Legion Review

Legion is a high-level strategic game set during the conflicts of the Roman Empire in Western Europe circa the First Century BC.  It's not an historical game in the sense that you'll play the role of the period's historical figures or participate in the campaigns of the period.  Instead it models the troops, economies, and tactics of the time period and then leaves you free to try your hand at expanding your empire.

Although the game is named Legion, you certainly don't have to play as the Roman Empire.  You can try your hand at running one of the other tribes that appear on the map, be it Gauls, Greeks, Britons, or any of the other fractious tribes of Europe at the time.  There are four maps included with the game - Italy, Gaul (France), Britain, and Scotland - and the largest map begins with over 20 different sides in play.

Play in Legion focuses on three major areas: cities, the strategic map, and battlefields.  The cities are the source of all production in the game, generating resources which allow you to build additional structures to produce more resources, and ultimately advanced military units.  Production in Legion is streamlined, with the three resources in the game produced automatically by the presence of specialized structures such as lumber mills, farms, and mines.  Resources are generated automatically each turn and placed in an empire-wide pool available for use at all of your cities.  Many structures (and your armies) require a little upkeep, so the goal of production is to keep the production of each of your three resources in the black.  As an aid to this production, each city has an available labor pool that can be assigned to some of the structures to further boost their production.  The catch is that it is from this same pool that troops are mustered, so you'll need to balance your need for more production with your need to create more troops.

The city interface is pretty simple and streamlined.  The available structures appear as a list on the left of the city view, with ones that can not be afforded grayed out.  Unavailable structures will not appear in the list at all, so you'll know exactly what you'll be able to build at each city.  Structures are placed automatically, so there is no need to make sure that space is left for larger structures as they become available.  The available population pool appears below the city view, and clicking on a structure will remove one population unit from the pool and put it to work on production.  Available troops appear to the left of the screen, and can be built as long as there is population and the necessary resources available.  The game has a good variety of troops, with over 20 different unit types available, although which are available to your empire will depend on which nation you are playing..

Troops can be ordered at any time, but all appear available for use at the same time, once every four turns.  The game uses a quarterly time system, where each turn represents three months, and troops become available at the beginning of a new year.  This is a bit strange, as the only thing that determines how long it takes for troops to be created is the turn in which they were ordered.  It can take four turns for a mob of peasants to be made available, while a troop of crack legionnaires can show up the next turn.

Once created, troops can be moved out of cities and onto the strategic map where they can be moved and collected into armies of up to eight units each.  The strategic map shows the cities and terrain of the region in which the game is taking place.  Natural features such as mountains. rivers, and forests appear on the map, and have an effect on the movements of troops.  In fact, they have a little too much effect, as troops from backwater cities can literally take years of game time to reach the frontlines.  It seems a little much to believe that it would take an army a year and a half to get to the other side of a forest.  This problem is magnified by the inability to give units "go to" orders - they must be moved a space or two every turn by hand.