Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#134 – Genghis Khan

Become a world-conquering emperor from the comfort of your own home.

The title screen music is kind of good?

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Get all endings on the highest difficulty
What I Did: Reached one ending on difficulty level 2
Played: 8/15/19 – 9/21/19
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
My Video: Genghis Khan Ending

Here we are at another Koei simulation game. I have written in several places on this website that I have dreaded playing these games and have tried to delay them in various ways over the years. This is now my second Koei completion. The first Koei game I beat was Gemfire, which proved to be the ideal introduction to this style of game. There aren’t too many systems involved and combat was fun and engaging. From what I can tell it has a different feel than some of the other, deeper games. Genghis Khan is one of the earlier NES entries, but is more complex than Gemfire and probably falls in line with the bulk of the historical Koei titles. I can’t say if this game was a good next logical step for attacking these strategy titles, but it did fit the bill.

The game Genghis Khan was originally called Aoki Ookami to Shiroki Mejika: Genghis Khan for its Japanese release. It first came out on the PC-9801 in December 1987. Other versions include the Japanese MSX and X68000 ports in 1988, the North American DOS port in 1989, and the European Amiga port in 1990. The Famicom port released in April 1989. The NES version released in North America only in January 1990. This game is actually the second game of a series but is the only one to appear on the NES.

Genghis Khan is a turn-based tactical strategy game. The ultimate goal of the game is to unify all countries on the map by taking them over and ruling over them all. To that end, there are a couple of ways to get started. The Mongol Conquest mode begins in the year 1175. You play as Temujin, the young ruler who eventually becomes Genghis Khan. This is a single player mode only where you unify Mongolia by controlling 14 tribes. Completing that mode puts you into World Conquest mode, or you can start from World Conquest directly. That mode begins in the year 1206. This mode is multiplayer and you can play up to four players taking alternating turns. Starting off on this mode, you can choose from one of four rulers: Genghis Khan of the Mongols, Richard I of England, Alexicus III of the Byzantine Empire, or Yoritomo of Japan. You win the game if you unify the world with any of these leaders.

Sorry all my screenshots are from the end of the game.

Normally, I would defer a lot of the explanation of a game to something I already wrote about if it makes sense. Direct sequels are the best case of this, but Koei games seem like a good fit. Comparing my two experiences of Gemfire and Genghis Khan, I think the two games are different enough to warrant separate explanations. That means this is going to get very detailed and lengthy. I need to say a lot to do this game proper justice. If you like long posts and reviews, you will probably like this one. I just want to be upfront so you know what you are getting into!

First things first, you need to get a leader. Your leader has six abilities statistics: Leadership, Judgment, Planning, Charm, Body, and Battle. You can have points distributed randomly by the game or choose them yourself. You also need to set the stats of your four princes. I just took what the game gave me, but some people opt to keep rerolling random stats until they get strong ones. Once all people are set, then you can pick the skill level from 1 to 5, 1 being Easy and 5 being Hard. While I’m all about beating games on the hardest difficulty, I’m not interested in that on these titles. I went with Level 2 since I have a little Koei experience by beating Gemfire.

This game follows a standard Koei flow. You see a map of the world along with each country numbered. Each territory gets one turn per season, the order of which is randomly generated. Computer players take their turns automatically and you can see some events of theirs such as declaring war. Your leader starts off at his home base and when his turn comes up you get three moves per turn. For other territories under your rule, you can assign a prince to rule them automatically, or you can rule them directly from afar but then you get only get one move from a limited subset of moves.

There are events that regularly or randomly occur each season, taking place before countries take their individual turns. Many things happen every Spring. Taxes are collected, the troops are paid, food is distributed, and everyone ages a year. Sometimes children are born. At the start of Fall, both food and specialty items are collected as taxes. Various natural disasters can occur year-round, damaging affected countries. Sometime a prince may rebel, either attacking his home country, or making his country independent. If that happens to one of your princes, you either deal with the attack or lose that territory.

Natural disasters affect certain regions at random.

The main display has a ton of information to show and moves to choose from. At the top of the screen, you see the year, season, country number, name, and ruler’s name. The left-hand side contains all of main orders you can issue. Many orders here link to sub menus where you can choose your specific action. The lower-left corner shows how many orders you have left this turn as well as the current market rate for trading, and also which player is in control in a multiplayer game. The center column contains a picture of the ruler, if it is the home base or a territory under direct control, and a picture of that country’s specialty item. The right side contains a bunch of other statistics for the country. You see the amount of gold and food available, as well as the number of troops. The next section is for this country’s skilled workers. These are townspeople, masons, food producers, and artisans who produce the country’s specialty item. Other country-specific stats at the bottom of the list are morale, economy, defense, arms, and skill. Finally, a descriptive text box rounds out this screen.

Many different events and outcomes are influenced by the country’s statistics. Low morale may cause an uprising in the country or theft of the food supply. The economy stat helps determine how much money is collected during tax time every spring. The defense stat shows the strength of the country’s castle, which is helpful during battle scenes. The higher the arms stat is, the more damage weapons such as arrows from archers do in battle. The skill level of your troops determines how much damage they will deal in a battle. These stats fluctuate all the time in this game due to planned or unplanned events.

Utilizing your commands properly depends on the leader’s individual ability statistics. To issue many commands, you have to spend some of those points in one or many categories, while the success of some actions depend on how many total points in a stat you have at the time. For instance, going to War decreases multiple stats including your leader’s Battle stat, but a higher Battle stat means you will perform better during the war. While some of the ties between commands and leader abilities are obvious, many are not, and you need the manual at your side or some kind of lookup chart to see the cost and effect of every move.

Now let’s look at each command individually, starting with the Tax command. This command lets you set the tax rate as a percentage. You can also collect a special extra tax optionally once per year that is best taken sparingly.

Set up your army in any configuration you like.

The Assign command allows you to update your mix of people in either the labor force or your army. As mentioned above, there are five types of skilled laborers: townspeople, masons, food producers, artisans, and troops. You can set how many of each laborer you want. This is a useful command for increasing your troops before war time or building up various aspects of your country. You may also decide the distribution of your army. You can have up to 10 units on the battlefield. You select one of the unit slots, choose the unit type from either cavalry, infantry, or archers, and set the percentage of troops assigned to that unit. You can configure the entire army in a single move.

The Give command is a simple command that lets you give some of your country’s assets back to the people. You decide from either gold, food, or the specialty item and how many units you want to give. This command is strictly for increasing morale.

The Train command allows you to train your troops, one of your princes, yourself, or your people. Training the troops increases your country’s skill stat. You can increase one of the abilities of one of your princes in your command. You can also increase one of your own stats, either Leadership, Judgment, Planning, Charm, Body, or Battle. This was one of my most used commands because it doesn’t cost any stat points to raise a stat. Training the people lets you prepare people to be drafted later into the army.

The Trade command lets you buy items, sell items, or hire troops. The way this works is there are three merchants, China, Islam, and Uighur, that run different trade routes throughout the year. First select a merchant to see if they are available for trading. When choosing to buy or sell, you see a list of all the possible specialty items plus food. Weapons appear only on the buy list. A price appears next to the item if it is available. You can choose an item, then select quantity to spend your gold. You can browse the buying and selling options for free without using a turn, but any single transaction counts as a move. You can also select to hire troops to add to your army. All of the prices fluctuate depending on the seller and the overall market rate. Buy low, sell high!

Many turns were spent updating my leader’s stats.

The People command has a ton of options. You can change the leadership of a territory abroad, either by moving princes around, assigning a new prince, or taking direct control. You may choose an outstanding man from your army and promote him to a prince or demote a prince back to a common soldier. You can promote one of your sons to a prince once he reaches a certain age, or you can marry one of your daughters to a prince to gain his loyalty. Princes may betray you at any time unless they are related to you. You can also use this command to draft people into the army.

The View command has many options to view statistics. You can view your own countries without costing a move, but viewing other countries costs a move and requires that you have already sent a spy there. You may look at country data or ruler data. You can pull up a list of every country you have a treaty with and how long the treaty lasts. You can also see your list of available princes, children, and stock of specialty items.

The Move command lets you move different things around between adjacent countries you control. You can move your home base to another country. (A little tip here: If you do this with moves remaining, you will lose them, so always do this on the third move of your turn.) You also have the options to move gold, food, items, troops, or skilled laborers between territories.

The Policy command is a highly detailed command that lets you set many different settings for one of your princes ruling a country abroad, all in one move. You can set internal policies like setting the tax rate, assigning the labor and army, and how to treat your army and citizens. You also get to choose external policies, such as allowing declaration of war, negotiations with foreign countries, and whether or not to send supplies to neighbors. If you don’t set policy, princes will make their own decisions.

The Treaty command lets you make a deal with an adjacent enemy territory. This is where you can ask for and set alliances for five years with neighboring countries. You can also try and strong arm one of your enemy neighbors into paying you in gold, food, and items. Foreign countries are usually resistant unless you are much stronger than them. Also, if an enemy asks this of you and refuse, they may decide to go to war with you immediately.

Sending spies to do damage usually doesn’t work.

The Spy command lets you pay some gold to send a spy to a foreign country. You can send a spy to report on a foreign country so that you can view that country’s and ruler’s data. A spy can be sent to damage an enemy’s castle and town or even the ruler himself. This command also lets you search your own country for a spy and eliminate him if found.

The remaining commands are War, Pass, and Other. War lets you declare war against another country. You decide how many troops to send, though you need enough gold to pay them and food to sustain them during the fight. You can fight as your main leader and act the battle yourself, or you can send a prince to battle automatically and you just view results. The Pass command lets you end your turn early, forfeiting any moves remaining. The Other command lets you tweak various game settings, such as setting the text speed, toggling music, sounds, and animations, stuff like that. You can save your progress here to the battery backup, as well as end your game if you are done this session.

The battle screen is a major part of this game. Starting off a battle shows a quick summary of both sides in the combat before moving to the battlefield. Each battlefield consists of a map of squares staggered to resemble a hex map, and each country has its own battle map. There is one town square and one castle square on each map. All other squares are assigned a terrain which influences how you move through that space. There are entry and exit points along the edge tiles of the battlefield labeled by a number. The number indicates which numbered country uses those squares to enter or leave the battlefield. The attacking army first places each unit in one of his numbered entry squares, then the defending side places each unit on any other square in the field. Unit squares display the type of unit, either cavalry, infantry, or archer, the unit number, the number of soldiers represented in groups of 10, and a color, either red for the attacking side or blue for the defending side. The unit number of your leader is either 0 if it is your main ruler or an asterisk if it is a prince. Now the battle can begin, attacking side first.

Since you can only attack enemies in adjacent squares, you will use the Move command to get in position. Each unit has a mobility counter that reduces some for every square you move during your turn. The more difficult the terrain, the more mobility required to move there and the more men you will lose in crossing that space. The Move command can also be used to divide a unit into multiple units or combine units. You may decide how many soldiers to split off and then move that portion to an adjacent square as its own unit. Simply moving one unit onto another unit of the same type combines those units into one.

Place your units on the entry points when you start a war.

Use the Attack command to fight another unit. This is where the unit types come into play. Normal attacks by any unit engage an enemy on an adjacent square and cause losses on both sides. Archers can attack with arrows on a unit one square away in any direction. Infantry units can set up an ambush. The unit will go into hiding in a nearby square and become invisible. When an enemy moves onto a square next to the hidden infantry unit, it immediately reveals itself and attacks at higher than normal damage rates. You can also set up a duel against rival leader units, if the other side accepts. The winning ruler of a duel may take the loser captive, ending the battle immediately, or take a portion of the losing troops over to the winning side.

Miscellaneous battle actions are done from the Other command. You can demand the enemy commander to surrender. You can move your leader to one of the exit squares and request reinforcements from a neighboring country you control. The attacking side’s main unit can raid the defending town for food, or any unit can hunt for food in one of the forest tiles.

These are the remaining battle commands. You can Pass a turn for any unit, which increases its mobility by one for the next turn. You can Flee to a neighboring country you control through the exit squares. You can use the View command to see how many units are in each army, the leader data for both leaders, and other detailed stats for each army. The Recon command lets you view the battlefield, either letting you scroll around the map or sending you to a different screen displaying the entire battlefield.

If you win the battle, you take control of the affected country and must make several choices after. First you decide who rules this country, either one of your princes, the defeated ruler, or yourself under direct control. Then you decide the fate of the enemy ruler. You can kill him, set him free, or make him one of your princes. You may also see one of the outstanding men from the enemy’s side and you can choose if you want to recruit him as a prince or not. The enemy gets to decide your fate if you lose a war. If you fight as the main leader and you are killed, you can choose one of your sons to rule in your place. If there are no sons of age to do this, then the game is over. (Fortunately, this doesn’t erase your save or anything.)

I always executed captured leaders, except for this last one.

As with all Koei titles, this was my first time both playing and beating Genghis Khan. The Koei games tend to be more uncommon and therefore more expensive, however Genghis Khan is one of the more affordable entries in the series. Loose carts go for around $10. I once picked up a lot on eBay of a few of the cheaper Koei titles complete in box which included Genghis Khan. I have both the thick instruction manual and the special map/poster combo that came with this game only.

These are tough games for me to get into and I struggled quite a lot early on. The proper method for starting something like this is to jump in and try different things without being afraid to fail. Get a feel for the game first. That way you can see what things work and what don’t so that you can develop a game plan. Then you start the game over and go at with your game plan. The problem with that is that you might get a few hours in that first time and then you have to burn all that progress down when starting over. Therefore, even though I know how I should attack this game, I keep pushing forward on my initial save file because I have a fear of wasting all that time. That fear has decided that continuing a game in a less favorable position is better than starting over from more of a neutral position. The next Koei game I play I am making sure to try going about it in the proper way I described, even if it goes against my own impulses.

My first major hurdle in the game was expanding my empire by just one country. I learned battle well enough to win a country, but then both of my territories were vulnerable to further attack. The enemies knew this and took advantage right away, leaving me in a much worse state than I was before. I know I failed in taking advantage of treaties, but I also didn’t build myself up enough to have enough manpower to manage two territories. I went about bulking up my forces through an economic game plan. I kept enough troops available to discourage war and funneled most of my leftover laborers toward making both food and specialty items. Selling specialty items is a given, but selling excess food was a surprise money maker. My wealth went into hiring more troops, which could then be converted into more food and item producers, completing a nice circle of economic growth. Now I could start my conquest, pulling in more countries under my rule. My Gemfire strategy of isolating territories from enemies and then funneling their resources toward countries on the front lines was in full effect.

From here I started cruising to victory. I had the eastern part of the map conquered and had a prince in charge of each territory. I learned the most efficient way to battle was to put all my troops into one cavalry unit and to weaken the enemy enough to win in a duel. (I figured out the single cavalry unit strategy on my own, and found a tip online suggesting that focusing on the leader’s body and battle stats have a positive effect on winning duels.) I really thought I had the game all figured out but then the game presented a new challenge.

Enemies annoyingly scatter once they are done for.

The latter part of the game turned into making total game plan adjustments that I never really figured out the best way to handle. What happened was I started losing far away territories to uprisings. I had several of them happen within a year or two in-game time. There weren’t enough loyal princes to have a family member in charge of everything. What I maybe could have done was go all in on save scumming and just reset any time this happened, which was a strategy I was already using partially. With so many countries to take over, how could I be sure I could get through any season without at least one revolt happening?

The strategy I ultimately went with was to go back and re-take the countries I lost and place them all under my direct control. That way I could be sure a leader wouldn’t revolt. While an effective strategy, having to make a choice on every territory each turn meant it took forever to make progress on the overall map. Each turn took several minutes of menuing. It was awful, but it got the job done. The plan I really thought would work better was to drain an isolated country of resources, leaving just enough to sustain the people, then put a prince in charge with policy not to grow troops. If they do revolt, they would be weak and easy to reclaim. I attempted that early on but I couldn’t figure out if it was actually helping. I never got the right laborer mix that avoided morale or economic problems in those distant territories.

I spent a lot of time finishing this game, both in real time and game time. I didn’t keep track of my hours, but I suspect I spent around 25-30 hours beating the game over the course of five weeks. I played a lot the first week or so and then chipped away a little bit at a time until I got it done. As far as in-game time is concerned, I needed 60 years to unite the world under Tegighiz in 1266. In my timeline, Genghis Khan died in 1241 and his son Tegighiz assumed the leader role up to the game’s completion. We are making our own history here, which really is the point of a Koei game when you think about it.

I experienced a couple personal milestones while playing Genghis Khan. My wife and I had a baby of our own during this playthrough. I was off work a lot, but with two kids including a newborn that needed to be fed and changed multiple times during the night, I was very busy all the time. I sacrificed a lot of sleep that I probably shouldn’t have just to have 30 minutes here or an hour there playing Genghis Khan. The other big piece of news is that with this completion I have now finished over 20% of the licensed NES library! It works out that every 67 games completed is just over a new tenth of the library finished. I have a long way to go, but 20% complete with a diverse mix of games finished is no small feat. Expect 30% completion a couple of years from now!

Genghis Khan is a complicated NES strategy game that has a lot of offer if you are into this type of game. The graphics work well for this kind of game. The character portraits are varied and there are some decent animations for some actions. I ended up turning them off only to save time. The music is pretty good overall, though it ended up being an annoyance. Regions of the map have their own theme music, but the music changes all the time if you have multiple provinces under direct control all over the map. The controls for entering in numerical inputs can be a little bit slippery and you pass digits you want, but everything else works well enough. This seems to be another game that only caters to a specific audience. I am no expert on whether or not this is a good Koei game, but from my perspective, I had some fun with it and I think it is a solid title.

#134 – Genghis Khan

Posted In: Finished

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