Publisher: Red Raven Games
Game Designer: Ryan Laukat
Artwork: Ryan Laukat
Players: 2-5 players
Ages: 8 and up
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
If you’ve read any of my reviews you know that I have a special place in my game bag for micro games; those fun games that fit in your pocket (sometimes you need bigger pockets) and bring pithy goodness in a petite package. Eight Minute Empire from Red Raven Games offers a quick playing and fun take on set collection and area control, using card drafting to dictate the moves you make and goods you earn while building your global empire in less than ten minutes.
The game concept is simple to teach and play, you draft the card you want, collecting a set of goods as you go while taking the action directed on the card. The actions allow you to add or move armies to control different regions, build cities and in a few instances, remove an opponent’s army. There is no combat in the game; you win the region by having more armies there than other players, think Risk without the dice rolling. The player who has the most victory points from regions owned, continents controlled and goods collected from these cards at the end of the game wins.
The idea of building a world dominating empire in eight short minutes is an ambitious undertaking and Eight Minute Empire lives up to the task. A two player game will run about 10 minutes or so and with the maximum of five players you’re looking at around 15-20 minutes. You can play the game in eight minutes with two players once you are experienced and take your actions with minimal downtime, but that’s only if you want to rush it. With the playing time so short, you will likely find yourself playing more than one game in a row so no need to rush it.
Each player is given a set amount of coins depending on the number of players along with 14 cubes, representing your armies and 3 discs for your cities. Everyone places three armies in the start region and then bids, from the coins they have, for the opportunity to go first.
Adding the blind bid to see who goes first is a great touch. Immediately, you are tasked with deciding how much money you’re willing to risk from your limited funds to have first crack at the cards on the top row. That gold must be spent wisely to attain the cards you want, lest you leave armies off the table or unable to move without getting the right movement orders.
There are six cards placed in a row across the top of the map, these are what drive the game since they are the action and goods cards that you draft and collect. These cards will let you place your armies, move them, build cities (allows you to place armies on future turns) and even have slight offensive capabilities in removing one or more units of your opponents armies from play permanently.
The cards in the row each have a cost associated with them based on their place in line from 0-3 coins and you decide whether you pay the cost for it or wait and see if it gets to the free slot. Do you grab for army movement, placement or city building or do you snatch up goods to garner victory points? As cards are removed from the row, the remaining cards are moved to the left dropping to the next lowest cost slot and a new card is placed in the highest cost slot on the right. Since the coins you have do not get replenished you need to spend wisely!
The goods you need to collect are also listed on the cards and you need to gather varying amounts of each to be awarded victory points at the end of the game. A handful of these cards are ‘wild’ cards that can be used to boost up your goods collections.
Keep in mind, you have few turns to make the critical decisions on cards to take or buy. A two player game last thirteen rounds, decreasing with each player added down to seven rounds for five players. So you can see how important your card choices will be especially with more players. You have limited time to make the maximum choices and these decisions can make for some tension but not many should suffer from AP.
With a low number of rounds, bad cards on the top row may offer little movement choices or a lack of prosperous goods to grab but keep in mind that everyone is dealing with these same misfortunes. Victory goes to the player who chooses wisest and takes the calculated risks of judicious use of those limited coins at the right time.
Eight Minute Empire is a very simple game to learn and play but there is a good amount of strategy here. You will need to balance snatching up goods to earn VP’s while at the same time getting cards that allow you to place armies on the board, move them and build cities. You don’t want to be grabbing up all the goods cards that allow you to move armies but not place them and vice versa. Without armies you cannot take advantage of movement, without movement you have no expansion and no empire.
From all the games I’ve played thus far, I find everyone is within a few points of each other most of the time, so it’s rarely a one-sided affair. This balance is another reason I find the game to be an excellent strategic game, there really doesn’t seem to be any way to ‘break’ the game with a uber strategy.
With an ambitious title and clever gameplay, Eight Minute Empire is a game that gives a much more rich experience than you’d expect from most filler games of this size.
The game isn’t a brain burner, but it does make you contemplate your steps ahead as you study the cards, plotting your picks as you wait your turn. Do you want to grab up resources for VP’s or do you pick cards that allow you to drop more armies on the board and move them to take over the surrounding regions? Simple and effective, the game wraps up some interesting strategy in a small and quick game.
The components are very nice, from the dual-sided map board to the tokens, cubes and cards this is a quality game. With easy to learn and teach rules, you can go from opening the box to playing in about 10 minutes the first time out which I really like in a game.
If you’re a fan of micro games as I am, this is a must have for the game night rotation. For those who may overlook the game due to its size, judge not the game by its cover but by what it offers you. Red Raven Games is offering up quite a tasty dish in a moderate size plate and I suggest at least a sampling or two is in order.
Company Website: http://www.redravengames.com/
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/RedRavenGame
Note: A review copy of this game was purchased by me.