Defender of the Crown

In the year of our lord 1986...

Source // Wikipedia

The entry for Defender of the Crown in the 1001 Video Games book mentions its cinematic qualities as much as its similarity to the likes of Risk. How do you make a game of Risk cinematic in the mid 1980s? Is there more to the game than that? I've got absolutely no idea, so I dove into the NES port to find out.


Defender of the Crown is arguably best played on the Atari ST, a port that included many of the elements that were left on the cutting room floor, if you will. Failing that, the Amiga original will show you a medieval England that you simply won't have seen before, in a level of detail that might as well be considered some kind of magic.

Or, like me, you could play the NES port and have absolutely no idea what on Earth you are doing. At all.

The King is dead and Britain (or most of it) is split into warring factions vying control. You are a leader of one of these Saxon factions, and it is up to you to raise an army and conquer England and Wales, uniting them under one rule - yours.

Income from taxes - I assume - allows you to purchase soldiers and eventually knights and catapults in order to make an army and take it to your opposition. On your turn you can choose to take unclaimed territory to increase your wealth, with some territories raking in more money than others, or you can try to take control of another factions' territory to strengthen your position.

Usually this involves the two armies facing off against each other as shown to you by two numbers counting down until one reaches 0. These numbers are the numbers of soldiers you have in that army, and you're hoping you don't lose any.

If you're no good at raising armies and watching numbers change, then maybe you'll fare better in the jousts that take place now and again.

I'm not even sure this is Jousting. It is in the Amiga version.

A mini-game of jousting does... something... for you. I never won. I never worked out how to control it, really. Basically I'd make the worst King. But jousting is an alternative to warfare, albeit a slower one.

For the most part you'll be focusing on growing your army and spreading it across the lands, hopefully toppling neighbouring castles one by one until you're King. Lucky you.

Speaking of luck, you can also save damsels in distress too, held captive by those dirty Normans. As you can guess, I never saved any damsels.

Fun Times

But let's ignore my incompetence for just a little bit and marvel at a knowledgeable chap playing the Amiga version, as shown in the video above. That is Defender of the Crown, that's how cinematic and engaging it can be.

Those graphics are swish, aren't they? Though I still don't know how the various mini-games work, even when seeing their success...

Final Word

It's tough to give a definitive word on Defender of the Crown having played it so poorly. Having watched it however, I can see it as both engaging, yet a bit simple. Maybe that's because it took 20 minutes to become King, I don't know. We're not all going to be that successful, so gameplay could well be much more varied.

With only a few things to do on your journey, is there any replay value in it? How many times can you play Defender of the Crown and still be interested? How can you keep it fresh?

It's well worth a look at, and perhaps that Atari ST port is one to look out for were I to go back and try it at a later date. Until then, Defender of the Crown goes back on the shelf, so to speak. Long live the King.

Fun Facts

Need help? You should look for a bloke in the forest called Robin Hood...

Defender of the Crown, developed by Cinemaware, first released in 1986.
Version played: NES, 1987, via emulation.
Version watched: Amiga, 1986 (World of Longplays)