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Lords of the Realm II is a computer game published by Sierra Entertainment and developed by Impressions Games. It was first released for the PC on October 31, 1996, and is the second game in the Lords of the Realm series.
The game takes place in a medieval setting, with rulers of several counties warring for the right to be king of the land. Players grow crops, accumulate resources, manufacture weapons, manage armies, build and lay siege to castles, and attempt to conquer their enemies.
Lords of the Realm II is very different from many medieval strategy games. The game has a strong medieval feel, but it is historically based. There is no magic, and unlike many strategy games, it has no technology tree. Perhaps its most remarkable feature is the need to carefully manage food, population and happiness levels in order to build population levels whilst avoiding Malthusian meltdowns. The large number of both random and player-generated events that can affect province happiness provides an almost constant level of challenge for the player, which is part of the reason the game is regarded as a classic by many players.
There are two major game types that the developers merged into a successful hybrid. The first is turn-based resource management. Players grow crops, accumulate resources, manufacture weapons, manage armies, build and lay siege to castles, and attempt to conquer their enemies. The battles are real time, with players able to control units individually or in group formations. Players may also allow the computer to calculate the outcome of the battle.
Compared to the original, Lords of the Realm II is much more robust, with better graphics and music, and an improved management system.
The game begins with the player ruling over a peaceful and unproductive county with a small population.
Diplomacy can influence the course of events in the game, although there is little opportunity for its use among the mostly-violent interactions between counties. The player can engage in trade and communication by sending insults, compliments, money, or an offer of alliance to other nobles. Insults and miserliness will turn the noble against the player, but monetary generosity and compliments will have the opposite effect.
Closely related to the Nobles, diplomacy consists of the players' relationship with other nobles. The player send compliments, insults, bribes, or propose an alliance. Depending on the relationship with each noble, the player has a certain amount of leeway when attacking nobles. Ultimately, if the player attacks a noble enough times they will be irrevocably at war. If a player is allied with a noble, and attack that noble during a time of alliance, the player's relationships with all nobles are hurt, and the formerly allied noble is now at war with the player. The nobles will not attack you if allied, with the exception of the Countess. If the player is allied, the player may request assistance from attacking troupes, or ask to attack a specified county.
The game has limited diplomacy, where the player can make alliances and send money for bribery and to induce nobles to attack other nobles. The computer opponents are different characters with distinct personalities and strategies. There are four computer Nobles available. The game also includes LAN play with real players. The four computer nobles are:
- The Baron - A wise and cautious man, the Baron seeks to consolidate a strong base of operations before further expanding his territory.
- The Bishop - A clergyman who thinks he is divinely appointed to rule, he relies on large armies consisting mostly of peasants and archers for attack. His people are seldom happy due to his continual creation of large armies. He generally constructs large expensive castles for his counties.
- The Countess - A cold, calculating opponent, the Countess's main focus is expansion, and as a result she tends to overextend herself. If made an ally, she cannot be trusted to coexist peacefully with you, and will attack even though you are allies.
- The Knight - Young, brash, and aggressive. The Knight will aggressively attack counties. While he generally constructs small weak castles for his counties, he usually fields large armies which are difficult to defend against early on unless the player is resourceful.
There are seven areas to which the peasants can be assigned: cattle herding, farming, wood chopping, blacksmithing, castle building, tilling, or mining. Citizens not active in one of these roles will remain idle.
Wood, iron, stone, and wheat are measured in tonnes; livestock and weapons are measured in individual units. These resources must be managed in order to build castles, placate hostile neighbors, and sustain the populace.
Towns are situated in counties; usually a county will have between eight and sixteen units of land to work. The exact makeup of the land varies. Towns always have a blacksmith workshop and may also have lumber, mining and quarrying but never both quarrying and mining in the same town.
Counties and maps
At the beginning, the player has only one county and a few hundred peasants. As the player conquers more counties, the first ones, now prosperous, can send armies and money to help the newly conquered ones. The game ends when the human player loses all counties, or conquers the entire enemy occupied map. A player need only conquer the nobles, not all neutral counties as well.
The game consists of a map with several different counties, comprising a single nation or geographic area. These counties have a main village, along with several types of industries available to utilize for conquering nobles and fields designated for food growth. Every map begins in the year 1268 in the winter season. There are four turns per year, beginning with winter, then spring, summer, and autumn.
There are a preset number of merchants per map. These merchants travel the land, and if they are in a player's county they may purchase material from them.
Each county is either a neutral county or a county under the rule of a noble. The territory of each noble is coloured to differentiate the board (for the Baron, it may be red; for the Knight, yellow, etc.). Starting out, each noble has one county as their own, and all other counties are neutral.
To expand a noble's lands, the noble must capture the county by either conquering the county town seat, or if there is an existing castle that is currently manned, lay siege to that castle and breach its defenses to overtake it. No neutral counties have castles naturally. If a noble has been driven from the county by revolt or other means, and the noble erected a castle, that will remain, but the county peasants will never man it in a neutral county.
On the map, all of a noble's existing territory must be touching. If player has four counties in a straight chain where each touches only the other, and an opponent captures one of the middle counties, the noble will automatically lose the weakest counties that have been sundered from the main body of his/her empire.
The proper mixture of resources is constantly changing to meet the demands of individual situations; stone will be needed to build castles at one moment, but then wood and iron may become more important.
Food is the resource requiring most careful management. Each province has 8 to 16 fields, which can be used for growing grain, cattle, or left fallow. Soil can become poor or fertile by overuse or fallowing when advanced farming is on, and random seasonal events such as good weather, floods, droughts, plague and so on also play an important part.
Unlike Lords of the Realm, which has three main food types (grain, sheep, cattle), this game features only cattle and grain for food. The player can run three types of food economy: allocating all fields to grain, all fields to cows, or running both cattle and grain together.
- Cows - The primary food source used by the PC nobles, cows require a large workforce to maintain its status as a substantial food source. The two main supplies provided by cattle are meat and dairy.
- Grain - A food supply that requires a much smaller amount of the population to maintain than cows for three of the four seasons per year. For winter, spring, and summer, grain requires little labor to bear a bountiful harvest. Grain therefore allows a player to allocate most of the population to other industries. The autumn harvest is very labor-intensive, and demands a very large portion of the population to complete. Overall, however, the player gets much more industry-production out of a population by using a pure grain food economy.
- Fields - Like industries, there are a preset number of fields per county in various states of usability. A field can either be barren or fertile. If a field is completely barren, it appears as a solid grey square. If peasants have been allocated to work on the field to make it fertile, it will have either one, two, or three fertile mini-squares filled into the overall square, indicating its progress to rehabilitating the field into a restored fertile status. Most counties starting out have some barren fields.
There are four ways a fertile field may be made barren, barring the advanced farming option (dealt with later). The first two ways are drought and flood. If a drought or flood occurs (prompted by the computer and determined within the game's code one turn previous), a field will be lost. For example, in the summer the game determines you will lose a field but does not tell you. The player selects End Turn, and in autumn the player will be notified of the lost field. To escape this fate, the player must go back not to the summer save file but the spring save file (if such a file does in fact exist). If a drought or flood occurs and it is a grain field, then a significant amount of the grain output for that year will be lost. The third way a field may be lost occurs when locusts strip the field bare and the fourth way to lose fields is if they are destroyed by enemy troops invading your lands.
Each county has a population. This population is affected by many different factors: overall happiness, tax rates, health, and food supply. Players know exactly how many peasants they have, and how many births, deaths, immigrants, and emigrants they have each season. Overall population trends can also be traced via the population information screen for each county.
- Emigration & immigration - Like any population, people will leave one county and go to another. If the county is properly managed, this will seldom happen where people will leave. People will leave counties when little or no food is available, happiness is low, the county is overtaken, or taxes are excessively high.
- Food supply - If a county runs low on food, happiness will decrease, health will suffer, and if the situation goes to an extreme, roving bands of starving revolutionaries will go throughout the lands looking for food.
- Happiness - The most powerful influence on the happiness of citizens is army recruitment. Town denizens will become angry when their young men are recruited into the army, and the presence of even the smallest army will decrease happiness. Citizens must be placated to balance the unhappiness that will result from army recruitment. Other influences on citizen happiness include food, health, and taxes. Hungry, sick, or over-taxed citizens are unhappy citizens. The player controls food through rations, which can be set from none to triple. Higher food rations yield happier and healthier citizens. Citizens happiness may also be increased through the purchase of ale or lowering of taxes.
- Health - A fairly stable factor. If the food supply runs low and people begin to starve, the health will naturally deteriorate and emigration will begin. Occasionally, the game will randomly assign a county the Black Plague, which will kill off a large portion of the population and weaken the total population for several seasons. Depending on how the noble responds to the plague, a county can be feeling its effects for a few years.
Each country has its own tax rate as determined by the noble or general population if it is a neutral country to generate income to fund the noble's campaign for the crown. The higher the tax rate, the more happiness is deducted from the population of that specific country. Overall, if a player has a county that has normal health with a normal food supply, the tax rate can be set to 7%, which penalizes the county two happiness points, and barring other events the happiness can be maintained at 100%. If you reach a tax rate of 19% and above, then not only is that county's happiness penalized, but all your counties are penalized, though not nearly as heavy as the overtaxed county. There is a glitch that causes this tax penalty to operate incorrectly. If you have a large number of counties and you put the tax rate up to 50 percent on all of them, the integer that is supposed to subtract points from your population actually becomes positive, meaning your people will be happy despite astronomical tax rates. Money earned from high tax rates can pay for armies and buy resources from traveling merchants.
In many ways, industry is the heart and soul of any winning strategy in Lords of the Realm II. With the four major industries (blacksmith, forestry, iron mine, and stone quarry), the player must correctly manage these resources to build his/her strength to win the game. A successful player must carefully allocate the working force to rehabilitate fields, grow food, cut wood, mine iron, and quarry stone. There is a delicate balance between growing enough food to keep your people healthy, and managing the individual industries successfully enough to not be conquered.
Industries can either be turned on or turned off. If they are on, then you see the industry icon on the map moving and showing activity. The iron mine, forestry, and quarry have a maximum output per season of 999 pieces. Everything produced from the industry can be sold to the merchants for half of its retail value. For example, to buy iron, it costs two crowns, while it sells for one crown.
The different types of industry are:
- Blacksmith - Responsible for making weapons. This industry uses the iron and forestry industry for its supplies. There are six major weapons types manufactured by blacksmiths (pikes, swords, maces, crossbows, bows, and knight armour). Each weapon requires different combinations of wood and iron to assemble. For example, maces require 4 pieces of wood and 4 pieces of iron, and bows require 13 wood. Bows are the only weapon to require only one type or resource; all other weapons require both wood and iron.
- Iron Mine - Manufactures iron. Used exclusively for weapons building
- Forestry - Manufactures wood. Used both for weapons manufacturing and castle building.
- Quarry - Manufactures stone. Used only for castle building and repair.
Resource availability affects food and industry differently:
- Food - Each county's food supply is specific only to that county. For example, if a county has 300 cows and 1500 grain and its neighboring country has a sizable population starving with only 20 sacks of grain and 10 cows, it cannot share or make available its resources to that county. It can send a shipment with a courier that will leave the season the player sends it and get there to the needy country respective of how far away the shipment is going.
- Industry - Any industry activities from the previous season is immediately available to all counties regardless of distance. At the beginning of each season, after the turn is ended from the previous season, active industries add to the store of available stone, weapons, wood, and iron. These resources are available across the board.
Castle building and management
The building of castles requires particularly skillful resource management. The construction of a castle is a high priority because it will help protect the town from enemy armies. Workers will have to be shifted from other tasks to build the castle, taxes will have to be increased, and the happiness of the populace may be harmed. Castles boost tax revenues when completed though, covering their costs in the long run.
The castles that may be constructed, in order of least resource intensive to most resource intensive, are wooden palisade, Motte and Bailey, keep, stone castle and royal castle. More expensive castles are easier to defend and raise tax revenues to a greater degree making them a worthwhile longterm investment.
There are five castles types that can be erected per county, and is highly recommended to stage a defense against oncoming enemy troops. If a county does not have a castle with stationed troops, then the enemy troops will attack the county seat or any nearby armies. These are the five major castle types, from weakest to strongest. The AI opponents will use all five types, though Norman Keeps and Motte & Baileys are the most common. Once troops are stationed there, opposing forces will siege that castle, and at the start of the turn where the siege takes effect, the player can either autocalc the battle or fight it in real time. Motte & Baileys, Stone Castles, and Royal Castles are defended by moats as well, and all castles have boiling oil available to attack.
To build a castle, you select the castle building option, and select whichever castle you want to build. Castles also effect tax rates. The stronger the castle type, the more percentage the castle adds to the tax income per each county.
- Wooden Palisade - Requires 40 Stone, 400 Wood to build. By far the weakest castle; easily breached. This is the first of two primarily wooden castles. Grants a 50% boost to tax revenues.
- Motte & Bailey - Requires 80 Stone, 800 Wood to build. The most common castle erected by computer controlled opponents, this castle is the second wooden castle and while easier to defend than the wood palisade, still a fairly weak castle. Grants a 75% boost to tax revenues.
- Norman Keep - Requires 1000 Stone, 200 Wood to build. The middle of the road castle, not very weak, but not very strong either. The Norman Keep is the first of three stone castle types, and is a fairly common castle type used by the AI. Grants a 100% boost to tax revenues.
- Stone Castle - Requires 2000 Stone, 400 Wood to build. This is the second strongest castle available. Grants a 125% boost to tax revenues.
- Royal Castle - Requires 3000 Stone, 800 Wood. This is the strongest castle available. Once erected, this castle is not easily breached at all and is a very secure defense. Grants a 150% boost to tax revenues.
There is a well-known glitch that is greatly beneficial in castle building. If you select the Royal Castle from the very start when building a castle, 3000 stone and 800 wood are required. However, if you sell all stone and wood to a merchant, then go the castle select screen. First, select the Wooden Palisade, to build. Then, select the Motte & Bailey. Third, select the Norman Keep, and so on. The advantage to this is if there is no available stone or wood, a royal castle will only cost 1000 stone and 800 wood. This glitch also gives you an instantly available stone castle available to defend, because the game thinks you are upgrading a stone castle to a royal castle.
Raising an army
The player can raise an army when the time is right to attack, or if threatened. Armies take people from the town and train them into one of the seven available classes of soldiers: knights, archers, pikemen, macemen, crossbowmen, swordsmen, and peasants. The player also has the option of hiring mercenaries, though these are loyal only to money and will desert if the player doesn't have enough to pay them. Mercenaries will not fight alongside other mercenaries due to past rivalries. The player's recruitment strategy should be based on the necessary power, speed, ranged attack abilities, and number of the army. The size of the army is determined by the town's resources and citizen happiness.
To wage a successful campaign, a player must successfully manage the military. Armies are raised by drawing from county populations. The more people that are conscripted per season, the more happiness is deducted from that county's happiness.
There are several units available for conscription. Assuming that the blacksmith has produced the following weapon types, or they have been bought by merchants, these weapons will be available when making an army. The two major divisions on unit types are hand-to-hand and long range.
- Knights - The most resource-intensive unit for the blacksmith to manufacture, knights are the fastest, most agile units available and are both tough and powerful. They are the only units unable to fill in castle moats due to them being on horseback.
- Macemen - Inexpensive to produce, macemen are often the foundation of a successful army, due to low cost and overall sturdiness. Macemen are quite agile and are especially effective against lightly armed units such as peasants and archers.
- Pikemen - Heavily armoured, pikemen are very slow but their armor withstands many hits, making them more effective as a defensive unit than an offensive unit.
- Swordsmen - For the investment, these are the overall best hand to hand unit in the game, with good defense and attack and decent speed
- Peasants - These are the default soldiers who are not given weapons, they are poor in both defense and offense and fall quickly to armed units. They are only truly useful in filling in moats or serving as cheap arrow fodder while better units move in for the kill.
- Bowmen - Effective as long range fighters used to pick off enemy troops while hand-to-hand units are engaging them as well. They do not function well in close range. The most effective use for them is to use them to guard castles. They have a long range and high rate of arrow fire.
- Crossbowmen - Fairly effective as both hand to hand and long range attackers. While they have a shorter range and fire more slowly compared to bowmen, their bolts are much more powerful, and can penetrate armor easily, which means they are useful against armored units such as pikemen, swordsmen, knights, and siege weapons.
Movement and battle
After an army has been created, the player can garrison it in a castle to protect the town, disband it, split it in two, move it, or keep it still. An army has 15 “points” of movement each turn. The amount of points required to move a given distance depends on the terrain; difficult terrain requires more points than easier terrain.
If two enemy armies meet, a battle will begin. Unlike the county management part of the game, battles take place in real time. The player has a complete view of the battlefield and can individually manage units or groups of units.
If an army moves against an enemy castle, a siege will take place. A siege battle is won if either all the defenders are slain, or if the castle flag (in the most defensible part of the castle) is captured. Siege tactics differ from open-field battle in that the player may need to take into account the enemy's fortifications and, in three castle designs, a moat. The sieging army may build battering rams, catapults, and siege towers to aid its assault.
An army can also destroy fields, industry sites and hamlets in an enemy country. This can soften up a country for capture, or lower its morale to the point that it revolts from its current overlord, rendering it neutral.
The game offers an option where the player can create a game designed to test his or her skills. Several factors such as beginning the game with limited resources, limited map view, or other handicaps can be set to make victory rather difficult.
The game had an expansion pack released in 1997, Lords of the Realm II: Siege Pack, consisting of new combat scenarios. It was followed years later by a supposed sequel, Lords of the Realm III, which was in effect a completely different game.
In popular culture
- Lords of the Realm II Facebook Group
- Lords of the Realm II game information at Gamespot
- Lords of the Realm II at GameFAQs
- Tom's Lords of the Realm II site featuring all patches and tools for LOTR2