The common interface takes you through four dialogs or screens to set up a game: the splash screen, the game load choice, the variant setup, and the player setup.
The splash screen gives you four choices: "New", which brings up a list of games; "Open", which allows you to pick a file; "Connect", which allows you to join a network game, or start your own; and "Quit", which lets you escape.
Usually you will want to choose "New", which brings up a dialog listing all the games. You can select one and see a brief description of it.
You can also load a game from a file by choosing "Open". This just uses a standard file-opening dialog. You restore a saved game this way.
The use of "Connect" is described later.
You can use the "Quit" button at any time during game setup.
Whether you've chosen to start a new game or load an old one, Xconq will go through a loading process, which may take a while if the game is large or complicated.
You may get some warning alerts, which are often benign (such as an inability to find some images), but others are indicative of disaster ahead. If you see one and continue anyway, don't be surprised if the game goes up in a cloud of smoke later!
If the game includes any variants, you will then get a dialog with assorted buttons and checkboxes to choose from. For instance, some games let you choose whether the whole world is visible when you start, or what kind of scoring system to use. (At present, there is no help info for game-specific variants.)
Different games have different variants, but there are several used by many games.
The "World Seen" checkbox, when set, makes the whole world seen right from the beginning of the game. This only affects the initial view, and you will only see some types of units belonging to other players, such as their cities, but not necessarily all types.
The "See All" checkbox makes everything seen all the time, right down to each occupant of each unit of each side. This makes Xconq more like a boardgame, where little or nothing is secret.
The "World Size" button brings up a dialog that you can use to change the dimensions of the world in everybody will be playing. In Xconq, the available area of the world is either a hexagon, or a cylinder wrapping entirely around the world.
You get the cylinder by setting the circumference equal to the width of the area. See the generic player's info [where?] for more details about world size and shape, and be aware that it's very easy to select a world that is much too large for reasonable play (the default of 60x30 is a medium-sized game; 200x100 is enormous!)
The "Real Time" button brings up a dialog that you can use to set realtime countdowns. You can limit both the total time allotted to a game, to each turn, and/or to each side.
The player setup window shows the sides that will be in the game and who will play each side. As with the variants, you will often just want to accept it (click "OK"), since the game's designer usually sets the defaults reasonably.
If you want to change the setup, you first need to understand the current set of sides and proposed players. Each entry in the list of sides starts off with the side's emblem (if it has one), followed by the name of the side. Then there is some information about the player, and then the initial advantage for the player. You, the person sitting in front of the screen, is described as "You" [not currently for cif though], while players that are actually run by the computer are described as "AI mplayer", "AI" being short for "artificial intelligence" (In some games, a player may be a specialized AI, named name, in which case it will be described as "AI name".)
Most of the buttons along the side require you to have selected a side/player pair. Initially the first pair is selected. You can select any of the others by clicking anywhere in the box describing it, which will be highlighted in response.
To adjust the advantage, click on the `A+' and `A-' buttons. Keep in mind that the advantage is literally a multiplier, so setting your advantage to three means that you have three times as many units to control. In single-player games against the mplayer AI, you will generally want to dial up the AI's advantage, since it is probably not quite as smart as you.
In games that allow you to have more than the default number of sides, you can just click the `Add' button.
The `Side Name' popup menu lets you choose a different name and emblem for the selected side. This only works in games for which there is a list of different possible sides. The choice of side name and emblem does not have any effect on game play.
The `Random' button just chooses a random new name for your side.
The `Computer' button toggles the AI for that side. You can add an AI to any side, including your own. You can also remove the AI from any side; a side with no AI and no human player will just sit quietly and do nothing throughout the entire game. Units on the side will fight back if attacked, just like any other units, but if you capture things like cities, the side won't even attempt to take them back.
If you don't like the side you're on, you can use the `Exchange' button to switch. The ordering of the sides is fixed, so the exchange just exchanges players between the currently selected side/player pair and the next one. It can take a little experimentation to get the hang of using this, but you can generate any arrangement of players using a combination of selection and exchange.
The `Indep Units' button brings up an additional dialog that allows you to choose how to handle the independent units in the game. The usual default is for the independent units to do nothing, but by choosing the `Units have AI' option for instance, independents will be set up with a simplified AI (the `iplayer') that knows about basic defense and such. Experimentation with these options will yield some unusual games, and is only recommended for the experienced player looking for a change.
When you have OKed all the setup dialogs, Xconq will finish setting up the game. For some games, this will take quite a while - Xconq generates random terrain, positions countries so that they are neither too close nor too far apart, and does many other things to set up the game, so just kick back and wait.
Once everything is set up, Xconq then opens up a main map window. The map shows you terrain with different patterns, and your playing pieces (units) with small pictures.
Note that Xconq allows all players, including AIs, to start doing things as soon as the windows come up. You may even find yourself being attacked before you know what's happening! (This is a feature; the AI isn't good enough to afford to give you any breaks...)
Xconq uses a peer-to-peer networking strategy, which means that all players in the game run their own copies of the full program; there is no separate server program.
To set up a networked game, choose "Connect" from the initial setup dialog. This will cause a second dialog to appear. This dialog is a combination connection setup and chat dialog, similar to what some other games call a "lobby".
The connection setup is at the top of the connect/chat dialog. It include text boxes to set the hostname and TCP port number. The hostname should be the name of the computer where the game will be running. The default port number of 3075 is standard for Xconq games, but you may use any value (and will need to, if running multiple games on a single machine).
Then you need to click on "Host the Game" or "Join the Game". The first player in the game should be the host. Once the host button has been clicked, the status display will say "Accepting Connections". All the other player should edit their hostname boxes to specify the computer on which the host is running, then click on their join buttons. When the connection is successful, all players' chat areas will get an announcement, and a prompt to type into the chat area.
The chat area allows players to discuss setup options and game play. It may remain up during the entire game, and may be also be closed and reopened at any time. Anything that you type into the chat area will appear in other peoples' chat areas immediately, although on a separate line so everybody's words don't get mixed up.
At this point the host may now choose New or Open as with a single-player game. When this happens, the other players' setup screens are blanked, waiting for the host to choose a game. When the host has chosen, the game is loaded, then downloaded to all the other players. (This is to ensure that all players are running with the same game rules.)
When all downloads are complete, every person's setup screen will change to variant setup. At this point, any player can click on any variant to change it. However, only the host can OK the setup. (The chat area may prove helpful when arguing about the choice of variant--and the quit button is always available too.)
When the variants are OKed, then the player setup screen comes up. Again, all participants can select any of the side/player assignments, and may click on any of the buttons, even if the side is not going to be played by them. But also again, only the host brings order out of chaos by OKing the setup.
When each participant receives the host's OK for the player setup, the map window comes up and play can begin. At this point the host becomes just another one of the players. The host does remain pivotal though; it does tiebreaking when two players try to do something at the same time, and it holds the TCP channels open, which means that when the host quits, the game cannot continue. (A future version of Xconq may be able to designate one of the other programs as host, and shift all the connections over.)