Okay, somebody's gotta say it: Civilization IV was wimpy. Sure, it was a fantastic, addictive wimpy that had us playing till the crack of dawn for weeks. But there was something girly about a strategy game where you could build macemen, tanks and even nukes, yet not get the most out of them because defense bonuses made all-out warfare suicidal.
Say goodbye to this problem in Warlords. This expansion pack replaces cultural, space-race and those other goddamn hippie victory conditions with blitzkrieging one city after another. It's more simplistic than standard Civ IV, as many complexities have been dropped in favor of just building army stacks - but still perfect whenever you need to work out frustrations by slaughtering millions and building a throne with their skulls.
Well, in your mind, anyhow. In the actual expansion pack you have to make do with eight new scenarios that let you replay historical wars, plus additions to regular Civ IV like six civilizations, ten leaders, a handful of units, techs and wonders. Warlords also includes loads of rule tweaks, including an option to turn rival states into vassals.
While it's fun to play same old, same old with the newbie Ottomans under Mehmed II, or Hannibal's Carthaginians, the scenarios are where it's at. Alexander the Great, Barbarian Horde, and Genghis Khan are exciting races to sack cities. Rise of Rome and the Peloponnesian War feature measured wars in the ancient Mediterranean. Age of the Vikings sees you raiding northern Europe.
Chinese Unification involves a tricky mix of diplomacy and battle with seven rivals competing for the throne. And Omens is a scrap between the British, French, and Natives in colonial America.
Style and pace are varied, although all scenarios eventually come down to unsheathing swords. Each features unique units, buildings, technologies, civics and wonders. Warlords also includes special rules like the Mongol ability to camp and create units based on the surroundings (being nomadic had its advantages), and the Chinese family houses that spread bloodlines to other factions through marriage. The atmosphere is great; deploying units like the Macedonian hypaspists, researching the Mongol siege warfare tech, and building the Great Wall of China wonder is not only authentic - it lets you relive a slice of history.
And then burn it to the ground. Above all of the other rule tweaks, Warlords makes it easier to fight. Unit promotions come faster than in regular Civ IV and Great Generals (born in a similar fashion as the Great People in the original game) lead units into battle. Together they provide enough bonuses that you no longer have to worry about archers using killer city defense bonuses to wipe out a stack of elephants.
At times, though, these buffs make combat simplistic. Get on a roll with Alexander or Genghis Khan and games can become a sleepy sequence of ordering, stacking, and besieging. A solid stack with some promotions under its belt and a Great General commanding a unit can be nearly unstoppable if you send it into battle smartly.
Yet even when things get repetitive, there's something undeniably awesome about waging war on a grand scale. Warlords may not be the most multifaceted expansion pack ever made, but it is an exceedingly addictive one that adds new content and a new style of play to Civ IV. Both wimps and warriors will love this one.