Defender of the Crown is a strategy game somewhat like Risk. You play the role of an inexperienced lord of a small territory in feudal England. Gameplay centers primarily on the building of armies and the capturing of neighboring territories, but there are also action segments where you participate in jousting tournaments or chuck cannonballs toward rival castles. The year is 1149, and following the untimely death of the monarch, England has been cast into a titanic struggle for kingship. You are one of the six knights vying for the empty throne, using your skills of leadership, jousting and swordplay to gain an advantage over your rivals. You and your loyal army raid castles, conduct sieges, invade territories and hold tournaments in the hope of bringing about the fall of your enemies. First, you must raise an army, buy catapults and master the strategies required to successfully conquer lands, whilst defending your own.
The initial structure of the game is much like a typical board game, where players take turns performing a variety of tasks such as troop movements, castle building, and recruitment. There is a great deal of strategy involved in capturing territory. You have to decide whether to invade lands surrounding your enemies in order to stall their movement or to take areas near your own territory that will earn quick money. When you engage in battle, your first task is to aim and launch catapult strikes against the enemy castle, which you can then invade with your troops. During the fight, you can command your troops to attack with three different strategies or to make a hasty retreat. How hard your forces fight depends on your leadership rating, and success in battle earns you additional territory. There’s also an infrequent minigame that involves raiding a castle with a lone knight and swordfighting with guards in order to steal extra money or rescue a damsel in distress. You have another advantage in the guise of Robin Hood, who comes to your aid up to three times per game, usually by using his cunning skills in reducing the amount of enemies you face in one given confrontation. To win the game and become King or Queen, you also plan attack strategies and command your troops in the heat of battle. But be warned, only the best will claim the crown. It became a best seller, selling 20,000 copies by the end of 1986 and 250,000 copies overall.