KING'S BOUNTY / New World Computing / PC
King's Bounty is an early iteration of what would eventually become the Heroes of Might and Magic series, and you can see a lot of concepts from those games in their earliest forms here. Instead of picking amongst factions to duke it out over a variety of maps, however, this one takes place in one big contiguous world, and each game sees you working for Good King Wencheslas (IIRC) trying to round up seventeen escaped scamps and rapscallions who hold the pieces of a map that leads to a treasure needed to keep the barbarian Berzerky McKillgore (IIRC) from taking over the world.
Though the geography stays the same in every game, placement of treasure and monsters is randomized between new games. At the outset, you choose a difficulty level, which simply seems to affect the overall time limit - you only have several hundred days before King Wencheslas kicks the bucket due to Burstitis or something, at which time the game ends. You also choose a character - knight, paladin, sorceress or barbarian - all of whom have different ratings in attack, defense, magic and leadership.
The game is a bit more RPG-like than the Heroes games in that you only have one main unit that moves about, and you just have to keep pumping them up while you track down the various badniks and their map pieces. You are able to take over abandoned castles you find, usually after clearing out a complement of squatting monsters, and can garrison extra troops in there, but it seems to just serve as surplus unit storage - they don't ever seem to get attacked. You also don't build castles up the way you do in the Heroes games, you simply buy whatever troops and spells they might happen to already offer if you have the cash. Thus, there's no need for resources - treasure you find comes only in the form of gold, which you can choose to redistribute to "the people" to increase your Leadership stat. As with the Heroes games, different troop types don't always like working with each other - humans tend to not care for non-humans, and nobody wants to hang out with zombies or skeletons - so Leadership is important to help increase unit cohesion (thus raising everyone's stats) and also allows you to carry a greater number of troops about.
Heroes players coming back to this one for the first time may find it a bit of a rude surprise that there's no nice GUI with mouse interface and mouse-over descriptions of everything. Once you get over the late '80s PC culture shock, however, you'll find that the game interface is actually laid out pretty well. From the map screen, pressing O (for Options) gives you a complete list of everything you can do in the game, and commands tend to just be the first letter of what you are trying to do anyway (S in battle to make an archer shoot, etc.). The graphics are almost as basic as it gets, however, and the only music seems to be a PC internal speaker bloopfest when you win a battle.
The game ultimately taps into the same sort of fun reward and growth system that the later Heroes games did - explore and make the best of random resource finds and available units, try to cleverly use tactics and spells to help a inferior force defeat a superior one, etc. The presentation is pretty primitive and only having a "snap save" feature (if you save, you have to quit the game) may irk some modern gamers, but if you aren't put off by a little old-schoolness, it really isn't too bad here - the game is considerately designed for the most part. A very solid strategy/RPG.
* Gameplay Video