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Middle Empire

August 2nd, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

The developer described “Middle Empire” to me as something of a cross between “Settlers of Catan”, “Risk”, and “Monopoly”, played in only 30 minutes.  “Interesting”, I immediately thought to myself.  Being a big fan of “Catan” (especially “Star Trek Catan“), I began to think about what would happen if you introduced combat along with the ability to capture territories.  After browsing the rulebook a bit and seeing the potential, I accepted the offer to review the game (special thanks to Game Developer Nate White for reaching out in the first place).  What did I think of the game after the fact?  Keep reading to find out!

 

Middle Empire

Middle Empire: 2-4 Players, Ages 12+, Average Play Time = 30 Minutes

 

Components

The game includes cards (construction, defense, and attack decks), stronghold pieces, empire pieces, road pieces, and city wall pieces.  The stronghold, empire, and road pieces come in four unique player colors.

Setup & Gameplay

The three decks are shuffled individually and placed in their assigned spots on the board.  Each player gets a set of colored pieces along with three construction cards, one defense card, and one attack card to form their starting hand.  Youngest player goes first.

The game is broken up over a series of player turns.  On a player’s turn, they’ll:

1. Draw two cards from any of the three decks, choosing from different piles if they so please. Should any of the decks run out, the cards from its respective discard pile are shuffled to form the new deck.

2. Play up to three cards, though no more than one card of a particular type can be played.  Construction cards typically allow players to build strongholds, empires, and roads.  Defense cards typically allow players to build roads, defend against attack, build city walls, and draw more cards.  Attack cards typically allow players to remove roads and attack opponents.

3. Discard down to seven cards, placing said cards face-down into the appropriate discard pile.

 

Middle Empire

White defends an attack from green.

 

The goal of the game is to have so many empire pieces on the board for one full cycle/round (depends on the number of players). To do that, players will need to first place strongholds, which can then be upgraded to empires.  Placing strongholds and/or upgrading them is done by playing a construction card of the named space on the board.  Players are free to play attack cards on other players so as long as they own a road going from one of their strongholds/empires to the target.  If the defender has no defense cards to play, they automatically lose and the victor gets to replace the enemy stronghold/empire piece with their own stronghold piece.

Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.

The Review

So you’re probably wondering, “is this game really a cross between ‘Settlers of Catan’, ‘Monopoly’, and ‘Risk'” as the game advertises?  Yes and no.  To compare this game to “Monopoly” is a bit much as there are no properties, auctioning, rents, or money involved with the game whatsoever.  I’d have to say that the game is more of a combination of “Settlers of Catan” and “Risk”.  It’s like the former in the sense that you can build roads & settlements and it’s like the latter in the sense that you can capture territories and use cards to take specific actions (though “Middle Empire” has a lot more variety than “Risk” in that regard).

Combat is extremely simplistic, and that might be good news for some.  For one, there’s no dice rolling to be had, meaning you won’t spend hours swapping territories back and forth because the dice can’t make up their minds.  You either have a defend card or you don’t…no numbers, no math, and no rolling.  I have a feeling that this form of simplified combat will appeal more to the casual gamer families as opposed to the hardcore ones.  Grandma, after all, probably won’t feel like doing trigonometry before her jaunt to Bingo Night with the ladies.

My favorite feature by far lies with the three different decks and the ability to choose which decks you want to draw from on your turn.  While there’s still luck in drawing the right cards for that particular moment, players can alter their strategy on the fly by concentrating on just one or possibly two decks.  For example, players who want to employ a rush strategy might only draw construction cards in the hopes of getting their empires build more quickly to win the game.  A wise player may decide to counter that by focusing on attack cards, knowing that said opponent has very little in the way of defense and would be easy to conquer.

Admittedly, the game falls short in some areas, namely the art.  I honestly think more effort could have been made to make everything look a bit sleeker and eye-catching.  I could overlook this had the price been right, but alas, the game is retailing for $27.99 on the official website (link below).  Compared to other similarly priced games on the market, this seems to be a bit too high for my tastes for what the game is offering.  Based on my experience with games and the attention to the components currently employed here, I expected the price to be somewhere around the $20 range.  To be fair, I’ve seen some games go for almost $30 more than what I thought they should be priced at.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again…I am not a developer and I don’t know the costs behind publishing and marketing a game.  It may very well be that the retail price is as low as it could go in order for the developer to see a return.  With that said, I write my reviews for the consumer and what people like me see when they go shopping.  If the average consumer sees another product with the same price tag but for much cheaper (or possibly a much better-looking product for only a few bucks more), which do you think they’d buy?

Price issues aside, I like the way “Middle Empire” streamlines gameplay into something easily digestible.  Ignoring the problem I have with the art altogether, I believe that this would make a good introductory/gateway game to folks just starting their journey to the vast and wonderful world of tabletop gaming.

Final Verdict: 7/10

You can learn more about and purchase “Middle Empire” by visiting the official website, here:

http://natecoholdings.com/

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