Gemfire is a strategy game from Koei, set in a fictional fantasy medieval nation. It borrows elements from previous Koei strategy series like Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga's Ambition. Players raise armies of knights and cavalry and supplements them with fantastical creatures like dragons and gargoyles in order to take control of the nation of Ishmeria.
The game was released on MSX, NES, SNES, Genesis, FM Towns Marty, the NEC PC-9801 and MS-DOS PCs. The NES, SNES and Genesis versions were released in the US. In Japan the game is known as Royal Blood, or Super Royal Blood in the case of the SNES version.
Gemfire takes place on the fictional, war-torn island of Ishmeria. The Gemfire is a crown adorned with seven jewels, each one containing a powerful being. Six of the seven jewels are wizards, the seventh being a vengeful fire dragon. The wizards were sealed inside gems as they fought to save Ishmeria. Their ultimate sacrifice trapped the dragon in a ruby, but they could not escape the spell. The King of Ishmeria turned the seven gems into a crown and used its power to bring peace to the island. When he died, his son Eselred took power.
Eselred used the crown to exact a tyrannical rule. His daughter, Princess Robyn -- encouraged by the whispers of Pastha the water dragon (who once fought alongside the trapped wizards) -- destroyed the Gemfire to thwart her father's oppression.
Breaking the crown scattered the gems to the far corners of Ishmeria where the island's rebellious families found and used the wizards inside to aid their quest to overthrow Eselred and unite the country in peace.
When the game starts, players have their choice of four scenarios: Erin & Ander, Flax's Shame,Terian's War, and Gemfire. While Ishmeria's shape never changes, these four scenarios change which families are in play and what provinces they control at the start of the game.
Gemfire's gameplay is a mixture of stat management and basic turn-based strategy. Between battle sequences, players manage their crops, troop counts, and loyalty. Waging and winning battles depends on having adequate food stores and finances.
While managing stats, the player's provinces are randomly selected. The home province, where the head of the chosen family resides, controls alliances and appointing vassals to outlying territories. All controlled places can build their troops, protect their land, and hire fifth units. They cannot make or break alliances, but they can persuade vassals from other families to defect.
Each character has a unique set of stats, or character facts. Their influence over battle and cultivation is determined by their Leadership, Command ability, Charm, and Fame. The higher the score, the better they perform.
Leadership: ability to protect and develop a province.
Command: ability on the battlefield
Charm: Charming leaders are better at persuading alliances and new recruits.
Fame: Fame grows with good deeds and is important for carrying out secret missions and recruiting vassals.
When provinces go to war, a chess-like battlefield appears. Each side controls five units. Four units are human and the fifth is either one of the Gemfire wizards or a hired monster. The human unit totals depend on the overall hired troop number. If the ruler had 100 troops before going to war, each unit would have 25 solders. It is possible to go into battle without a fifth unit.
Like chess, each piece on the battlefield has a designated range of movement. Horsemen and some fifth units move three spaces. Most units only move two. Archers, riflemen, and some fifth units can attack one space away from where they stand.
The dragon, much like the Queen in chess, has the greatest range of movement and attack radius. Any enemy within a three-by-three grid from the dragon can be attacked.
Battles are won if one side captures their opponent's flag, eliminates all enemies in play, retreats, or runs out of food. Capturing a base sometimes awards the victor a chance to take food or money from the loser, and in some cases capture the opposing ruler. If the ruler is captured, they can be recruited, released back to their family, or banished from the game entirely.
Ishmeria is broken up into 30 provinces divided among 10 families, some with a greater presence than others. Since there are 10 families and only six playable wizards, not all families control a piece of the Gemfire. To make up for this, players can hire bands of monsters to stand in as their fifth unit.
The King's family and unplayable. The lords loyal to Eselred are some the strongest in the game, boasting high leadership and combat percentages. They control the dragon, which is the most powerful fifth unit in the game.
While many of the Lankshire vassals are powerful, Eselred himself has the lowest combat percentage in the game. He compensates for this by choosing the most fortified province as his home and maintaining a high troop count.
|Ruled by Erin. Commands Zendor, the wizard of lightning. Erin is at war with his brother Ander, the leader of the Lyle family. Sometimes controls two Gemfire wizards at the start of the game.
|Ruled by Ander. Commands Pluvius, the master of the stars. Ander is at war with Erin and is the second-most powerful leader in the game. In two scenarios, the Lyle family controls two of the Gemfire wizards.
|Ruled by Lars. Commands Empyron, the wizard of fire. The Coryll family control the southern corner of the island and risk having their lands destroyed by an active volcano. They are perpetually at war with the Flax family.
|Ruled by Garth. Commands Chylla, the wizard of ice. Controls a small island outside of Ishmeria that is connected by a bridge. This is the most difficult family to play.
|Ruled by Erik. Commands Scylla, the wizard of wind. They are at war with the Coryll and positioned uncomfortably between the Lankshire family and the Lyle.
|Ruled by Leander. Commands Skulryk, the wizard of "clouds" as the manual puts it. Skulryk emits a poisonous cloud in the shape of a skull when he attacks. The Molbrew family is small and peaceful. On most maps, they are part of the Blanche family.
|Ruled by Terian. They are in a power struggle between the Blanche and Lyle families and are the least likely to surrender, no matter how out-matched they are in battle.
|Ruled by Gweyn. A small, weak southern family that is often taken over within the first few years of war. Gweyn changes alliances from Tordin to Blanche across scenarios.
|Ruled by Eadric. Eadric is rumored to be the bastard son of Eselred. In the Gemfire scenario, he controls the southern lands.
|Lead by Prince Loryn. Loryn was once loyal to the Lankshire family but lost faith in Eselred. This family is trapped between the Blanch and Lankshire territories and is quickly overtaken.
Different area of Ishmeria experience different types of weather that can change province stats.
Arctic Provinces 1-5:
At the end of the year, wintry weather storms over the north. Rulers in this region should prepare fro the worst by developing province protection.
Woodland Provinces 7, 9, 10, 13-15:
After a hot summer, the woodlands are dry and in danger of catching fire. Fires can wipe out crops.
Wetland Provinces 17-22, 28, 29:
Many rivers wind throughout the wetlands. In the rainy season before summer, flash floods can devastate crops and castles.
Volcanic Provinces 24-27:
Mount Eresang, an active volcano, stands in the center of the southwest. It is surrounded by an omen of doom.
The Plague (all provinces):
All provinces in Ishmeria are vulnerable to the Plague. Rulers must build protection to fend it off.
Elves and Ogres
During the stat management phase, random events occur. These events are attributed to the elves and ogres that inhabit Ishmeria.
Elvish Troubadour -- sings joyous songs of praise, raises province loyalty.
Kind Redcaps -- Redcaps frolic through the fields, raising crop stats.
Far Gorta -- Bring food to rulers with high loyalty that are in need.
Leprechauns -- Give kind rulers gold.
Fairies -- Round up soldiers for rulers with high loyalty and a low troop count.
Unicorns -- Raise the leadership score of rulers they meet.
Gwraigs -- Raise the charm score of rulers they meet.
Airial -- calms destructive elemental forces.
Black Annis -- Terrifies the people, lowering the loyalty score.
Pixies -- Ruins crops, lowering score.
Aughiskies -- Horse spirits that destroy crops.
Hobgolins -- Raid the land, lowering defenses and stealing gold.
Shrieker -- frightens away troops.
Banshee -- Wails when a ruler is going to die, or has died. Sometimes wails without reason, but when they sound there's a chance a lord or vassal on the island could die.
Durahan -- Brings a message of doom. Can increase frequency of negative events in weather and character death.
First Unit: Horsemen
Weapon -- Lances
Range -- Adjacent
Mobility -- 3 spaces
Tactics -- Flanking and rear attacks
Second and Fourth Units: Knights
Weapons -- Swords
Range -- Adjacent
Mobility -- 2 squares
Tactics -- Building fences
Third Unit: Archers
Weapon -- Bow & arrow
Range -- 2 spaces
Mobility -- 2 spaces
Tactics -- shooting over fences and fort walls
Each province can hire a fifth unit, whether or not they possess one of the Gemfire wizards. If hired monsters are left unused for a length of time, the can rebel and cause significant damage to the crop and protection points of a territory.
Skeletons wield the words of the dead and fight with revenge for past grievances.
Olog-hai have the power to throw horses out of their way. They attack with vicious claws.
Orks resemble boars. They fight with heavy axes.
Gargoyles are winged monsters with talons. They can fly over fences to attack the enemy on their other side.
A Bugbear gets a kick out of scaring soldiers. When he jumps up with a Boo! the enemy faints with fright.
A Fachan only has one eye. He heaves boulders with his one and only arm.
The Ogre's face is enough to scare troops away, but he also uses a club to bash the enemy off the field.
Lizards breathe fire. They scorch the battlefield and melt away enemy troops.
Wyverns can fly over fences and fort walls.
Pikemen are zealous crusaders. They thrust long pikes to drive the enemy back.
The lancers are fearless footsoldiers. They brandish shields to block enemy blows.
These caped warriors are from the highlands of Ishmeria. They are only loyal to powerful rulers.
These mercenaries are on the mark every time. they can attack from one square away.
Shooters wield long barreled rifles and can shoot over fortress walls.
Gunners pelt the enemy with steel mortars.
Wizards and Dragons
Gem -- Sapphire
Pluvius is the master of the stars. He reaches into the heavens and throws fireballs down onto the enemy. No sorcerer in Ishmeria is stronger.
Gem -- Emerald
Zendor is the master of lightning. He commands the skies to strike the earth. The blinding glare throws enemies into shock.
Gem -- Opal
Skulryk has the powers of the clouds. He blows a purple cloud of poisonous smoke. Anything trapped inside is paralyzed.
Gem -- Garnet
Empyron has the powers of fire. He shoots jets of blue flame with a magic crystal. He grows stronger the more he uses his powers.
Gem -- Topaz
Scylla has he powers of the wind. With a wave of her hand she sets the winds free.
Gem -- Amethyst
Chylla has the powers of ice. Her spells are stronger than the coldest winder winds.
The Pastha is a water dragon. It is peaceful by nature and helps moral rulers who reign with concern for their people. The Pastha approaches a ruler when it feels the time is right to unite the crown. It will go into war as a fifth unit and spay the enemy with jets of water. But, after the war is over, the Pastha quietly retreats into the sea.
The fire dragon is locked inside of a ruby at the top of the Gemfire. It was trapped by magicians in the days when the evil wizard Zemmel controlled it with a curse. When Princess Robyn broke the spell of Gemfire, her father stopped her before she could release the ruby. The ruler who holds the crown can use the fire dragon in war.