consciously derived from Machiavelli's handbook of politics and is designed for four players.
Set in a gloomy renaissance fortress the game is a combination of strategy and adventure formats. The aim is to become Loremaster and chief counsellor to the Prince, ruler of this land, and each character must get to the top by any means possible - whether it be theft, kidnap or mayhem.
After engaging the services of henchmen - who can 'hit' other castle servants and characters - and spies who can report on the actions of other people, each player moves around the fortress giving instructions to his staff and trying to secure the tokens which will ensure advancement. Goods can be bought and sold from the castle trader and a banker will arrange transfers of cash. Each player has a passcode which will allow him to take his turn - other players are not supposed to observe this but are sure to try.
Life is not simple since any of the spies and henches recruited may well be working for other player-characters and information may be bought and sold.
The computer keeps track of your money and possessions and informs you of your current position at the beginning of each turn. Input is in standard verb/noun combinations and there is a hidden vocabulary besides the predefined commands for controlling your gang.
The Prince will involve you in much bargaining and chicanery with the three other human players. Alliances may be formed and broken, lying and deceit will be the most normal interactions. An audience with the Prince himself is possible but he is temperamental and will brook no impertinence.
Ten inputs are allowed for each turn so you must plan your strategy carefully. Pictures of the people you are talking to are shown on- screen and the character set is a mock-gothic script.
The game is well-constructed and, since you only ever have a partial view of the goings on, is full of the unexpected. Diplomacy addicts will feel quite at home here as the web of treachery spreads through the palace and it is easy to become utterly absorbed in your character.