Have You Played… Defender Of The Crown?

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

Defender of the Crown [gog page] is probably the first strategy game I ever played, if you’re willing to ignore Chess. Let’s just say that Cinemaware’s depiction of a Kingless England was my first computer strategy game. I played it on an Amiga back in the eighties and it felt like an entire world was coming to life on the screen.

Cinemaware were masters in the art of making games that felt expansive while mostly being collections of mini-games. That was partly down to the brilliance with which they captured elements of genre, whether the chivalric life/war sim of Defender of the Crown or the b-movie sci-fi horror of It Came From The Desert. It’s also fair to say that the games actually were expansive compared to their peers.

Defender of the Crown has jousting, sieges, raids, army management and a Robin Hood cameo. I remember thinking it was similar to Risk (another non-computer strategy game I’d played) but with a much smaller map. But I quickly accepted that the size of the map mattered much less than what you did with that map, and Defender of the Crown’s map was alive with possibilities.


  1. Ieolus says:

    One of my favorite childhood games… it isn’t the same emulated or remade for the PC as it was for the C64.

  2. Saarlaender39 says:

    Played it on my C64…absolutely loved it!

  3. Mungrul says:

    I had this on the ST and played it over and over and over and then Dungeon Master came out.

  4. Stugle says:

    I had come into the possession of the PC version when I was about 12? 13? I played it a lot. Remember disliking the jousting, but enjoying the catapulting of plague horses (or was it cows?) into castles.

    • klops says:

      Horse or cow?! In c64 it was some sort of cauldron. Plague pot.

      • Stugle says:

        I will concede it’s possible that, after 25 years or so, I’m misremembering the details. :) I think the crucial point stands: fun and games with bacteriological warfare.

        • klops says:

          Sigh. I was already imaging flying quadrupedals in EGA detail.

          Fun and games with bacteriological warfare stands.

    • sunburned says:

      The jousting was a great way to win regions! I adored this game when I was 12~13, was this really 30 years ago? On the IBM PC you could work out how many times you had to click down/left (was it?) to unseat the enemy knight.

  5. Maxheadroom says:

    Defender of the Crown was the sole reason I went and bought a disk drive for my Commodore 64.

    In retrospect though it was much more ‘just a collection of mini games’ and much less immersive than It Came From the Desert which I found thoroughly engrossing (still remember the background music when you were in the radio station).

  6. Sin Vega says:

    It hasn’t aged all that well, but it was far ahead of its time, not least in spinning a narrative out of a conquest-y strategy game.

  7. keefybabe says:

    I played… The SHIT out of this. Tried it recently and it hasn’t aged well, but still, at the time… Epic.

  8. Laurentius says:

    I did as same fo r me it was first strategy game I’ve ever played and probably first PC game I obtained myself (let’s leave it how). It also setmy path as historical strategy games fan. I still play it from time to time: go for Gloucester, then Hampshire then Sussex, gather solderis from all these lands, return buy army, maybe raid some Norman, buy army, visit Robin, sige closest Norman, if you succede you are set to win.

    PS. Music was terriblr on Pc Speaker but it’s still charmingly lasered into my brain.
    PSS. Also sex scene.

  9. Rhinowarrior says:

    The ‘member berries are in full force with this one.

  10. spacedyemeerkat says:

    The graphics on the Amiga were utterly astonishing at the time. Especially, to this then 14 year old, the portraits of the princesses.

  11. harcalion says:

    It was my second game for PC after Tetris in 1992. I played it a lot, not understanding a thing because it was in English. One night I dreamed about the game and how great it was, next morning the 5.25″ diskette couldn’t be read anymore.

    Last year, I preordered the deluxe edition from Cinemaware Retro out of pure nostalgia. Not the same, though, it didn’t include the 24-year rewind feature.

  12. phlebas says:

    Still not having got round to playing Crusader Kings, Defender of the Crown is my point of reference for imagining it. Properly memorable stuff.

  13. Oozo says:

    Only played it on NES… let’s just say that it wasn’t the ideal platform for this game.

    • Baines says:

      It was pretty good for a NES game. I had plenty of fun with it, at least. (And like others said, it isn’t like Defender of the Crown has aged gracefully even on PC.) The NES had a few decent PC game ports, honestly.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Lemmings on the NES was a middling to bad port, but the music sounded pretty damn good on its audio chip.

    • magogjack says:

      The only way I played it as well but since I was poor I loved it.

  14. briangw says:

    Played it on the C64. One of the most memorable games. Never could joust though. Always lost those.

  15. dungeoncrawl says:

    This was one of those games on my C64 that, somehow, I just never could figure out how to conquer. I ‘think’ it had something to do with getting waylaid on the road in random encounters incessantly. The I remember in college a guy who was like grand master, conquering, racking up gold, etc. I never say the ending because this jackass would never completed it. He was so obsessed with stockpiling more and more loot.

  16. thekelvingreen says:

    My mate David Hammond had this on his Commodore CDTV. I remember that you could hire Robin Hood to do the fighting for you if your own soldiers were too rubbish.

  17. GameOverMan says:

    I’m happy to see so many fellow C64’ers here.

  18. Marclev says:

    Oh yes. I wasn’t old enough to really figure out how to beat it (either that or it was one of those old games that was hugely unfair against the player, can’t remember which), but remember playing it a lot. In fact I can’t even remember whether I played it on my Amiga or before I had one of those, on my Dad’s Atari ST. Great, now I feel old and depressed :-(

    In my memory though, it was pretty but didn’t feel very sophisticated, gameplay wise, even to my young self at the time.

    A much better example of the strategic map with lots of mini-games genre (whatever happened to those?), at least in my memory, was actually North and South (if only because I was able to beat that one, it made me laugh, and the music was so great!)

  19. E_FD says:

    Anyone else remember a DOS shareware ripoff of this game called Knights of the Round Table? I had a great time playing that as a kid.

  20. racccoon says:

    What a fantastic game for its time. that’s for its time! did i say for its time!..brilliant is the word! but, today “this generation” would not know about that experience as they will never know..

  21. CartonofMilk says:

    i did but a bit late so the game seemed kinda old and limited by then and i soon moved on to other things. I wanna say it was maybe 1991.

  22. SableKeech says:

    One thing which has puzzled me when reading HYP is the lack of a release date!

    Unless I’ve completely missed it!?

  23. pixel_fcker says:

    There’s a fantastic article on the history of Cinemaware and the making of Defender of the Crown here:
    link to filfre.net

  24. JimSachs says:

    What a nice polite, civilized following you have here, Adam. A pleasure to browse.

    • neffo says:

      Love your work Jim! This game especially.

      Everyone, it’s Jim Sachs!

  25. Aldous Huxley says:

    Yes, good to see others here feel the same way. Loved it on ST & Amiga and for the first time this year discovered the PS2 version on “backwards compatible” PS3. Wasn’t expecting the console version to be anything special but was quite surprised. I think it’s probably the definitive final best version as it retains the core (albeit terribly simplistic) strategy but with at least some updated gfx/sfx: link to youtube.com (skip to 32:46 for the joust).

    The only reason I wanted to play: we were watching some classic old episodes of Robin of Sherwood (The Hooded Man) with Ray Winstone & Michael Praed and suddenly had a mad craving to play a Jousting Tournament videogame. And this was the ONLY ONE we could think of!

    So during this horribly ongoing Joust drought, how cool would it be if we could charge our steeds down “the lists” in a new medieval tournament simulator in the vein of a modern-day professional sports videogame, in the cinematic style of something like say, Sony’s ‘MLB The Show’, EA’s ‘Fight KNight Champion’ or 2K’s ‘NBA2K17’? It’d have some nice character customisation with our own family heraldry & art designs, custom armour/shield heraldry (not forgetting our trusty steeds!) and just watch some gore-fest Jousts play out in slow-mo replays with various cameras (+ freeroam dev cam), letting the decapitations fly like the Knights of Ni? It wouldn’t be joust-heavy; fencing and archery would be in “The Tournament”, obviously. The aim would be to make our medieval tournament as historically accurate as possible, winning various trophy’s, damsels, land, with emphasis on gritty reality inside a high-end physics engine, no “Disney” or fantasy elements allowed. Worth Crowdfunding a potential cult classic? Or is it time for the big boys to start selling original interesting “sports” games to the unwashed FIFA masses? Either way, it should be named “The Lists”, to give it a feel of hardcore authenticity in the medieval period.

  26. RegisteredUser says:

    A shining example of how the smallest of storage had some of the most varied gaming.
    People were more ambitious and creative in the early days of gaming it always feels like.

  27. FieldyGB says:

    This has to be the ONLY Cinemaware game that I for some unknown reason didnt play.. I adored everything else they made from Wings to TV Sports Football but alas didnt either know about or get to play what would have no doubt absorbed even more of my youth, a crying shame!

  28. Robmonster says:

    I remember getting quite good at the jousting, to the point where I could pretty much win the game with it via betting territories against my opponents and pretty much owning the map after a tournament or two.

  29. Sinomatic says:

    Oh god yes, also on my Amiga. I defy anyone who played it to not have the theme tune now stuck in their heads for the rest of the day (thanks for that). Come to think of it though, it’s probably the most time I’ve ever spent in a strategy game. They aren’t generally my cup of tea, but I have a huge amount of rosy nostalgia for DotC…slowly but surely taking over regions, using catapults, visiting Robin Hood. Everything except the jousting, which I hated.

  30. Mr Coot says:

    Yes, Amiga also, back in the day. 1988 I think it was. I still feel guilty about accidentally killing a horse while jousting. That was a thing. And effectively ended the game cos it was so unchivalrous. It was an accident. But everyone still hated me.

  31. corinoco says:

    DOTC also had a Rude Bit. Not quite GTA-SA rude, but to a 13 year old rude enough. Later I bought Leather Goddesses of Phobos; which was plenty rude.