Champion of the Raj is a strategy game set in nineteenth-century India, during a time when the country was controlled by a number of different regional and foreign factions. A Hindu cult threatens to seize the entire Indian subcontinent and subject its people to the madness of civil war, trying to destroy India from within. To achieve this, the cult would have to pit the six major factions against each other; once they finish their bloodletting, they will be too weak to stop the cult from taking control over the whole sub-continent.
You are the leader of your faction, or you represent the interests of a foreign power, depending on the character you choose. In order to destroy the cult, you will have to gain control over all of India - the cult's goals are hopeless against a unified country - by either conquering the other factions or convincing them to follow you peacefully. Once all factions are unified under your leadership, you can then turn your full attention to stopping the cult.
The game's storyline has one large plot hole which brings the game's appeal down somewhat: According to the opening sequence, the Viceroy of Britain was captured by a cultist thug, imprisoned, and subsequently escaped with the help of a peasant girl. It does not say anything about how the other five factions fit into the story, even though they are introduced to the Viceroy at the end of the sequence. Also, there is no explanation why the factions could not unite from the start and defeat the cult, even if their truce was temporary.
Invading territories, or defending your own, requires the use of an army; however, the computer doesn't always let you take the field if the statistics are well in your favor or really against you. This eliminates the possibility of armchair strategians pulling off spectacular victories in the face of insurmountable odds. If you happen to defeat a territory that contains the palace of one of your rivals, you have the opportunity of seizing all of that rival's territories - if your character can fight his way through the palace. If not, you win only the territory you've captured, and your rival lives on, to fight another day.
As the leader or representative of your faction you receive taxes from your territories, which you may use to invest in one of three categories: military, industry, or law. Investing in military improves the quality of your soldiers, while industry improves the quality of life and amount of taxes you take in. Investing in law means the difference between punishment without trial and an impartial court, and reduces the likelihood of rebellions.
A disappointing feature of Raj is the two mini-games that you play when negotiating with other factions: In one game, you have to participate in an elephant race and outrun three other competitors, who may try dirty tricks during the race. The other game is tiger hunting, where you have to shoot tigers and avoid shooting the spectators. Winning an elephant race or shooting enough tigers improves your status with a rival faction, while losing risks your relationship, and your life. Another mini-game involves duelling against an assassin, which really is just based on rock/paper/scissors and requires a whole lot of luck. If you lose the duel, you lose your life. The controls used in the mini-games aren't very responsive, and they hamper your ability to play.
Champion of the Raj is a difficult game to get into, due in part to the clunky controls when issuing commands, and the lack of information about current events in India. Sometimes you may lose partial or complete control of the mouse, particularly after playing a mini-game, and a solution for this has not yet been found, other than playing Raj with a keyboard (even though the controls are a lot worse).