IFComp 2019 review: The Chieftain

I love a village management game! The Chieftain is a Twine game with a lot of the core elements of a good civilization building / village management game: gather resources, grow your population, explore, battle, trade, build!

The writing is clumsy, presumably written by a non-native speaker. But it has its own energy and charm:

There are some places that could have used more polish. The sidebar, inexplicably, says “Something Good Copy” (that is not the title of the game). Most of the images are missing (for copyright reasons, the game explains). And I frequently encountered this Twine error, which was fortunately not game-breaking:

Although the game is rough around the edges, the core gameplay loop has the potential to be genuinely fun. There are buildings to build that can improve your village and make it grow or accumulate resources faster. You can even make cave paintings or buy treasures! There are lots of random events you can encounter while out exploring, and different ways for those events to go.

(There’s no way of evaluating whether you are going to win or lose a fight, whether with a village, a caravan, or a herd of angry smilodons. I honestly don’t know if it is based on your army size or just a random number generator.)

The biggest problem, though, is the interface. It is so inconvenient to access useful information that the game becomes a slog.

If you want to check how many resources you need to build a building, for example, you can only do so during the first phase of the day. And just looking takes up your first phase action.

Your stats and inventory are not visible in the sidebar, but only accessible through links that occur in some of the passages. So, how many soldiers do you have? How much wood do you have, and how much wood do you need? It’s fairly annoying to find out.

There is no way to check how many soldiers you have from this screen. Can you afford to lose 5 soldiers? WHO KNOWS!

In The Chieftain, it takes so long to achieve your goals, and doing anything is so frustrating and clicky because of the crude interface, that in spite of my extreme enthusiasm about village management in general, I didn’t make it all that far into the game. Fun concept, lacking in polish, severely hampered by problems in execution and design.

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