Empires of the Middle Ages
Each player in EOMA controls an empire composed of areas, each of which is rated for wealth, religion, language and population. The talents of each empire's current ruler are represented by numerical ratings for warfare, administration, and diplomacy. The object of the game is essentially to grow an empire in terms of wealth, geography and stability.
Empires of the Middle Ages was designed by James Dunnigan, a prolific game designer and writer. However, often a Dunnigan design would consist of no more than a four-page outline on a legal pad and a developer would then take over, doing the lion's share of the work and completing the project. In this case, this was done by Anthony F. Buccini who also received a designer's credit. A third design credit went to Redmond A. Simonsen, who was responsible for all the graphical features of the game and likely played a significant role in development as well.
The game is played in turns representing five years, and each player may attempt one endeavor for each year. Endeavors may be diplomatic, economic (such as taxation) or military in nature. Central to the game are two decks of cards, Event and Year cards. Event cards create random events such as plague, famine or schism, while Year cards are used to resolve endeavors. A key element is the ever-present possibility of civil unrest and other military and political threats.
The full campaign game begins in the year 770 (the accession of Charlemagne) and continues to about 1475. Smaller scenarios begin with the historical situation in a particular year and cover a century or two.
At the time of release, the game was unusual in that it did not use army counters to represent military assets in the game. Instead, military action was carried out as an endeavor, with success depending mainly on the military skill of the ruler and the relative strengths of the target area and the area from which the attack was launched.
The game quickly achieved cult status after it went out of print when SPI folded and was bought by TSR. A DOS computer version of the board game was released around 1990 under the name Rise of the West. TSR and its subsequent owners have sold the rights to a number of games to other publishers; Decision Games bought the rights to Empires of the Middle Ages, and updated and re-released the game in 2004. Decision Games reprinted the game in 2014.
The game was evidently popular enough for SPI to release a follow-on game called The Sword and the Stars that employed a modified version of the same systems, setting the theme in an outer space future.