Imagine being born on Earth in the future around the time humans develop the ability to travel thousands of lightyears through space and colonize distant planets. Then imagine that within twenty years, Earth has become the capital of a vast space empire. Suppose then that Earth and its colonies have become so interdependent on each other for resources, and one day, something causes the prosperity of the empire to end. Earth as you know it enters a dark age where knowledge is forgotten, and humans on Earth and its colonies are thrust into primitive eras, losing contact with those on the other planets.
Anacreon, a turn-based interplanetary strategy game, starts off on this premise for its first scenario, but as you play other scenarios, you are the emperor or empress of a planet that had a slightly different history. Usually it involves empire reconstruction, but other situations and objectives outline the scenario you play. Generally speaking, your planet is at the dawn of technological rebirth after a long period without contact with the rest of the empire. Your planet's technology has rediscovered the ability to build ships that can travel many thousands of lightyears away, thus giving it the opportunity to retake the other planets and build a new empire. You are the one to lead your people to a new age and a new life of prosperity and peace, but first you must rebuild your empire planet by planet and protect it from those who seek to build an empire of their own.
In Anacreon, the primary source of gaining resources with which to establish your bases and build your fleets comes from the planets you control. The types of commodities a planet can produce depend on the type of planet it is and its technological level. The basic commodities are supplies (products required by planets to sustain their populations; usually food), chemicals, metals, and trillium (the mineral used to power ships). Planets may also produce new ships to add to your warfleets or conduct research to advance the technology level of the empire; these abilities are also dependent on that planet's technology level. As your empire is made up of a number of planets, entire planets are devoted to the production of one kind of assignment (production or research), and you are often needed to supply planets with goods from other planets you control via transports or jumptransports (transports that exchange cargo capacity for higher speed). In addition to the aforementioned products, some planets may also be able to produce ambrosia, a highly addictive drug that causes users to work constantly without need for food or rest--while you may choose to addict your planets with ambrosia, you must make sure you can provide enough ambrosia to addicted planets because of the terrible withdrawal people experience when they can't get access to it.
In order to gain control of planets, you must conquer them or force them to surrender. When you create a fleet and send it to a neutral or enemy planet, your ships prepare to attack by descending through the orbital levels surrounding the planet. If you really outnumber the planet's defenses, no blood may be shed. If not, you'll have to defeat enough of their defenses to force a surrender or completely conquer them. The combat units you may use are fighters (which fight enemies in space or in a planet's atmosphere), hunter-killers (similar to fighters except that they can't be detected at close range), penetrators (ships that can't be detected at long range), jumpships (fighters that can travel long distances in less time), and infantry (used to seize control of a planet and engage enemy infantry, and are landed on a planet's surface via transports and jumptransports). Starships are the most powerful warships, and as such they are expensive and require high technology levels, but nonetheless are a welcome addition to any emperor's fleet.
Anacreon was created in 1988, but met with little success despite the fact that it was a really good game for its time. Nearly twenty years later, Anacreon has been remade for Windows and now features multiplayer games on the Internet. Development continues today, as there are still bugs that need to be worked out and gaming enhancements to add. The original DOS version is still available as well.
Updater's Note: It should be noted that almost all of the scenarios created for the original game are playable in the remake. Also, it may interest some to know that Anacreon is heavily inspired by Isaac Asimov's Foundation books. Even the name, Anacreon, is taken from those books, where it refers to a planet. The original Dos version can be found here.
Review by: Triton