Each Hyborian War game represents in essence an "alternate history" of the Hyborian Age. In each game the history of the world will be different--the events which make up history will be decided by the actions of the players. As the game begins, Conan the Barbarian is but a youth. As the game progresses, the legend of the warrior grows. The conditions of the Hyborian Age as described by author Robert E. Howard in his Conan novels have been re- created in exacting detail to provide the stage setting from which play begins. The overall design of the game adheres closely to the world created by Robert E. Howard and and other authors. (Players unfamilar with the Conan novels are encouraged to read them for valuable insight into the game as well as sheer enjoyment. Even players conversant with the Hyborian World might well wish to bone up before battle begins--you can't know too much about Conan and his adventures.)
Conan exists in Hyborian War as a wandering hero unmatched in strength and power. He is certainly not one to be trifled with. Many times Conan will travel through one kingdom or another, keeping an eye out for an adventure worthy of his vast abilities. If he shows up at your court, thank the gods and assign him to a task you might give to any other of your characters. Accordingly, expect great things--but remember that Conan is no tame courtier. He never remains in one small portion of the Hyborian world or in the service of a single king for very long. As each alternate history of the Hyborian world is "written" during play, you may see other characters from various Conan novels appear. Which of them will cross your path (they may even be your own characters) depends upon the circumstances created by each history. Hyborian War is played in turns run approximately every 16 days. You will have one week in which to plot your strategies. There are two types of turns: peace years and war seasons. Approximately one turn in seven is a peace years turn. Such turns represent a span of time between 2 and 30 game years (average 22) where a state of relative peace exists in the Hyborian world. Peace years are a time of economic recovery during which major battles are virtually nonexistent, although raiding can and does occur. Diplomacy and political intrigue play an important role during these periods as the various kingdoms lay plans for future conquests.
Most turns in the game will be war season turns -- roughly 6 of every 7. However, the number of war seasons between peace years is variable. A single war season represents a 3-month season in Hyboria (e.g. winter, spring, summer, or fall). Activity is virtually unlimited. Major invasions, raids, intrigue, diplomacy and all but a few arcane magic spells will come into full play during a war season.
Whether you're in peace years or a war season, each turn will follow the same format. Your setup package contains your first Kingdom Report, sent to you by way of your councillors, the Chancellor and Adjutant-General. The Chancellor is responsible for informing you of the state of your kingdom at large; the Adjutant-General's duties are to relay information on the condition and progress of your military affairs. Using the Game Rules, Kingdom Report and a good dose of imperial imagination, you will fill out a command sheet, issuing your first commands and declarations. After each turn is run, you will receive an updated Kingdom Report detailing the results of your actions and the current status of your kingdom. Use this intelligence to make further decisions. It is a good idea to keep these reports with your rulebook, as you should refer often to the Rules and the original Kingdom Report as the game progresses.
The Kingdom Report contains the initial report from your Chancellor. It summarizes the history of your kingdom to the present and explains your imperial goals; provides you with troop descriptions and divulges the status of your armies; describes the characters in your kingdom (key individuals of extraordinary skill and talent); evaluates the provinces under your control, your current political and economic standings; emphasizes the unique victory conditions for your kingdom, and passes on a few hints concerning development of your own strategy.
The role of the player in the game is that of an "immortal power behind the
scenes." The player is a personality which alternately inhabits various
members of a ruling dynasty--those who wield the true power of Hyboria over
the passage of centuries. Monarchs may live and die. Thou, however, art
ageless and eternal, a spirit of war, determined to mix thy passions with
those of the age until the cup of glory hath been drunk to the lees.
In summary, Hyborian War allows you a wide range of specific commands and
declarations. RSI's staff and computer systems act as your ministers and
accountants, keeping track of facts and figures for you, allowing you to
execute complex missions with simple commands. (You will wage war without
being responsible for counting arrows.) Use the best of your common sense and
intuition, learn from your experiences, and guard your back always!