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Centurion is often cited as one of the precursors to the Total War series, but at heart it has more in common with Defender of the Crown. It also has a "main" mode (the land battles) and several minigames (chariot races, gladiator fights, fleet battles), as well as a simple managerial aspect (you could set taxes, raise legions, replace fallen legionnaires etc.) and even a bit of diplomacy.
I used to play this game a lot. It was simple and short (around 3-4 hours) and had good replay value since there were quite a few random events, and the game could be very different depending on which direction you chose to expand first.
The highlight of the game are the land battles. They are very simple, yet allow for some strategy: flanking and ganging up on enemy units is rewarded, and killing the enemy general would make his army take a huge morale hit. There are only 3 types of units: elephants (Romans can't use them), infantry and cavalry. There are no ranged troops, but troops approaching enemy units that are stationary will take some damage to simulate missile fire. Interestingly, this is one of the few games where armies will not fight to the death: your goal is to drive the enemy off (so you can later use them to replenish your legions) rather than killing every single one of them.
Another good part is the diplomacy - don't count on much success, but it does give the countries a lot of flavour.
Unfortunately, the minigames are nowhere near as good: the chariot races can net you lots of money, but are long, difficult and too much depends on your (randomly assigned) starting position. The gladiator fights are way too simplistic and serve little purpose. The fleet battles feature only your flagship fighting against the enemy flagship and also feel rather unsatisfying. Ships are also extremely expensive and enemies just get fleets whenever they want, meaning you have little chance of building an invasion fleet until near the end of the game, when it's not really needed anymore, except to conquer the two island provinces.
The other problem is that difficulty levels are poorly balanced, and the appearance of enemy armies is completely random - see the main article for details.
Still, if you can get past it's flaws, Centurion does offer simple beer-and-pretzels style fun and is a good tool for beginners to develop their tactical skills.
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