I am admittedly not a big fan of RTS games, but I thought I’d give Grepolis a look.  It is a browser-based, real-time-strategy game that does not require either downloading software or a huge amount of bandwidth.  The thing that attracted me to the game was theme.  I’ve been getting tired of both fantasy (i.e. World of Warcraft) and science fiction (Star Wars) based virtual worlds, so ancient history seemed like a good alternative.  One of my interests in college had been, believe it or not, ancient Greek, and so I was curious how a free-to-play entertainment game would envision the world of Homer.

As history goes, it is on par with the videogame Age of Mythology and definitely behind the Civilization series.  Students might pick up a few words here and there, but this war game will not teach them anything about how Greeks lived, thought, or fought.  Like other online RTS games, it does reinforce a few key understandings:  resources are scarce and need to be developed and controlled, there is a hierarchy to technology development (although Civ does this better), distance = time when trading or fighting, and you need to cultivate strong alliances to survive for long.  In this regard, it is similar to many of the browser-based war games, like the previously reviewed Travian.

Unlike some of the games I’ve tried in this online genre, however, the decisions seem to be more complex, and a player can end up at dead-ends in which a city can not advance but only can hope to support other cities in their progress.  Since you can have as many cities as you can manage to conquer, this is more of a learning moment than a fun-killer, and advanced players attempt to provide manuals on the wiki to help you avoid that.

Parents should know that, like most RTS games, there is no blood and gore.  The player is in “god-mode” and directs moves like a chess player.  Battles are very tame reports given about losses and gains at the end of a conflict.  The real problem for many young people will come in frustration at the length of time required to achieve anything of substance in the game.  And also the fact that the game does not go away when you do.  I came back to my city after a few days off on a trip to find my civilization under full scale attack by a hostile neighbor.

Ambitious teachers could use the game to make young people calculate the optimal number of attackers to put in a ship (a limited number but since each type of soldier has different strengths, this is important to the success of an engagement).  But, given the amount of time required between moves, this may not be a useful class activity.  More of an engagement strategy for a particularly resistant or disaffected student.

Me, I’ve set myself a goal to simply survive.  I’ve been playing for 6 months so far, trying to use diplomacy and strong walls to avoid being finally defeated.  We’ll see how long that can last as the population of my area expands.