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Time to Develop First Empires

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Board Game Publisher: Pearl Games
Empires are all the rage for two French-speaking publishers that have announced games for release in 2022.

• In August 2022 Belgian publisher Pearl Games plans to release Time of Empires, a design by David Simiand and Pierre Voye, with the game debuting in the U.S. at Gen Con and (ideally) in the rest of the world at the same time. Says Pearl Games' Sébastien Dujardin, "We dream of a simultaneous and global release, but everything is complicated for the moment..."

Simiand and Voye have one other real-time game to their credit — Buurn, released in 2021 by Morning — but Time of Empires seems nothing like this earlier design outside of the real-time aspect. Here's an overview of the game:
In Time of Empires, take charge of a civilization and lead it through the ages from antiquity through the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution to modern times.

Board Game: Time of Empires

Each epoch spans a preparation phase, an action phase, and a scoring phase. Other players have accepted the same charge you have and will be grappling with life through the action phase simultaneously with you in real time. Your two 30-second sand timers will trigger your actions — expanding your territory, building wonders, and discovering new technologies — while a soundtrack keeps the tempo of history. You probably won't be able to look everywhere at the same time, so try to ensure that you don't overlook a potential attack because you're too busy helping to complete a wonder!
Dujardin tells me that he's not a fan of real-time games, but "the first part of the game had me hooked when I was able to play it as a member of French creator's competition in 2016". The long delay from then to publication is a result of two things: (1) the need to manage the availability of games still in print such as Troyes, Deus, Ginkgopolis, and The Bloody Inn and (2) Dujardin's "advanced psychorigidity which wanted optimal ergonomics for a game of this type in which the hourglasses cross without ever touching".

Time of Empires will feature sand timers that come in three parts: the body of the timer itself and two silicone bases in a player color. "This makes the hourglasses super stable", says Dujardin. "This also avoids the famous 'hourglasses are unbalanced' problem because the silicone bases are removable and allow a player to change the hourglass between each round. It's not essential, but we find it cool..."

Board Game Publisher: Sand Castle Games
• In February or March 2022 — the dates differ depending on the sites I reference — French publisher Sand Castle Games will release First Empires from designer Eric B. Vogel, who has a history of territory-conquering games with Cambria, Hibernia, and Kitara.

Here's an overview of this 2-5 player game that invites players to rewrite history:
"The time of small nations is past, the time of empires begins." — Chamberlain

What if all of world history had unfolded differently?
What if the great empires of our history had never come into being?
What if other forgotten civilizations had passed into posterity in their place?
The defeated could have been the victors, and the colonizers could have been the colonized — after all, empires are won and lost on a roll of the dice!

Board Game: First Empires

In First Empires, each player takes control of the fate of an ancient nation through a player board, meeples, and cards. The game lasts a number of rounds depending on the player count, and on a turn you roll dice based on how you've developed your empire board. The six sides of the dice correspond to the five abilities on your board. To expand to new territories or invade opponents, you need to unlock movement ability; to annex a territory, you have to outnumber the current occupant or have a "sword" result on the dice, with the inhabitants then fleeing elsewhere. The dice also allow you develop your player board by using the die face that corresponds to the improvement and controlling an associated territory. You can gain more dice and additional re-rolls, while also unlocking achievement cards.

At game's end, you earn points based on played achievement cards, points unlocked on your personal board, and the sum of cities under your control.
Board Game: First Empires
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