The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Rise of Empires

Well, after dissing RoE last week, I got in a game this week.

It’s not bad. The rules have some rough edges, the (handsome) graphic design hinders gameplay, there’s a lot of “What does that do again?” Of course, the latter is true of any “special power game,” including our Lady of Malevolence. Most of the reviews cover that in some detail.

My complaints center around the “whack-a-mole” nature of board conflict. I like this in theory. The battle mechanism, which lets you say “I lose 1, you lose 2 or 3” seems interesting in a four or five player game. You weaken your global position a bit to hit an opponent and strengthen your local position (earning VPs), but some opponents gain (since there are less enemy cubes on the board). In practice? It’s not that interesting. There’s a game of chicken, you really want to have the last empire phase before scoring, so that you can get in last licks. In an “A” era (when players take their turns filling up the available actions) you may get to be last by being last, or be taking the last available empire action (assuming they all get used). But in the B era it inevitably goes to the player who goes last.

(Strategy hint after one game — don’t just let the leader go last in a B era).

Resource management — I ditched food, only covering enough to make sure I didn’t run low in the last turn. Put me in the camp that wonders which civilization started their run with enough food to last a few hundred years. I spent food, grabbed as many population and resources as a could, and got gold when I needed.  I didn’t ignore VPs, but I didn’t spend for early cities (which may give ~12 VPs over the course of the game, but cost food + pop in upkeep). This seemed wise, and others have noted that some of the strategy space offers false choices.

Overall, I think I’d just rather play Struggle of Empires again. The games aren’t that similar, actually; but the names invite comparison.

Again, Rise wasn’t bad. I’d play it again, but only if I don’t have to help with setup.


Written by taogaming

January 19, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Reviews

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  1. Just got my copy today and will try to get it played this Saturday. My main hope is that it doesn’t take too long, as that often dooms new games with us. I’ll try to limit the number of players to 4.

    BTW, did you have the chance to read the FAQ that Alex Yeagar of Mayfair posted on the Geek? It looks pretty comprehensive and cleared up a lot of open questions with the rules. I’d be a lot less confident about teaching this game without that FAQ.

    Larry Levy

    January 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    • Larry, if you are afraid on the duration of the play, 3 is a good number to start with (~3h00 with rules I’d say). The number of actions is NOT limited by the number of players. Each player will get 36 actions to perform (6x2x3) what ever the number of players. And I think 3-4 is probably where the game truly shines.

      Rule-wise, it is not as horrible as the BGG discussion make it look like, though I’d spend some time reading the FAQ before my first game.

      On the “chicken game” this is true, though there are some inconvenience in going last, since you could be eradicated from a part of the map where you’d really need to fight. And the option to take 2 empire acions is really fun (but difficult to do well). The fact that the leader in VP is last to choose turn order makes it easier to not allow him going last in turn B and A, right… Which somehow makes paying in VP another funny option.

      I agree that early cities (era 1) are probably a tough choice, expect for one player getting the wonder (and even). This is true with 3 players, probably also 4 players, but is probably not true in a 5 player game since the map is the same size. In our last 4p game, one of the players went city-heavy with almost no position on the map, and finished second, really close to the first player… So there is probably some room for this. I like a lot the diplomacy and ideology/religion tiles. Diplo is VERY strong in 3-4 player games. Religion/Ideology get you scoring, of course, but put a big target for the turn to come on your head… You should NEVER be allowed to get 2 of these 3 tiles, I think.

      Side note: I agree board/Tiles could have been better suited for playing. They look good, though.

      A really good game for me. Not perfect, of course, but really nice one.


      January 20, 2010 at 5:20 am

  2. Well, we got to play Rise of Empires tonight, with 4, and the good news is, I enjoyed myself. The bad news is, the game took a solid 4 hours, which is way too long. 2 hours would be about right for the gameplay. There’s a bunch of unthematic things (which don’t bother me much) and fiddly rules, but there were only two things that really bothered me. The first is that the bulk of the points are scored in Era III, much more than in Era I. And yet, those first two turns take almost as long to play. Yes, you’re building something of a machine with the tiles you take that will affect your strategy, but a more streamlined way of doing this in Era I would be nice. The other really weird thing was that you remove half your cubes from the board at the end of each Era. This really divorces the boardplay from the tile-play and practically makes it feel like three separate games. It’s yet another catch-up mechanism in a game full of them, but it felt very jarring to all of us.

    That said, I did enjoy myself and was glad I got to play it. But I severely doubt it will be seen again at the DC Gamers and that doesn’t really break my heart.

    Larry Levy

    January 24, 2010 at 1:10 am

  3. What? A Martin Wallace game with false choices? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.


    January 25, 2010 at 12:04 am

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