Coming Attractions: Strategy and Simulation

Part 1: Real-time highlights of 2008.

Last week, you may recall, we put on our robe and wizard hat for a look at this year's most promising RPGs. We've done shooters, racers, action adventure and sports games too, if you missed any of those.

Which leaves strategy and simulation. Well, that and all the stuff like Wii Fit and Face Training and Buzz! PS3, but we still haven't thought up a name to group them under yet (any suggestions other than "Women's things" and "Ellie's review schedule 2008" are welcome).

So strat and sims it is, for now. From Harvest Moon to Halo Wars, Spore to Civ Revolution, there's a lot of it about. Here's part one of our guide to the best bits.

Football Manager Live

As Kristan put it in his preview, Football Manager Live is "a fantasy football MMO with an eBay-style auctioning system" which "nicks the best bits of the parent game we all know and love". All those of us who give a monkey's nut about football of course. Which is quite a lot of the population on balance. Anyway.

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No idea.

FML lets you build a club from the ground up, choosing everything from its name and colours to pitch size. Then you can go online to compete against other players, building up your squad via the auction-style transfer system. Games take place in real-time and you can keep an eye on the action thanks to the 2D match engine.

"With Football Manager Live, we're ripping up the script that says how online football management games should work," says Oliver Collyer, co-founder of Sports Interactive and the brains behind the game. "We're creating something that is fun, challenging and sociable."

Football Manager Live is due out on PC this spring. In the meantime, the Xbox 360 version of Football Manager 2008 will hit the shops on 28th March.

Subblime: [Ellie informs me that was a "Subbuteo" joke. -Ed] Remember when this was all just fields? We made do with a bit of green cloth and poorly moulded pieces of plastic, never mind transfer systems and 2D match engines and other players.

Advance Wars: Dark Conflict

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There'll be brown skies over, the white cliffs of Dover...

Not so much a 'coming attraction', more a 'now available in shops', but Advance Wars: Dark Conflict will likely be looked back on as a highlight of 2008 by DS owners. The ones likely to be reading this website, obviously, not the ones who just got it for Brain Training and now wish someone would bring out another Sudoku collection.

This instalment sees the series "going dark". Bye-bye bold reds and lush greens, hello boring browns and more greys than a 1989 Christopher Walken film. Saionara tag-team CO powers, multiple fronts, black bombs and stealth fighters; say Ihola! to Command Maps, motorbike gangs and Wi-Fi Connection battles. You can also create your own maps and share them with friends.

"All of which adds up to an Advance Wars game that we had just as much, if not more fun playing than ever," says Tom, "But one that proves a bit too grimy and unfriendly for our bright and bouncy taste." Still, "The gameplay has lost very little of its charm, and the result is one of the first really good new DS games of 2008." Not forgetting Majesco's Mega Brain Boost, of course.

Risky business: See Dark Conflict in action over on Eurogamer TV. M0t0rb1k3s and all.

Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution

Coming to DS, PS3 and Xbox 360 this spring is a brand new version of the game that made Iain Banks miss the deadline for his latest novel. Perhaps the team developing the Wii version have fallen into the same trap, as it's just been put on indefinite hold.

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No relation to Shaka Khan.

Civilization Revolution will see you leading a society from cave-dwelling to spaceship-building once again, doing lots of diplomacy and research and war along the way. We're promised real-time interaction with leaders and advisors, extensive multiplayer options and integrated video and voice chat.

Timelines have been streamlined to allow for quicker games and fast-paced combat. You can battle head-to-head online, join a team or take part in a free-for-all. Leaderboards, ranked games and downloadable content are also in the works.

Sid Meier himself is leaving the Pirates! and Railroads! series to one side for a bit to work on the game! "Civilization Revolution is the game I've always wanted to make!" he said!

"We are excited to take advantage of the power of next-generation consoles and the ingenuity of handhelds to create a great and unique strategy game for newcomers to the series, as well as the millions of fans around the world who enjoy Civilization on the PC." !

The Road to Garbadale: Is the name of that book Iain Banks delivered late. It is quite good. It follows the adventures of a scruffy but handsome, clever and witty left-wing slacker who hails from Scotland and has a beard. In other words he panicked when the deadline was up and copied off all his other books. And the mirror.

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