What do you get when you put Global Warming, Peak Oil, Nuclear War and good old-fashioned oligarchy in a blender? You get Fallout meets Elite ...in a browser!
Caravaneer is a game by Dmitry Zheltobriukhov that has you playing a caravan leader in a post-apocalyptic desert, trading goods from town to town while fending off hungry raiders. It's got turn-based tactical fighting, strategic economic decision-making, and a political storyline! Tactics, economics and politics!
The interface here is a bit complicated, but it's all based on the mouse. An overworld map allows you to click in the direction you want your caravan to go. Travel carries a risk of you being attacked and takes time, which drains water, food and forage (food for your animals). The game starts you off right near the pocito town of Poca Cosa, where the sheriff gives you an inheritance of some money, an animal and a weapon. In town, you can spend that money buying supplies like water containers, first aid kids and ammo, buying goods like leather or medicine, buying different animals like mules, camels and horses, getting carts for your animals, there is a bonanza of options. You can also hire people to follow you on tour, starting with a few ragged bodyguards equipped with rifles and pistols, but eventually building the equivalent of an army regimen, replete with grenades, bazookas and high-end machine guns. There are several tabs at the bottom of the screen that allow you to manage your caravan, check out the news or the economic stats of the town you're in, and of course save and load, which you've going to be doing a lot of. It takes trial and error to really master the complexities of weight versus speed, accuracy versus damage, action points over intelligence and all the rest, but the process of learning is so rich that it's fun to lose.
Analysis: This is the game you link-drop when someone tells you Flash games will never do anything deep. Caravaneer is a full-bodied experience that recalls classics of the 80's—like Wasteland or Elite—and reincarnates them in the era of the Web. Tactical combat can be a bit of a grind sometimes, which is why I recommend running with a single player-character with 10 agility and a horse until you get a car, and avoiding most battles. There is something of a dominant strategy in the combat, where you can just get a lot of people with a decent amount of action points, give them body armor and grenades, and have at it. You're able to do that because of the economic game; you can make a killing running commodity goods and then later, oil and fuel. What is interesting is that towns will stop producing a certain commodity, such as clothes, without the dependent commodity of textiles, and prices will fluctuate based on the supply/demand of availability. The storyline involves seeding out institutional corruption in the government. The way you're able to do that is by subverting the economic levers that very institution uses to keep itself in power, and then turning those funds against it. There is a subtle, interesting message in that.
Strap up your boots and hit the road, you're in for a brutal, but rewarding journey. Play Caravaneer.
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