Eight Minute Empire.

Eight-Minute Empire is pretty much what it sounds like – a Civilization-style 4X boardgame that plays in just a few minutes, promising 8 to 20 minute playing times on the box depending on the number of players (from two to five). The tabletop version came out in 2012, followed by a standalone sequel game, Eight-Minute Empire: Legends, that doubles the playing time by adding another layer of rules, which sounds to me like it might defeat the original’s purpose. I missed the physical games, but did pick up the new app version of the original Eight-Minute Empire, which is out for iOS phones and tablets and Android devices for just under $5, and it’s pretty fantastic. The tutorial is great, the app has some in-game tips for newbies (which you can later turn off), and you can rip through a whole game against 3 or 4 AI players in just a few minutes.

Eight-Minute Empire starts with all players on the same region on a map of multiple continents, with each player getting three military units on that space. On a turn, each player will choose one of six available action cards, which cost from 0 to 3 coins to purchase, and which determine the player’s action on that turn: Recruit new troops, move troops on land, move troops on land or via sea, build a city, destroy one troop anywhere on the board. Different cards allow different numbers of troop movements or additions. Building a city gives you the ability to recruit troops to that city as well as to the start region. Each card also has a symbol of one of the game’s six trade goods on it; collecting more of one type can gain you 1, 2, 3, or 6 points, depending on how many cards with that symbol you acquire.

The game lasts seven to ten turns, depending on the number of players, and while the app shows scoring in-progress, there’s no intermediate scoring – the game is only scored at the end. You gain one point for each region you control (more troops than any other player, with a city counting as +1 troop); one for each continent you control (whoever controls the most regions); and various points for the goods you’ve collected. Some cards have wild-card goods tokens, and the app will automatically place those wherever they’ll gain you the most points. If two players tie, which happens fairly often in my experience with the app, the winner is the player with the most coins remaining.

Eight-Minute Empire distills most of the best parts of map/exploration games to keep it simple for players. Everyone starts with the same number of coins, and you can’t get any more during the game. Turn order starts with open bidding; you can bid one or two coins to get to set the turn order, and there’s an advantage to going later rather than going first because you get to make troop movements after other players are done, thus ‘stealing’ another region or even a continent. Conflict is limited to the handful of cards that let you destroy a troop, which the AI players will use if you have one unit alone on a continent (which gives you control of that region and the continent, so beware). There are no actual battles in Eight-Minute Empire, no trading, no theft. You thus focus on where to put your units, where other players might choose to move theirs, and taking the action cards that will help you with units and/or goods while also potentially taking cards that might help your opponents.

The app comes with three levels of AI players, and I’d say the hard AI players are quite capable, strong enough that I needed many plays to beat them and still don’t do it consistently. (The randomness of card draws helps smooth gameplay out too.) It also offers clearer iconography than the printed version of the game, and the only drawback I see in the presentation is that with over 3 players you can’t see everyone’s points/goods status at once. The base game has two maps, the original (pictured) and a “sister continents” map, with several other maps available for $1.99 each or in a pack for $4.99; there’s also an IAP for the Mountains expansion, which was a free print-and-play addition to the base game, available for $1.99. I’m enjoying the two base game maps so far but I have a feeling I’ll eventually spring for others just to add some variety – the configuration of continents alters game play in a significant way, since the cards that allow movement by sea are rarer than those that only allow movement on land. Eight Minute Empire also plays very well on the smaller screen of my iPhone, which makes it a great little time-waster when I’m stuck somewhere without a book. I give it a very strong buy recommendation.

Comments

  1. How do you think a 3rd grader who can competently handle Risk and TtR would handle this?

    • Vs the easy AI, no problem. Probably would end up on the medium one after some practice. The trick is balancing the goods collections vs the area control.

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