Thank you for checking out my thirteenth review. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
An Overview of Eight Minute Empire: Legends
Eight Minute Empire: Legends is a game designed by Ryan Laukat and is published by Red Raven Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 16-32 minute play time (Yes, it is highly unlikely that even two experienced players can play this one in eight minutes, but that is still a short game!).
The object of the game is simple enough, and expressed really well on the product page on BGG:
Eight-Minute Empire: Legends is a quick game that implements the Civilization/Exploration theme using card-driven area control (by placing armies and cities in a small map) and set collection (by getting abilities from the cards). Players spread through the map in order to collect points at the end of the game by having majorities in regions and continents. All actions (such as land or sea movement, army production, or the founding of cities) are driven by cards that are face-up (six at a time) and available by increasing prices. Cards also belong to sets, which also give points when the game ends if properly collected.
Setup and gameplay for 2 Players
The changes in the setup are there for two players. Once the boards are arranged and the starting area token is placed, each player puts six cubes in that starting area and then a cube from each player is placed together in one region on another board. This is usually done by the person who set up the board. Then each player takes five cubes from an unused color and the players alternate placing one of these neutral cubes in a territory until all ten are placed somewhere on the board. Each player is given 12 coins and the game will go until both players have purchased 11 cards.
The game plays very differently with two than with 3-4. The neutral armies pose no active threat in terms of removing your armies, but they do count when looking to see who has control of a territory at the end of the game. Additionally, the added coins for each player makes it possible to make a few more large purchases over the course of the game, and having 11 cards at the end makes it more likely that a player will have a respectable number of points collected from sets. Cards such as the Noble and Mountain cards, which require having all in the set to score the points, become a little easier to collect. However, not all of the cards in the deck will appear in a 2-player game so there is a chance that the card you really need will never appear (or come too late to be able to afford it).
This game may not be playable in eight minutes, but it comes really close when you get the hang of the game. In a two-player game you'd have to finish 2.75 turns per minute in order to complete it in that advertised eight minute time, and the game rarely moves quite that fast. In spite of that "false" advertising, this game is a perfect filler game that really doesn't feel like a filler game. It is full of interesting decisions, even playing the base game at two players, and is one we can play a best-of-three series during our little one's nap time.
This game is like the merging of the best of two worlds. It has the area control aspect of a civilization game, complete with all four X's: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. At least it can gain the eXplore once you add in the variants (see point on that below), and even without it is a fine 3X game. It also has a great set collection mechanism where you need to balance a number of variables: do you take the card your opponent needs (thus eXploiting them), do you take an inexpensive card to conserve your modest coin supply, do you pay for a higher card that you really want so that your opponent can't buy it before you, do you go after a card for the set collecting or for the powers it bestows, and early in the game do you go for a card that will enhance the effectiveness of future cards? With only six cards to choose from, a sliding system of variable pricing in place, and a visual representation of what the cards can do there leaves minimal room for an AP-prone player to hold up the game (but it can happen).
The purchasing of cards is far more interesting at two players because you can try and strategically plan your next turn. Only one other card will be removed before you get to buy again, and the higher-cost cards are likely to slide into a cheaper slot. It also means you need an awareness of what your opponent truly needs because it might be worth spending two of your coins to take that Forest card so that your opponent won't get the added VP from it for 1 coin on their next turn. You can set up your own combos and try to thwart their combos, making the decisions on each of the eleven purchases you get matter. Players who dislike conflict/take that mechanics can also rejoice because you can play only to purchase what will enhance your own card engine and attack only the neutral cubes in a 2-player game.
The artwork on this game is insanely gorgeous. Everyone talks about the art of Ryan Laukat and his games, and if this is a sample of his work then sign me up as a fan of it. The maps on the boards are interesting enough, but each of the cards are unique yet common names in there are themed to where they make sense together visually. The gameplay might be buying a card to add/move cubes on a map, but the artwork makes this game feel like a fantasy game.
The scoring for this game ends up being a lot lower than you expect at the beginning of the game. The highest score in our 2-player plays has been 19 and the lowest has been 10. The average is around 15 points, and almost every game ends up with us being 1-2 points apart in scoring. This makes it so that every decision feels like it matters. Every territory you can control, or make your opponent lose control of, can be the difference between winning and losing. It makes controlling an island, or overspending on that one card to fit your set, or collecting the potion symbols, all worthwhile moves. Games that are "points salads" like Five Tribes can end up where the score was never close. That will rarely be the case in this game, where you have to earn each and every point along the way. Our one 4-player game so far had the winner at 12 and the loser at 7, so that lack of points becomes even more prominent as you add extra players into the game.
I hate dummy players. They are boring and often unimpactful on the game apart from a diversion or something to set back your own engine from getting underway. This is one of the few games where I think it actually enhances the 2-player game. I love that you both can put five cubes out, taking turns to do so. You might spread them out, or pile them up on a really valuable space. The former is my preferred strategy, because this game has very few ways to score points. Two of those is controlling a territory and controlling the most territories on an island. Every neutral token placed makes it that much harder to score those points, and there are so few cards in the deck that allow you to destroy an army cube. Most games will see 7-9 of those cubes still out there at the end. Which means you need to count them in your plans to control territory even though they are passive in their presence.
The extra variants in the game really add extra depth and replayability for a game. You can keep it simple, or you can add in certain complexities. There are explore tokens that can be placed on empty regions during set-up, and they go face-up if you like unless you use the Poison Swamp token which is worth -1 VP at the end (in which case they should be set face-down). There are encounter tokens, many of which contain towers worth 1VP extra to whoever controls the territory at the end of the game, a bandit who requires 1 coin per cube moving into the territory, and a dragon worth 2VP to the player who places the 7th army cube on that territory. And there are leader cards which provide a special power (such as steal a coin from your opponent when you destroy one of their army cubes) and an added way to score points (such as 1VP if you have all of your army cubes on the map at the end of the game). We've slowly added them in, with the Leaders being our last and final addition. And wow, this game really no longer feels like a filler game. It is amazing how much depth and variance can be packed into a small box and a short experience. They are definitely ones to leave out for the first plays, but adding them in elevates the game to an even higher enjoyment level that you normally expect to find in a much bigger, pricier box.
There are four map tiles and they are all double-sided, so you can change the layout from game to game. You can also choose between the standard T setup or having them all in a long rectangle. But with using four maps every game, and only a total of 8 choices, they start to feel too similar. I imagine that picking up the Lost Lands expansion will help to increase the variability of the boards, and there is still enough to satisfy, but a little more variety would have been welcome. With shorter games we like to play best of 3 matches, and having the ability to see four unique islands out for each of the three games would be ideal!
This one is a particular dislike that really only pertains to the 2-player experience. I've already mentioned that the attack cards are in short supply, but there is a card that makes it so a player's armies cannot be destroyed. In a 2-player game, especially if it comes early on, that card makes it so one player is helpless to do anything to really slow down an opponent's forces. Sure, there are still the neutral cubes to attack if necessary, but I always hate it when that card comes up in our 2-player games because it eliminates the one direct way you have to slow down the mustering and spreading of their armies. With a higher player count, the card feels like less of an obstacle but even there an early appearance can give one player a level of protection that can keep them a step ahead.
Those scoring cards are just not that great. I understand how they work, and I like them better than the Authority cards in Star Realms. My wife absolutely hates the card and refuses to use it. A small point track with rows of squares where a cube could fit, going from 0-25 or so, would have been able to serve the same purpose and might have been a little easier to manage for the players. Again, these cards are fully functional, easy enough to understand and use, but they are a bit more fiddly in the scoring process because of how they are laid out and used.
Overall this game has been a very pleasant surprise. It came onto my radar in the months before the birth of our first child last summer because my wife thought we'd never be able to play anything more than short, semi-filler games for a while. Thankfully, we are still more than capable of playing the larger games with our little one, but this was still a great addition to our collection at Christmas-time. It has had the unfortunate bad luck of there being such an influx of new games into our collection this year, which has prevented it from getting played over and over like we used to when getting a new game. But it is definitely one we have both enjoyed and is one that works well for any type of gaming situation. I definitely prefer it with two players, because it is far more strategic on buying the cards and there are more opportunities to expand and collect sets. Yet it remains fun at higher player counts as well, even though you cannot plan as well.
The best part about this game is that it doesn't feel like we play a filler game. There is so much to this game, especially now that we've added in the tokens and leaders. So in 20 minutes we can get an experience that usually comes from playing a 40-60 minute game, which is outstanding. That means we can still have a heavier experience in those small pockets of time, or we can sit down and play several matches in a row and make it a full evening of serious medium-weight gaming. The box is very portable, and setup and teardown are both relatively quick. This is probably my favorite small-box 4X game, and my next review will touch upon my wife's favorite that has some of the same elements as this one but in a very different approach.
I can't recommend this game enough, and it has convinced me that I need to check out more of Red Raven's games and Ryan Laukat's artwork.
Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.
- Last edited Sun Jun 11, 2017 7:47 pm (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Thu May 25, 2017 5:16 pm
do you take the card your opponent needs (thus eXploiting them)
That's not what exploit means. Exploit means take resource bearing territory and use it to create new armies which can go forth to conquer new territories and exploit those, etc.
EME is a fine game but it is not remotely 4X. It's more a worker control and set collection Euro hybrid.
great review, thanks! this game flips on and off of my wishlist, mostly because I wonder how it will be with two. your review is really helpful in that regard, and also a great read. back onto the wishlist! thanks, again.
Great review. I've owned this one for a while and like it quite a bit, and am a fan overall of Red Raven games.
One suggestion: the photos would definitely benefit from being larger (especially with games whose art is as incredible as what Ryan Lauket creates for his games).
If you add the word "medium" at the end of a photo tag, just inside the end bracket, it will appear bigger in the published version of your review.
Again, well done!