This is an old game by KOEI, part of a historical simulation series it developed back in the day. As the name implies, it's set in the Middle Ages (mostly the 13th century). The goal is conquest—of Mongolia or Eurasia as a whole. This isn't like Risk, though; you have to administer your empire...and since it's set in the Middle Ages, you don't have direct control over all your territory. You only directly run the province you're located in; any others you control are entrusted to vassals you select from among your generals. You can give them orders, but you can't always be certain those orders will be followed, or that your vassal won't decide to declare independence. If you've ever thought it might be fun to play a game where you rule through vassals who may or may not be trustworthy, this is the game for you, or at least it's the one I've found that comes closest to that.
The game has four scenarios to choose from, though initially you'll only be offered three. Unfortunately you can't play every country; there's a limited selection of playable countries. You can't play the Latin Empire of Constantinople, for instance, or the Pagan Dynasty, or any other country that strikes your interest.
The first scenario is, intuitively enough, set in Mongolia, and your object is to conquer all provinces in order to unite Mongolia. I don't find this scenario particularly interesting myself; I'm more interested in Eurasia as a whole, plus merchants are scarce and there are few generals available who have any political skill. Playable states:
The second scenario is probably my favorite. Here the odds are fairly even for everyone across the board, and this scenario is always available, unlike #4. Playable states:
The third scenario is lopsided: the Yuan Dynasty controls a half dozen provinces and is liable to win this one. That can make this a good scenario for beginners, or a challenge for experienced players.
The fourth scenario is unlocked once you've completed the first one, and starts the year you complete the first scenario.
You will have a number of generals available to assign to various tasks. You'll have four types of generals: ordinary generals, relatives, and royalty. Royals are your sons whom you've made generals; relatives are either sons of your predecessor's or ordinary generals you've married daughters off to; ordinary generals include anyone you've recruited to serve you, often just after winning a battle.
If you control more than one state, you'll have to assign generals to administer them as your vassals. They can be made governor or advisor of a state, as well as assigned to lead armies in your wars. Each state has to have a governor; an advisor is recommended but not required. It can be especially helpful to have an advisor for your territory, since you can ask their advice when someone offers an alliance or threatens you.
Generals will come and go over time. They, like governors and advisors, can die through war, disease, or plain old age. Not all your generals can be trusted. They'll always lead troops faithfully, but when made governor of one of your vassal states, they may decide to break away from your empire.
Each general, governor, advisor, and ruler in the game (including you) has an age, a number of Body points, and four ability stats: Political, War, Leader, and Charm. A is highest and E is lowest. Political represents your political understanding and ability to get thigns done. It's especially important for advisors since that job is all about political savvy; anyone without at least a B Political is useless as an advisor, at least to you: they'll tell you so themselves when you ask their advice. War represents military strategic capability; generals with a high War score can do more damage to an enemy unit. Leader represents effectiveness at personally leading troops, so it only comes into effect when someone is personally leading troops in battle. Charm represents charisma; there is less chance of unrest in a country with a ruler who has high charm, and when you send someone to conduct diplomacy (say, to ask for an alliance), the chances of success are higher if your messenger has high Charm.
You use body points to do things in the game, mainly to run your empire. Each action costs a certain number of body points. This is where Political skill comes in handy for a ruler, because the higher your Political skill, the less each action will cost you in body points. Age is an important stat as well, since you do age in the game, and toward the end of your life you're likely to lose some body points; when you do, you'll see your ruler complain about his health. And like your generals, you too will eventually die of old age.
It's critical to spend time with your family. It costs you body points, but it's well worth it, for a couple reasons. One is that you'll eventually die and spending time with your wife, if you know what I mean, is the only way to get an heir. Only sons can succeed you—an unfortunate limitation but probably a necessary game mechanic since otherwise it would be easy to get a successor and there'd be less need to invest in Family. Another important reason to spend time with your wife is that she will vet your generals: she has a good sense for who's likely to turn on you if you entrust him with a governorship, and will occasionally warn you not to trust one of them. This only works on your current generals, though; she doesn't warn you about anyone who's already a governor or advisor. When you learn that one of your generals isn't trustworthy, you can dismiss him, or simply make sure you don't make him a governor in your empire, or...if you have a daughter who's at least 10, you can marry her off to him. Once he's married to your daughter he will never betray you, as relatives are always loyal. Not realistic I know, but that's how the game works.
Princes who are 10 or older can be made generals, which also qualifies them to succeed you. They can be governors, advisors, or ordinary generals at the time of your death, but they must have been promoted to general before they become your heirs (which also exposes them to the usual potential dangers of war and disease). Upon being made a general, a prince gets his own ability scores, which are random but—appropriately—they're influenced by your stats, so the game incorporates genetics, after a fashion. Once your children reach age 10, your time with Family is often spent with them instead of your wife. It would make sense that spending time with your sons would improve their stats, especially Political, but I haven't been able to verify that anywhere.
If you should die without a successor, you lose the game. If you have more than one heir, you get to choose who will succeed you. I look mainly for Political ability and body points, since the higher both of those, the more you can get done per turn as a ruler. To win the game, you must conquer all other countries in Eurasia.
Diplomacy is pretty simple. Two states can form an alliance for a specified length of time, up to 8 years. An alliance is really a nonaggression pact which cannot be broken. Countries can also threaten each other, demand tribute, or demand submission, which if accepted makes them a vassal of the demanding state. Again, keep a general with high Charm available to act as a diplomat.
When you send a force against a neighboring state, you'll want to assemble the troops yourself, since the AI isn't very intelligent about it: it assigns the troops in order by power, so the first general gets all the knights/Mongols/samurai and the last one gets all the archers, or what have you. Be sure to send them with gold and food. Lastly, be sure to leave at least one unit in your home country; if your home state is attacked and you're undefended, you are captured and killed. If you at least have one crummy unit, you can flee to one of your vassal states.
When you win a war, the captured enemy generals (if any) are brought to you to deal with as you see fit. Normally your options are to execute them, recruit (well, offer to let them join you), or set them free. If you set them free they go back to the country they were serving. Rulers of empires (that is, rulers who aren't vassals) will not give the option to recruit them. If you offer recruitment and the general turns you down, it may be because you already have 8 generals (the max) and not that they hate you. I often simply release crummy generals since it's to my advantage to have my opponents served by chumps. If you manage to recruit a ruler, don't make them governor of the country they formerly ruled; that's just asking them to break away from you.
When the game reaches a point where you govern several states, you'll want to make your relatives (especially your heirs) governors of states back behind your frontier where they'll be safer. Use non-relatives as governors of your border provinces, since it's not as bad to lose them in an invasion and if one of your provinces does break away, it's better if it's on the border rather than in the middle of your empire. Appoint generals with high War and/or Leadership as governors to places you want to expand out from, especially if they've begun a habit of invading their neighbors.
Once you rule a lot of states, you'll start spending your turns giving orders to your generals to move troops around your empire. Move them toward the frontier, as many at a time as possible since you can only give so many move orders per turn. When possible, funnel large numbers through relatives or your home province, and keep non-related governors low on troops in case they rebel against you—you'll have to invade them to get the country back. Also keep an eye on your vassal states' Support for their rulers; if one drops below 50, revolts will start to break out. You may have to go there in person and Give items/food/gold to the people to raise Support for the ruler—and maybe replace him too, since he's liable to drag Support down again later.
Download the Game (1.9mb) - This includes some mods I made. These are name changes, including changing "Angevin Kingdom" to "English Kingdom" and "Capetian Kingdom" to "French Kingdom"; that's much more intuitive, I think. I also changed "India" to "Indian Kingdom" so the game would stop calling it "The India".
Install Disks (1.9mb) - Copies of the original installation disks, handy if you want to install a vanilla copy of the game
Game Manual (5.4mb) - Scanned from the original, with typos corrected
Reference Card (350kb) - Handy to have
Map of Eurasia in the 13th century that came in the box (13.6mb)