By Rider, 29 March 2007; Revised
  Category: Medieval Europe
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The game Stronghold has been around us for many years and it has not lost it’s attractivity for some people. Produced by FireFly Studios and released in 2001, this is still a nice game for everyone. The game represents a medieval England or something like medieval England. We haven’t got a fixed timeframe and only by the map do we know that the land we conquer is England.


There are several characters in this game that you will encounter during your missions to assault the enemy. These are the King, Lord Woolsack, Sir Longarm and your enemies’ the Duc de Puce (the Rat), Duc Beauregard (the Snake), Duc Truffe (the Pig) and Duc Volpe (the Wolf). As far as the game is concerned, these persons have no historical background and are therefore entirely fictional people. The name of Lord Woolsack might however be derived from the chair on which the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords (of the United Kingdom) sits on. The enemies are possibly given French/Norman names for a reason but this is uncertain.


Of the general objectives, this game (and it’s sequels) offer a much more demanding task in managing your lands than most other RTS’ do. For example, you need to create weapons for your soldiers, food for your people (but not for your armies) and they consume it by a set of rations. You can also set different types of taxes you want to have the populace suffer and your popularity (or hatred towards you) will increase from these options. You can also build religious buildings which give you popularity bonuses and similarily to these, do work any ’good’ or ’bad’ buildings. These might be gardens, statues and ponds (’good’) or gallows, burning stakes and pits (’bad’). Like to many other games you need to create hovels for your peasants to live in. The soldiers don’t need these hovels.

Also, what differs from most other RTS’ is that people (normal workers and soldiers alike) can walk on walls and towers. There must also be stairs (or a gateway) to allow people climb to the wall. Actually, for a tower to start shooting (unlike any Age of Empires) you need to station archers or crossbowmen there. There are also the options

The Stronghold Game
The Stronghold Game
of putting Ballistae or Mangonel on towers. These can fit only to the two larger towers. Cavalry units cannot go on top of walls or towers.

Units and Combat

Again, unlike many other games, Stronghold features a system that when archers or crossbowmen are engaged in close combat, they draw their daggers or shortswords and fight with them. This is quite a bit more realistic than the usual system that the archer fires you when you hit it with your sword. This might determine the outcome of the combat since usually both, archers and crossbows, do more damage when firing arrows and not in close combat. As said before, you need to create the required armour and weapons to produce every unit.

Spearman – The poor spearman is the weakest unit in the game and is killed pretty quickly. As he is such a low level guy, he needs only his spear for production. What is good with these is that they might run at your enemy with their untempered minds (after set to the ’defending/agressive behaviour’).

Archer – The archer, being as lowly armoured as the spearman, needs no other weapon besides his bow. Yet, when he encounters a target at short range, he draws his dagger and starts bravely fighting with it.

Maceman – Being one of the best cost effective units in the game and finding use by many, these fellows might just make your day. Although it is not well known that such special units existed it is a fine idea to have a man like this in. He wants only a mace and leather armour for himself.

Crossbowman – Companion of the maceman, this guy wants a leather armour and a crossbow. In close combat, he draws out his shortsword (which seems to be a little curved also) and might take an enemy or two down with it. When given time, these are very powerful. As in reality, they load slowly although fire quickly.

Pikeman – The Pikeman is again an unique chap. He seems to be pulled out from a guard of some king, so he walks and so he talks... The Pikeman are slow (yet faster than the swordsmen) but they are resistant to cavalry (although not quite as much as they should be) and also to crossbows. They carry a halberd like weapon which is called a pike in-game. These might have a little connection to the Swiss although the Swiss used mostly straight pikes.

Swordsman – Powerful units but very slow. The swordsman was usually a rare sight on the battlefield when he was drawn from the nobility. The nobility preferred to fight (mostly due to circumstances) on horse, more than on foot. The retainer man-at-arms should however been a little less armour than this medieval tank. To create these, you need to have a sword and armour.

Knight – The knight, being the strongest unit in game (due to the high speed and the strength of a swordsman), is also demanding a toll for himself. He wants a horse, iron armor and a sword. He seems just like the typical European knight you are expecting.

Monk – A slow fighter and armoured lightly. You don’t need anything to get one of such and they come from a monastry (or cathedral to be exact). Though some European friars and monks used weapons, it was quite improbable that they did so in medieval England (although the use of maces and clubs was allowed) as Poland and Germany do give us some hints that clercs took up weapons. Anyways, this is a disputed unit in my senses and might not be entirely historically accurate on the fighting part of their lives.

A new feature is that units can’t be healed (you can’t bring a priest to heal anyone) which depending from circumstances is quite realistic. The units take damage according to a health bar which is represented with a green line above a man’s head.

Sieges are represented in a way which is better than the average but yet some improvements are essential. For example, all soldiers (archers and crossbows with short range attack) can assault walls. This usually decreases the need for siege weapons. Besides the tower-mounted ballistae and mangonel, there is the catapult, trebuchet, siege ram, siege tower and portable shield. There are also ladders which are carried by Laddermen and few units can climb these (maceman and spearmen). All siege weapons (including the ballistae and mangonel) need engineers to work with them. Also, engineers can take up a pot of oil, if you have the pitch needed to do that. There is also the possibility of laying patches of pitch to the ground to set fire to them when enemy is crossing. The enemy catches fire and starts to burn. A spectacular sight to behold in reality.


While the game uses many features that were a little bit different during the Medieval times the larger part of the game and the picture you see in-game is very realistic and focuses on features not often seen in games. The ideas of having men on walls and towers are extremely well thought out and so is the concept of ranged units drawing their close-quarters weapons... also, peasants that have something you can hit the enemy with (like bows for hunters and axes for woodcutters) also do join in to stop the enemy. A good game overall.