Galleons of Glory: The Secret Voyage of Magellan
for PC (DOS)

Mr Creosote:
Company: Brøderbund
Year: 1990
Genre: Strategy
Theme: Educational / Historical / Nautical
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 726
Review by Mr Creosote (2024-05-04)

The interesting thing about Brøderbund was that they tried to reach a much broader audience than the typical computer nerds very early on. Their Carmen Sandiego series remained a mainstay for kids in North America for years and years. In spite of the simplistic nature of those games or because of it? Galleons of Glory tries to hit a similar note. The Seven Cities of Gold had impressed the core audience in 1984 already. Brøderbund's game feels like a vastly simplified version of it.

Land ho!

Starting from Europe, set sail for the (randomly generated) new world. Explore the coast. Make landfall. Meet the natives. Trade glass beads for valuables. Hope for some rumors about bigger treasures or potentially even to hidden locations or paths. Or things may go wrong, encounters turning hostile. So far, so similar.

Planning all this, executing the actions, feels much less direct, however. Moving through the stations of the ship and also on land, everything is performed by talking to the responsible officers. To change the rations, talk to the cook. To drop anchor, tell the navigator. To go to shore, tell the captain. And so on. There is never any direct control of a party. Never does the crew need to be split manually between those going to the expedition force and those staying behind on board.

The organic side effect is that this enables the player to also check the officers' reports about the crew's mood, the status of the ship etc. Which is very convenient. As it turns out, this is the key balancing act necessary to win the game.

What, we are not welcome here?

As the event locations are different each time, the task is really to move forward, explore efficiently, while keeping an eye of supplies. Don't want your crew to starve or get sick from rotten meat, do you? Few other factors for crew happiness exist as well. Mutiny is the typical failure state in the first couple of attempts. Ad-hoc repairs on the ship will be necessary regularly.

In encounters with natives, a basic eye for their attitude is necessary to guess whether it will go to confrontation anyway, whether they may have valuable information or whether trade may be possible. The former is represented graphically. The latter is a pure guessing game.

Which, putting things together, really means: the longer the guessing lasts, the longer the good state of ship and crew needs to be maintained. The guessing being largely random, what the player needs to master quickly becomes routine. Not even the course of the travel can be set. There is no way to decide where to go next, just when to travel and how far. Keep balancing the supplies, the travel time versus land encounters, check each stop for valuables and hints. Rinse and repeat.

Discipline on board!

For dedicated players, this is clearly a bit too thin. Too little. On top, it even feels quite mechanical, not nearly as adventurous as it should be considering this theme. Though then, let's loop back to the initial assumption: this was likely intended for a different audience; one which maybe did not play so many other games. Certainly, Galleons of Glory does not feel overwhelming in its complexity, the tasks clear, the means to do so as well. And likely, not looking through the mechanics all that transparently as more “professionals”, the adventure feeling may set in after all.

Though then, unlike the Carmen Sandiego games, Brøderbund failed to market Galleons of Glory towards schools. The educational aspect too specific about one certain historical period and one certain aspect of it only, an audience for such more casual games did not yet exist at the time on the open market. Which is likely why nobody remembers it.

Comments (1) [Post comment]

Mr Creosote:
Galleons of Glory: The Secret Voyage of Magellan. Never heard of it? As a total addict of any "new world exploration" type game, I had to fill this knowledge gap, obviously. This one was easy to get into, unlike certain… ahem… other games which may or may not appear in this place at a later point.