Sword and Shield is a fascinating wargame that looks at first glance like one of the old games that used to be hidden away in the deepest recesses of mainframe computers' memory banks.
Remember the one - you rule an area of land, and you have to grow enough food to keep your population alive, otherwise they rebel and depose you? Well, this is that, but with knobs on.
You, Duke whoever you are, have to collect over 1,000 groats from the groaning, down-trodden peasantry. To help you, you have a force of knights computer-controlled duke - and he's going to fight you for control of territory. The map is green, with rolling hills, peasant villages, woods, roads and so on marked on Also shown are forts, either yours or the enemy's. Every year, you'll be told the amount of crops grown. You tax the peasants from 10% to 90% - but the more you tax them, the more of them rebel and become bandits. By moving one of your knights next to a peasant, you can conscript him as an infantryman, but the more peasants you conscript into your army, the less are left to till the land and grow crops - and pay taxes.
You move the troops under your control by giving them a direction and telling them how fast they should move. Until you order them otherwise they continue to follow those orders - unless they run into a tree, hill etc.
When you try and occupy a square that already contains an enemy piece, a battle takes place. What happens is anybody's guess - I haven't worked out how to find out yet. There is treasure dotted about - you should try and collect this (obvious, huh?), but somehow I don't think it's going to be as easy as it looks.
What else? Oh yes. the dragons. Dragons are bad news - they eat people. You can have up to four on the map at the same time, and you really should avoid them like the plague.
At the year end. you use some of the cash you've your treasury to buy new troops, either knights or infantry. You can also buy a farm - which doesn't refer to the American euphemism for dying - but means simply that you add one agrarian smallholding to the list.
And that's it. Quite a lot of information to digest in a review, and far more to digest when trying to play the game the first couple of times. I suspect it's going to be a long time before I get anywhere near beating this thing. But at the same time. It's pretty compulsive - you always believe that next time you can do it - until you try, that is.
Any real complaints? Well, the only thing that bothers me that much is the fact that it's very difficult to tell the various pieces apart. Yes, I know that the instructions say that your troops, being good, always face to the right, but sometimes it's tough telling exactly which way a character is facing.
You can save games either to tape or to Microdrive, so you can resume a long game you've had to abandon later on. This isn't the sort of game you're likely to finish in half an hour. The final verdict is a definite thumbs up. The graphics are good, although a little unclear at times, and the gameplay works really well once you get the hang of it.
Label: Black Knight
Reviewer: Gary Rook
Terrific wargame based on a sort of Kingdom variant. Very addictive in a strategic kind of way. Not for arcade fans.