Strategy Guide Review, part I

Prima's Pharaoh Strategy Guide By Angel Reckless Rodent

Strategy guides are a strange monster - some people swear by them, and other people reckon that they're just a means of getting yet more money out of customers who have already paid for the game in question. First off, let me admit that I'm not a huge fan of strategy guides in general - I didn't buy the C3 one, partly because of negative things people had said about it in the Caesar III Heaven forum. However, I'll be as objective as possible when reviewing the Pharaoh one.

First off, some general information. The book is published by Prima Communications, Inc., who were also responsible for the Caesar III strat guide. You can see what they have to say about their own book here. The chapters are as follows:

Part I: History, People and Structures

  • Chapter 1: Ancient Echoes
  • Chapter 2: Egyptian Terrain
  • Chapter 3: Divine Intervention
  • Chapter 4: The Citizens of Pharaoh
  • Chapter 5: Structures
  • Chapter 6: The Overseers
  • Chapter 7: A Balanced Kingdom

Part II: Missions

  • Chapter 8: Predynastic Period
  • Chapter 9: Archaic Period
  • Chapter 10: Old Kingdom
  • Chapter 11: Middle Kingdom
  • Chapter 12: New Kingdom

Let me deal now with each of these chapters, and how useful I think they will be:

Chapter 1: Ancient Echoes

This is basically a short synopsis of Egyptian history during the period covered by the game, and how it relates to the tasks that will face you in Pharaoh. 15 pages long, it's all pretty basic stuff, and doesn't really convey much information. If you're interested in the chronology of ancient Egypt, then you'd do much better with a book like Chronicle of the Pharaohs, by Peter A. Clayton.

Chapter 2: Egyptian Terrain

As the title suggests, this is a run-through of the different terrain types you'll encounter in Pharaoh - meadows, floodplains, forests, marshland, sand dunes and water. This section's only 5 pages long, and doesn't convey any information you couldn't find in the manual.

Chapter 3: Divine Intervention

The gods section, and for me a disappointment. It's basically a re-hash of the manual's description of the Large temples. One thing I had expected to see was a list of the benefits and wrath effects the gods can put into effect, and perhaps an explanation of the blue ankhs and lightning bolts (such as how their number relates to the type of blessing you get), but there was nothing like that as all. 6 pages long, and no new information. Not impressive.

Chapter 4: The Citizens of Pharaoh

Another case of manual re-hashing, I'm afraid. 4 pages long (1 of which is entirely taken up by a pointless picture), you'd do better to read the manual that came with the game.

Chapter 5: Structures

Finally! A section that's a decent length! 40 pages long, this is an enhanced version of the manual descriptions. The main bonuses in this section are a list of all available housing, and what they need in order to evolve (information which you can also get on Grumpus the Elder's excellent site, Which Way To Thebes?), and also a section which gives information about the monuments, including materials needed, and the size of the footprint.

That said, this section has to go down as a disappointment as well. No information is given about production rates (you can find that on Grumpus's site too), and the monument table doesn't really tell you anything you couldn't find out by playing the game.

Chapter 6: The Overseers

13 pages long, and I'm afraid it's yet another fleshed out version of the manual. There are also some general tips on how to trade successfully, or how to keep your city healthy, but that information is also available in the manual. About the only bit of information in here that's not in the manual is the idea that a patron god should have a temple for every 325 people in your city (however, that information is also available of the web...).

Chapter 7: A Balanced Kingdom

Ooh! A good section! This one may only be 15 pages long, but it's packed with some useful information which might be of use to you. There are some useful tables in here, for example showing the risk of plague (40% if you've got a physician and 1 type of food), one showing minimum inventory levels for food, pottery, beer, linen and papyrus at different population levels. There's also a table showing all the military units, along with the relevant numbers (hit points, rate of fire, attack points etc).

Well, that concludes the review of part 1, and it's not looking positive. All bar 1 of the chapters are basically fleshed-out versions of what you can find in the manual. Still, there's still hope - perhaps part II will be better.

Forward to part II