OVERLORDS

M C Lothlorien has carved a niche for itself in the two-player, strategic war games field. Its latest, Overlords, has an interesting innovation - there's an option to play over a Local Area Network.

Each player controls an army consisting of a large number of troops, several generals and one overlord. The objective is to overwhelm the opposition and kill the enemy overlord.

The game switches between two main displays. The first is a master map of twelve sectors, showing the relative positions over the entire battlefield.

The second screen concentrates on an individual sector and this is where troop movement takes place. It displays the various forces set against a background of trees, rivers and castles. There's no waiting to take your turn. Each player can move troops, independently or simultaneously, using the same computer or a separate one if the network option has been chosen.

The computer resolves any conflicts every thirty seconds. Forces attack only when they are immediately adjacent to the opposition; generals are roughly three times more powerful in attack than in defence. If a surrounding force outweighs a piece, then the latter is destroyed and removed from the screen.

An algorithm determines an army's experience and the computer automatically recruits further generals and troops to that side as it develops in experience.

A snapshot of the master map is taken every few minutes allowing a broad replay of progress once the game is over. Options allow for a long or short campaign; the short game is played over half the usual number of sectors.

Graphics are simple but clear and effective. The game is very easy to get into but seemed to lack depth once under way.

Although comparatively simple as strategy games go, Overlords is enjoyable enough - and the network option is a fine idea.

Bob Chappell