If you were flying blind going into your time with Grand Ages: Medieval, you might be forgiven for thinking that this game would turn out to be a Total War-a-like. Indeed, the preview pictures feature a number of sumptuous shots of medieval towns and armies marching to battle. That’s not the case, though. Yes there are battles, armies and shiny-looking villages but this title is all about the power of trade and commerce in medieval Europe.
Developed by Gaming Minds, the game is an economy simulator at its heart. You take control of a merchant operating in a European town and set about building your empire through the means of supply and demand. The game does dabble in combat, strategy and exploration, too, but only momentarily, before dragging you back into the world of trade routes and currency exchange.
Grand Ages: Medieval, to give it its due, does a good job of introducing you to the basic mechanics. The single player campaign revolves around a noble family from the ailing Byzantine Empire in 1050 and serves as your main tutorial and proof of concept. There is some narrative there as well and it offers a decent amount of twists, but never more than enough to keep the player coming back to the campaign once they’ve got the grasp of the mechanics.
Starting a sandbox game presents you with the wide open space of Europe in which to start your adventure. At the beginning you have one merchant, one town and one scout. Players will need to explore to discover neutral towns and the major trading players in the continent. Trade carts can be managed, as well as their cargo, but the game provides some good tools for creating routes that can pass through most of your target cities on the way.