Exploring the new world was one of Columbus' greatest feats, but it was the colonization of that land that brought about a new era in civilization. And it was that era that was chronicled in Ensemble's Age of Empires III as you took on the role of a mighty European power. Now it is time for the tables to turn as the balance shifts to three Native American tribes and you lead the WarChief to victory.
Each of the three new tribes, the Iroquois, the Sioux and the Aztecs bring a new style of play to the table rather than simply mimicking an existing power. The Iroquois will be the most familiar to existing players, as they have allied with the Americans and as such, use a few European units. The Sioux have the advantage of heavy cavalry and a maxed out population meter. Rather than worry about support, a Sioux player can immediately start building his war machine. Infantry is the name of the game for the Aztecs. They start out weak, but in the latter half of the game a skilled Aztec player can wreak some havoc.
The WarChief is the new leader unit, replacing the explorer from the original. Because the WarChief grows more powerful with time, players tend to be conservative with his use early on. Taking out an enemy WarChief is a great way to cripple an online opponent.
Two single player campaigns provide plenty of strategic practices, but it's the online component that really makes The WarChiefs shine as a few new features make the old feel new again.
Players who can run the map well will like the Trade Monopoly win condition which allows you to attempt a victory by holding more than half of the trading posts on a map. Another new twist is the Revolution option. This can only be done by the European powers, but it allows a civilization to instantly turn military. All setters turn to militia, only military units can be sent from the home city and it is impossible to gather resources. Done at the right time, revolution can quickly change a losing position into a winning one.
Home city options have been updated with a number of new cards included in the expansion. Players with well developed cities have the option to reset their decks and rebuild a new set of cards without having to re-earn all their banked experience points.
It's a tough act to pull off, but The WarChiefs manages to walk that fine line between familiarity and new material quite well. Age of Empires III veterans are going to love it, as it breathes new life into an aging title.