The Ancient Art of War

The Ancient Art of War

Infobox VG| title = Ancient Art of War

developer = Evryware
publisher = Broderbund
designer =
engine =
released = 1984
genre = real-time strategy
modes = Single player
ratings =
platforms = Apple IIe, Macintosh, TRS-80, DOS
media =
requirements =
input = Keyboard

"The Ancient Art of War" is a computer game developed by Evryware and published by Broderbund in 1984. In retrospect, it is generally recognized as one of the first real-time strategy games.


A battlefield simulation, the game's title comes from the classic strategy text "The Art of War" written by Sun Tzu around 400 B.C.

The objective of the game is to win a series of battles using three types of troops: Knights, Archers, and Barbarians. (A fourth option, Spies, were included but had no effect in battle, instead having strategic advantages in the overall campaign.) It uses the simple "Rock-Paper-Scissors" type of unit balance typical of the genre. Thus a Knight can easily defeat a Barbarian, but is easily defeated by an Archer, which in turn can be defeated by a Barbarian.

At the start of the game, the player is able to select from a list of campaigns to play. The campaigns include both skirmishes and "capture the flag" type missions, while the terrain layout and initial starting units provided a variety of strategic options for game play. Advanced rule sets such as "Training New Units" and "Supply Line Lengths" allow for more customization. The player can also select from among several Artificial Intelligence opponents represented by various historical figures such as Geronimo and Napoleon. Sun Tzu represents the most difficult level.

There is no element of the economic management (mining, gathering or construction) which is a common feature of later real-time strategy games.


Each mission takes place on a map containing forts, towns, terrain features (bridges, mountains, forests, etc.), and squads. Squads can consist of up to 14 units, made up of any combination of the three types. A squad moves at the speed of its slowest unit (Barbarians are faster than Archers, which are faster than Knights), so a squad of all Barbarians would move faster than a mixed squad. This is important in the campaign "The Race For The Flag", a mostly non-combat scenario where the player and the computer race to capture a flag.

Formations can be chosen to take advantage of a squad's particular makeup. For example, all of a squad's Archers can be placed in the rear while the Barbarians form a line in the front. Squads that lose units have to make do until another squad can be merged with them. In many campaigns, squads with less than 14 units can receive random reinforcements by waiting at a fort.

When two enemy squads meet on the battlefield, they are frozen in an encounter while time continues to pass. If they are left by themselves, then after a delay, the computer will automatically determine the outcome of the battle. Alternately, the player can choose to "Zoom" into the battle to resolve it immediately, gaining limited command of the soldiers in battle. It may be advantageous to leave squads in an encounter while others squads run past the enemy squad so engaged.

A number of factors influence the outcome of a battle, and elevate the game beyond a simple Rock-Paper-Scissors strategy. Hunger, distance, terrain, and morale all affect the squads' effectiveness. Care has to be taken when marching troops full speed, or across a series of mountains, to prevent them from arriving at a battle too fatigued to fight.


The game allows players to create their own maps, formations, and missions.


A review in "Computer Gaming World", although frustrated with the lack of artillery and overall post-gunpowder units in campaign creation, was still particularly pleased by the editor. "The Ancient Art of War" was praised as a great wargame, although it was not intended to be billed as such.citation | date = Apr-May 1985 | last = Sipe | first = Russell | periodical = Computer Gaming World | title = IBM Goes to War | year = 1985 | pages = 24–25]


Although the ZX Spectrum game Stonkers was published a year earlier, "The Ancient Art of War" is generally recognised as one of the first real-time strategy games, a genre which become hugely popular a decade later with "Dune II" and "Warcraft". Those later games added an element of economic management, with mining or gathering, as well as construction and base management, to the purely military.

It spawned two sequels, the naval-themed "The Ancient Art of War at Sea" and the World War I game "The Ancient Art of War in the Skies".


External links

* [ The Ancient Art of War - A Fan Page]
*moby game|id=/ancient-art-of-war|name="The Ancient Art of War"

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