Gemfire is a fantasy, turn-based, conquest/strategy war game developed and published by Koei for the NES/Famicom and first released in 1991. It is known as Royal Blood in its native Japan and was called Gemfire for its North American English language release.
The game is similar to the classic Defender of the Crown, in that the aim is to dominate a map of territories that are occupied by opponent’s castles and armies.
Gemfire offers four scenarios of play, each with different families (ie. the role you play), vassals (the lords who do your bidding), provinces, and gems, although each scenario takes place on the same map.
The aim of the game is to “unify” (ie. dominate by force) a fictional island called Ishmeria, using infantry, cavalry and archers, as well as magicians, dragons and monsters. Depending on the scenario you’re playing, you have a certain number of vassals to begin with and must attack adjacent territories and defeat them in battle to gradually conquer your opponents. You can recruit more soldiers to your forces and also hire various creatures – up to a limit. And an important aspect of the game is to move forces/gold/food from one of your provinces to another. You have to keep an eye on your numbers all the time and make sure you don’t leave any of your vassals with weak resources and therefore open to attack.
During battle the game cuts to a separate screen that shows your individual units, and you can move these, build fences to slow down the enemy, or attack. The positioning of individual units has a significant bearing on success in battle. Flanking the enemy (ie. attacking from the back or side) will give you an advantage most times. The game will cut to a scene showing battles between individual units (similar in a way to Military Madness or Advance Wars), to show the result of said skirmishes.
One aspect of gameplay that you need to keep an eye on is food. When attacking a territory you have to decide how many days worth of food you’re going to supply to your troops. The more food you supply the more time you have to win a battle, but as the game wears on your food supplies will dwindle and you might not have enough food for battles of a certain length. And if you have a surplus of food it’s a good idea to sell some of it to raise gold. It can be tricky to balance this aspect of the game.
Overall, Gemfire is an excellent game, but you might find it frustrating unless you’re good at managing resources and strategising. If you like hardcore turn-based strategy games then you’ll probably love it. It’s not as visually appealing as Defender of the Crown, but it is more complex and involving.
See also: Gemfire on the Super Nintendo
More: Gemfire on Wikipedia