Most of the games I play can take hours to get through, leaving me satisfied but often downright exhausted by the time I’m cleaning up the pieces on the tabletop and putting them back in the box. Finding a game that is a challenge but a quick play can be a tall order. This past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, I had a chance to play through the new Eight-Minute Empire: Legends and discovered in it a gorgeous little game easily playable in about 20 minutes.
Eight-Minute Empire: Legends is yet another Kickstarter success from last year and a follow-up to the original Eight-Minute Empire which was also Kickstarted in late 2012. The original game is now out of print, but fortunately the new Legends version is playable as a standalone.
Cards and island tiles from Eight-Minute Empire: Legends
The game plays with a classic area control mechanic on a modular set of two-sided tiles featuring islands connected by bridges and separated by sea. Players begin with a set of colored cube “armies” in a central location. Play runs a set round of turns based on the number of players (2-4) with all the action driven by 35 cards laid out six at a time near the board. Cards allow combinations of movement, placing new armies, building cities, destroying opponent’s armies or other special actions (like a “flight” ability over water spaces).
As the turns progress, cards are picked up (for free) or purchased (for 1-3 coins) depending on their position in the row. Players buy cards in turn using coins handed out at the beginning of the game. After a card is acquired , the the whole row of cards slides up and a new card is turned over. The shifting positions and costs of the cards plays heavily in the strategy as each player bides their time to snatch a card they want for the least cost possible. With each turn, the value of cards quickly rise or fall, depending on each player’s personal strategy.
When the turns are up, players score victory points based on the control of territory spaces or dominance of an entire island. Additionally, collecting specific sets of cards score more victory points. In our game, my three opponents primarily focused on slugging it out for territory on the board while I focused on collecting cards. I managed to collect two “Mountain” cards for a couple extra victory points at the end, and I also scored points for having the most cards with blue crystals. One other player collected a bunch of “Dire” cards illustrated with menacingly evil images. After a few plays through the game, I could see how players might gain familiarity with the available cards plan their strategies with a bit more focus.
For a tiny game, it packs a punch and variety within a nifty fantasy theme. Eight-Minute Empire: Legends is a great game to have on hand — maybe tossed at the bottom of your bag — and ready to go when a swift game of conquest is just the thing to fill a half-hour of competitive fun.