Have You Played… Lords Of The Realm?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Are grand historical strategy games in vogue, or will I have to laud Lords of the Realm on its own merits instead of relative to what’s currently popular? Hmm. Let’s find out.

It’s a game about military conquest in a medieval realm, without dragons or exhaustingly accurate historical context. Lords of the Realm favours economic management of a modest, decentralised land and its workforce, rather than re-enacting Crécy or memorising the exact statistics needed to reliably kick a knight in the clackers.

It’s an obvious ancestor of Total War, combining turn-based territory management with real-time mass stabbing, but scaled down and more concerned with managing your lands, balancing a need to design and build castles with food supplies dependent on human labour and capricious agricultural cycles. Even today it’s intuitive, both conceptually and in terms of control and feedback, making what could be a dull number cruncher nothing of the sort, and somehow turning micromanagement into a virtue. A well-run realm became less, not more dependent on your meddling. Also you could send envoys with customised messages to rival Lords, who’d express outrage at being called “the smeggest of heads”. Oh, the mid-90s.

The sequel was probably better, but paid for it in charm, and as with its cousin The Settlers, by the third game the focus fell more heavily on fields of battle than of wheat, and managing lordly delegates rather than booting serfs into quarries. A sad end.


  1. ItalianPodge says:

    “Exit the game my lord?”

  2. Jeremy says:

    I played this game endlessly as a kid. My favorite part was building a ridiculously oversized and impenetrable castle in every land I owned starting on turn 1. I didn’t really grasp basic economic concepts at the time, I just thought it was fun to build big castles, even if it took 600 turns to finish.

  3. Guvornator says:

    “Also you could send envoys with customised messages to rival Lords, who’d express outrage at being called “the smeggest of heads”.”

    The only reason any right thinking 13 year would play the game. Me and a friend played it as an insult simulator, with some nonsense about crop rotation attached. Shame the only way the games could tell the tone of your letter was by a button, although this did mean that several letters of the purest filth our male teenage minds could come with were well received by The Countess…

  4. Laurentius says:

    It is a fun game, I liked more then LotR2. I especially liked economy aspect of it, like that you have to use crop rotation on your fields, being a wee city lad back there it was actually quite educational for me. Also as far as I remember it really has this similiar vibe to CK2 as war goes with merceneries troops being a really war machines, while LotR2 has this ridiculous communist utopia vibe where you could gather people from working in the fileds, equip them with swords and horses and they become knights.

  5. Bweahns says:

    I played this quite a bit, but I think it was only a demo on one of those 101 game CDs. Someone at school had the full version though. The combat always seemed a bit janky and there didn’t seem to be any big incentive to upgrade your troops with very expensive crossbows and what not, a few blokes with pitch forks always seemed to do the trick. I dug the farming and other management tasks a lot more. Crop rotation in the 14th century was _considerably_ more widespread after…

  6. Elusiv3Pastry says:

    “Very well if we must be immature…Listen, you look like a toad! No, that’s unfair to toads! You look worse!”

  7. Nick says:

    The castle designing bit was great fun as well!

  8. teije says:

    I played LOTR2 much more than the first and loved it. What a great mix of elements that made up a wonderful whole.

    I recall vividly how disappointed I was with LOTR3 when it came out. Just – ugh.

  9. Phantasma says:

    Have only played the demo of the sequel back in the days… but the music still lingers.

    Sierra games of this period often had outstanding soundtracks.
    Lords of Magic for example. A bit rubbish but the score was amazing.

    I would post video links but without an edit button the possible embarrassment totally mortifies me.

  10. skyst says:

    I’m just going to leave this here for you folks –

    • Nic_Flynn says:

      Thank you so much for posting the ‘easter egg’ song. My brother and I used to play it endlessly.

  11. racccoon says:

    I loved this game link to youtube.com

  12. Carra says:

    Played quite a bit of Lord of the Realms 2. The whole RTS genre was new to me and I played a lot LotR. Great game!

  13. Carra says:

    Also makes me sad about Impressions Studios bankruptcy. I really loved their city builder games.

  14. rexx.sabotage says:

    I had the sequel pop up in my Steam discovery queue a couple weeks ago and really didn’t recognize the game or why it was being recommended, this article definitely does a far better job.

  15. wraithgr says:

    Only played the second one, but had a blast with it. I do remember thinking that cows were never a good idea though–every region I conquered switched to 100% wheat. Good thing gluten intolerance was not a thing in the 14th century!
    Shame about the third one, could have been great but the subject system was too opaque…

  16. loki1944 says:

    I played the crap out of it when it came out, even my mom and dad played it with me; and I still play it today.