The Map is divided into land and sea areas. The land areas have all sorts of terrain in them, and the terrain type decides how much population can live in each area. It also has an effect on movement. In sea areas you can put ships, and the ships can carry armies. Land areas contain armies and population, and some contain cities.
Cities are like extra land areas inside other land areas. They can hold a lot of population, are strong defensively and can generate a lot of extra income.
Population generates income, and growing your population is your main objective in the game. The winner is whoever has the most population longest (you don't actually have to fight to the last man).
Movement is continuous. Armies move from one area to an adjacent area in a single action. They can then move to another area the next action (and keep moving through the whole turn) EXCEPT that they must stop if they enter an area with "difficult" terrain (forest, mountains, wetlands, etc). Those are called "sticky" areas because armies that move into them get "stuck" until next turn.
Whenever you move into an area owned by someone else, that's a battle. Battles don't have lots of random numbers. There's plenty of variation in the game without that. Randomising things is usually just a cheap way of making unexpected things happen. In Dark Age unexpected things happen when the others players make them happen. You can sometimes be sure what will happen when your orders are processed, but more often it'll depend on what someone else does.
Your orders in Dark Age are written as a series of actions. In the adjucation of the game the first action is processed for each kingdom in turn, and then the second action for each kingdom, and so on. The order changes from turn to turn. When the game is adjudicated the situation changes with each action, so for your early actions you know pretty much what the situation will be but for later ones it will have changed according to what the other players do.
If you're having trouble believing this "action driven" system works, trust us - we've been using it for twenty years. Try it and see - it works a treat.