Tuesday, April 23, 2024

‘Empire’s End’ Puts You In Control Of An Empire About To Crash, Can You Save It?

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Empire’s End is a civilization game as you control this civilization at the peak of its influence, and its beginning to collapse. Empire’s End is an auction and resource management game that can be played under an hour. The game is designed by John D. Clair, a designed from California who is known for designing Dead Reckoning, Space Base, Mystic Vale, and Ready Set Bet. Empire’s End is published by Brotherwise Games and it’s recommended for players aged 10 years and older. Brotherwise Games is known for Call to Adventure, Boss Monster, and Unearth. 

What’s in the Box?

  • 1 Game board
  • 44 Location tiles
  • 88 Disaster cards
  • 12 Exhaust markers
  • 4 Player screens
  • 4 Score markers
  • 11 Military cards
  • 10 Game markers
  • 120 Resource tokens
Empire's End box art

How’s it Play?

Players all take control of a civilization who are at the height of their influence. What goes up, must come down. But players will try to save it from complete collapse as much as possible while playing throughout the game. The game is for 2-4 players where you will be taking actions from where the marker is on the main board. Each player starts with tiles placed in front of them exactly the same as all other players, but as the came continues players will change things differently. 

Most actions are disasters, where a card is revealed and threatens a tile. In turn order, players decide to either pass or take. When passing, they must bid a resource of a type shown on the disaster card. If taking, you will take all resources given up by players and then will perform the destruction action. When a tile is destroyed, its flipped over to its other side showing its destroyed side. This type of action will occur a lot in the game, and players will need to decide when is a good time to gain the resources to take the negative effect shown on that card.

Empire's End board with actions

There are some economy phases where you will be able to gain resources that you might really need when they come around. This is done by using the abilities shown on all tiles that have green economy abilities listed on them. If this was a tile that got flipped over from a disaster, then you will not collect the resources from it. 

When the industry phase comes around on the board, players will be able to build or sell 2 card from their hands. You can also have abilities which will make it easier or cheaper to build. At this time you can also repair a destroyed location by paying the shown numbers of hammers and or coins to flip it back over to the front side. Then all industry abilities are triggered which is one from the city at the beginning of the game, but you can gain more. 

Civilizations also will face military issues in the military phase. A military card is flipped over and players count their military strength shown on their tiles and then will secretly add axes or coins to increase that number to gain rewards. Everyone can gain rewards by having a strength matching or above the listed value, and then the player with the highest strength will gain an additional reward. 

Empire's End empire tiles with upgrade cards

The turn marker will go from phase to phase on the main board, and players will be changing their tiles up and using resources to try do descend the slowest they can, as all players will be getting a worse civilization as the game goes on. After all phases are completed, players count their points from remaining tiles in their civilization and the player with the most wins the game.

Empire's End disasters

The Verdict

Overall we really enjoyed this game, but I know several people who I play games with who wouldn’t like the game. The game uses a lot of bidding, and with that, players can get lost into how much worth each tile or resource is. I really enjoyed it, because you either give up something or you take the bad event and do what it says. Some events are worse than others. So you are trying to figure out if you take the event, which you eventually will. How much resources will you get with it? How bad will it affect you? Is it a part of your strategy that you are potentially going to break? It puts a different mind set on bidding than what you see in most games. 

Then you can try to piece together certain tiles you really want and ones you are less fond in having. You will always be trying to set yourself up for a better outcome as the game goes on. Sometimes you can do this very well, while other times fate might just have you pinned. But there is always ways to gain back building if you happen to lose something valuable. So if you really did need something, you can use your resources to build it back up.

Empire's End game setup for 4 players

I understand the aspect of having the same starting points with the same tiles, but I would have thought a little more asymmetry would help players feel different and more exciting. This would have to be test a lot more, and make sure the differences didn’t cause one civilization to be better than another, but it felt a little weird we started exactly the same.

Really, you just have to understand that the game is falling the best way you can while saving a much as you can. Things will be worse, but you just need to destroy your civilization better than others you are playing against. And deciding which disasters you absorb, and what resources you use and take will decide these things. The bidding is unique and I actually like how you can try to bid disasters up to gain more resources when eventually taking it. Again, it’s not a complex civ game, so the military seems barely there. There is hardly any room for growth, and the focus is on disasters that will take down the civilization, no matter what.

Empire's End player screen and resources

The components are far better than most games, so they did a great job provided high end quality pieces including the game trays to pack up the game quicker. The art also matches very well with the game and includes a Roman civilization type theme that the game might need more of. I think some players might have a problem with the time to play a game that is fairly straight forward and not too complicated, but with experiences gamers, they will be able to cut the time down significantly, that time becomes a pretty good spot for a game with the choices it holds. 

Images via Brotherwise Games

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