Strategy can be a complex genre. At its zenith, you're diving in grand strategy games like Paradox' Europa Universalis IV or Crusader Kings II. Then you slide down the scale from Romance of the Three Kingdoms, to Total War, to Starcraft II, and down into Tactics titles like Advance Wars. But how simplified can a strategy game be and still be challenging?
Kingdom from Noio has one answer to that question. In Kingdom, you play a randomly-generated king or queen. You ride your horse across the lands you survey and your only other interaction with the world is to throw out gold from your money pouch. This forms the backbone of Kingdom's gameplay.
As you wander the countryside, you'll find random peasant camps. If you throw a gold piece at a random peasant, they'll become loyal to you and return to your campfire. Everything else is built and reinforced by throwing gold at different spots around your fire. Drop three gold in a designated area to build a blacksmith or bowyer. These stations will allow you to specialize your loyal peasants by creating either a hammer or bow for them to use (each one of which also costs gold). They'll pick these items up automatically, becoming craftsman or archers for the rest of their natural existence; without these items, they'll just wander around your fledging kingdom aimlessly.
Need walls? Throw some gold at it. A perch for your archers to shoot over those walls? More gold! Want your campfire to turn into a village? MORE GOLD! The thing is, your gold is limited. You only start with a certain amount in your pouch.
Why are you building all these defenses? Well, Kingdom has a day-night cycle and at night monsters will charge your settlement, destroying walls, stealing gold from your loyal peasants, and attempting to take your crown. The latter is what functionally ends the game; if you get hit once, your crown falls off. If you don't get to it before a monster does, you lose.
So each night, you survive the horde. Each morning your current settlement produces a certain amount of gold, which you then use to make your kingdom stronger and bigger. This is the core of Kingdom. Easy to understand and play, but also very easy to fail.
In my first run, I built an impressive settlement, but neglected to give all my peasants any skills, so when nightfall came there was no one to defend the kingdom. My second run was much stronger, but again I focused on building bigger, better buildings and not on actually defending them. Eventually, my queen had to run deep into the forest for cover. Her crown was finally taken from her by an imp-looking thing.
Kingdom is strategy without the extra pomp and circumstance. It gets down into the nitty-gritty with only two resources - gold and peasants - that it asks you to use wisely. Fail and you die. Succeed and you'll have a kingdom.
Kingdom is coming to PC and Mac... sometime. You can play the original Flash prototype on the developer's official site.