Medieval, Total War
"Medieval, Total War" is the latest drain on my time. The PC game is fantastic. A quick rundown: take control of a medieval faction and try to conquer the whole of Europe. Gameplay is like a cross between Risk and Sim City for the strategic Europe-wide map part, and then you get to control your army on the battlefield. Note that as a general you don't get to control the fight, only order the units. And they may not do what you expect them to...
The depth of the game is huge. As the Italians I was a Catholic faction, until I made the mistake of invading Hungary (more Catholics) and, after ignoring the Pope's warnings, was excommunicated. England then cancelled their alliance because it conflicted with their alliance with Hungary, and Germany declared a crusade. So, I invaded Rome and put a puppet Pope in place and the excommunication was cancelled. A few years later the old Pope led a bit of a rebellion and I had a fight on my hand. At the same time the French decided to join and I'm in the midst of a full-on war with them, but at least I managed to marry a princess to the King of England and have a good alliance with them at least. (The English can always be counted on to do a bit of French-bashing ;-)). And that's just a summary of a few evenings of play. Now that "Rome, Total War" has come out you can pick up "Medieval, Total War" for about half the price of a new game and with the "Viking" extension pack. I haven't even had time to open the box to see what that is yet.
The battlefield is excellent fun, too. I bought the game as I enjoyed the battles in "Shogun, Total War". Controlling armies is quite tricky to start with, thought there are some basic tutorials. Getting to grips with the subtleties of troops takes a bit longer: peasants will turn tail and run at the first sign of anything, spearmen are good against cavalry, cavalry are best used to charge and then pull out etc. Taking a view of the landscape and placing your troops in the best positions also takes some thinking.
All in all: I'm finding this game absolutely fantastic.