By Peter Eley
In an age where traditional board games have almost gone the way of the sabre-toothed tiger, Warhammer has defied the trend and developed a huge cult following among teenage boys.
It's a complex war game, with incredibly difficult rules and playing protocols.
And it's expensive - an army with a chance of winning anything costs far more than any computer game.
So where is the appeal? Perhaps having something tangible, even if it is costly plastic figures, to play with and having a real person to talk to still mean something in the cyber age. There's also the creative side - the figures need painting and battlegrounds have to be built out of cardboard, polyfoam and other bits of household junk.
Warhammer hasn't escaped the attention of the software companies. Many people will already have played one game based on it - Warcraft - and a fine game it was, too. But it failed to capture the Gothic, Conan the Barbarian flavour of Warhammer and was really just Command and Conquer in a fantasy setting.
There have been several other Warhammer games - Final Liberation, Dark Omen and Shadow of the Horned Rat - but none really rang the bell.
Now we have the best Warhammer-based computer game to date: Chaos Gate.
In the year 40,000 your space marines have to conquer Chaos Lord Zyman's forces to capture an ancient relic in a turn-based 15-mission campaign.
All the complexity of the board game is there, with a bewildering array of characters and rules.
If you already understand Warhammer, the learning curve would be around an hour.
If you don't, it could take the best part of a long session to get up to speed.
Visually, it's a lot like most strategy games - the graphics are good, if not the best, the characters look like the models and the playing environment is skilfully rendered in 3D.
The sound is a highlight. The soundtrack could be straight from a Conan movie and the characters speak in harsh, guttural grunts. The interface is also a highlight. There's so much going on in the game that it has to be complex, but it's logical and easy to use once you understand the rules.
On the debit side, 15 missions aren't much for your $110, but you can randomise games and edit your own scenarios, which will probably appeal to die-hard board-gamers.
Internet play for up to four people is well supported on SSI's own server.
Pentium 166, 32Mb Ram and a 2Mb video card while a Pentium 200 with a 4Mb card is recommended.
* Send your comments e-mail email@example.com
Pictured: Chaos Gate incorporates a bewildering array of characters and rules.