King of Dragon Pass

Review copyright © 2000 by Michael O'Brien & Peter Erikson

Author: David Dunham, Greg Stafford & Robin Laws
Company/Publisher: A. Sharp
Cost: US$25
Page count: Package includes CD, Manual

The long-awaited Gloranthan computer game finally arrived last November, and I suspect many Tales readers have already worn out their CD drives playing this addictive, absorbing game (the last computer game that had the same affect on me was Civilisation, and that was some time ago)!  In fact, I wonder if in this review, I am simply preaching to the converted, because King of Dragon Pass is quite literally the best thing to happen to Glorantha in ages (after Tales, of course!).  If you're a Glorantha fan - or you know someone you'd like to become a Glorantha fan - KoDP should be at the top of your shopping list!

In a nutshell, King of Dragon Pass is a turn-based strategy game, where you play a tribal clan over a period of about 100 years in 1300s, when Orlanthi from Heortland resettled Dragon Pass.  The aim of the game is first of all survive (by no means easy - Dragon Pass is a dangerous place, and there's all manner of foes out to get you, starting with malconents in your own clan, through to wandering dragons, raiding Horse Spawn and even lousy weather).  Once you've got your clan on a good footing, it's time to form a tribe, get elected king and start working on the ultimate aim of the game: unifying all the tribes and becoming King (or Queen) of Dragon Pass!

The game is the best model yet of how Orlanthi society operates and how a clan is run.  As each year progresses, you have to decide which crops you'll plant, which gods you'll honour, whether to fight or trade with your neighbours, and so on. Problems also arise: a clan member wants a divorce, your cattle are mysteriously ill, a portentuous rainbow appears, mysterious visitors arrive at your clan boundary, etc.; in fact, there are over 400 such situations, and the resolutions you choose will invariably have consequences further down the track.  Fortunately, you have seven members on your clan ring to advise you, each one offering answers defined by their own experiences and way of life.  Needless to say, the Humakti warleader on the ring ("kill them all!") is likely to give you different advice to the Chalana Arroy plant specialist ("the gods will favour us if we show mercy").

To win the game, you really have to start thinking like an Orlanthi - and you're going to have to HeroQuest, reenacting the exploits of your clan's gods.  These are a lot of fun, if occasionally infuriating difficult, and offer plenty of insight on how to run a Heroquest in regular roleplaying gaming.  In fact, because your clan's exploits are saved as a year-by-year saga, print this story off, and you have an instant 80 year old RPG campaign!

Although the game interface is more-or-less static, King of Dragon Pass is nevertheless beautifully illustrated.  Once you've got the hang of it, the years roll by smoothly, and you'll be too worried where you're going to get enough cows for your next sacrifice to care about the lack of 3D polygonoid broospawn or slick-moving Uroxi avatars.  For non-Gloranthans, there might be a bit of a steep learning curve to begin with, but the manual and handy reference card are both very easy to follow.  (I sat down to help my non-gamer partner for the first couple of turns, and then lost my computer for the next 8 hours!)

King of Dragon Pass is produced and self-marketed by the small software development company A.Sharp.  The principal authors were David Dunham, Greg Stafford and Robin Laws, with a lot of the coding by Elise Bowditch (if you've ever met these folk, you might be able to pick them out among the illos of clan personages!) KoDP is excellent value at US$37.50.  If you can't get it at your local gamestore, you can order it directly from A.Sharp.  This site also features demos, the latest updates of the game, KoDP hints and links to fan pages.

In all my years of writing Glorantha reviews for Tales, this is the best product to land on my desk.  I cannot recommend the game more highly, and look forward to whatever else A.Sharp might come up with. Life of Moonson, The Computer Game?  I'd like to see that...

Is there a Tales reader who hasn't seen King of Dragon Pass yet?  This is David Dunham's excellent Gloranthan computer game, where you play a small clan which attempts to first survive, then form a tribe, become tribal king, and finally unite all the tribes into a great kingdom.  If you haven't seen it yet, visit the KoDP web page  and see what all the fuss is about. Here you'll find downloads of a demo version, the latest updates, ordering info and even links to KoDP fan pages, some with hints and cheats!

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