It’s been a fine day. No rain and the sheep have been grazing carelessly for hours. Their bellies full. Well, now it’s my turn. The boy took a loaf of bread, a piece of cheese and a small knife from his knapsack and made himself comfortable on a rock halfway up the hill. He broke off a piece of the bread and cut off some slivers of cheese. He took a bite. It was delicious. He called his dog to give him some bread too, but then he saw them, down in valley, hundreds of men standing there, a purple army, motionless except for their flags flapping in the wind. The boy stood up, a hand against his forehead to protect his eyes from the sun. To take a better look, to make some sort of sense of it all. Where did they come from? They weren’t here a minute ago. What are they doing here? There’s no enemy in sight and they’re just standing there in this perfectly square formation.
Hours he waited, his sheep grazing, but still there was no sign of movement and the sun was starting to sink behind the green hills. Were these men even alive? The darkness would be here soon and so the boy gathered his sheep and left this strange sight behind.
What you get for your money:
In the box are 72 wooden cubes, 12 wooden castles, four double-sided map boards, 43 cards, 36 coin tokens, 5 explore tokens, 4 encounter tokens, 3 citadel tokens, 1 poison swamp token, 1 starting region token and the rules.
How do you play the game:
Simple really, set up four map boards, give every player 18 cubes and three castles, place four armies or cubes of every player on the starting region of your choosing and one army per player on another region, give every player some coins, shuffle the cards and place six of them in a row on the table.
Let’s start playing. First players bid on who’s going to be the first player. Then, starting with the first player, players, in turn, buy a card from the card row and perform an action. The leftmost card is free, the rightmost one costs three coins, the ones in between one or two coins. A card gives you an ability and an action. When you buy a card you perform that action and the ability will give something extra throughout the game or points at the end of the game. There are four actions that can be on the cards. The first one is place an amount of armies in the starting region or in a region where you have a castle. The second one is move cubes from one region to the other. Moving from land to land costs one movement point and over water three points. The third action is place a castle in a region with at least one of your armies. The last one is the destroy an army action. Some cards give you one action, others two and some give you a choice.
The abilities are things like, move one extra cube, place one extra cube, movement over water costs you one less or you are immune to attack. Other abilities concern end game points. Every card has a name and most of them have words like cursed or arcane in them and there are cards that have the ability that says get one point for every arcane card at the end of the game. You can also collect elixirs, the player with the most elixirs at the end of the game gets two points.
The game ends when, depending on the amount of players, every one has a specific amount of cards in front of them. Then you add up all the points. When you control a region, more cubes then any other player, one point. When you control an island, more regions then any other player, one point. When you have the most elixirs, two points. When you have a specific ability, points. The player with the most points, wins Eight Minute Empire: Legends.
Rules, simple, you can explain the game in a couple of minutes. Turns go quick, the pace is high, it’s a twenty minute game. You buy a card, perform the action and that ten times in a three player game. It’s over before you know it. A quick area control game, it sounds fun and it kinda is, but it also feels a bit unsatisfactory.
There are two ways to score points in this game, collecting sets of cards or gain majorities in the different regions. The area control part of the game doesn’t do it for me. At the end of the games I’ve played, on the central island, the one with the starting region, there were just piles of different coloured cubes and on the outer islands one or two cubes per region. Every time I felt the interesting ‘battles’ were about to begin, the game was already over.
The set collection part of the game is very important and maybe the most important part of the game. You can get a lot of points when you collect enough cards from certain sets. You only need to pick your battles on the board well. When you focus on set collection, you do not buy a card for the action, but for the card itself and that limits you in your actions. Your actions might not be the most advantageous at that time. You can still do the things you want, but it just takes a little longer.
Because the cards are so important, I think Eight Minute Empire: Legends is more a set collection game with some area control elements than a straight, reduced, area control game. That’s what make me feel unsatisfied at the end of some games. I want to do all these things on the board, but at the end the game doesn’t give me the time.
Is this a fault of the game? No, I do not think so. It does exactly what it promises to do. It’s a quick cube pusher and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe I’m the one who wants something that it just cannot give.
Well, after a while, if you are tired of playing the basic game over and over, you can add a lot of stuff that slightly changes the game. There are four leader cards that give every player special abilities and scoring options. Plus, there are a lot of tokens you can add to the game, and these tokens might be the solution to the ‘problem’ I described above. You place the tokens randomly (or not so randomly) on the board in different regions and these tokens give you something (points, coins, actions) when you explore this regions first or control that region at the end of the game or build a castle there. These tokens give the players an incentive to spread out more and to focus more on the area control part of the game.
The game is OK with two, but it’s really a three or four player game. More competition on the board and with the cards; more decisions and attacking other players is more interesting.
Although the game is full of fantasy characters like Ogres, Elves, Gnomes and Wizards, you can be a Bandit King or a Red Sorceress, you can look for hidden treasures or magic books and you can fight a Rampaging Dragon, it’s not very thematic. There’s a lot of flavour, but the things you do mechanically don’t have anything to do with the elves or dwarfs, it’s just place a cube here, move a cube there. Except for the explore and encounter tokens, the game doesn’t feel very thematic.
Well, like I already said the game has a fantasy flavour. The illustrations are bright and beautiful. I also like that they have chosen to use none standard coloured cubes, it looks fresh. The castle cubes are also very cool. Every set of cards has a different colour, but some of them, like night and cursed cards, or arcane and ancient cards, look very similar and so it’s not always easy to know what your opponents are going for at a quick glance.
Quality of the game parts
The game has very nice components. The card quality is good and the card board pieces have a decent thickness. The cubes are just cubes, but the castles pieces are very nice. In addition to all this, the game comes in a very solid box.
Like I already said above, Eight Minute Empire: Legends is fun, but it also feels unsatisfactory sometimes. The gameplay is very smooth, it’s quick and it looks good, but it’s a filler and nothing more than that. I usually like filler games. Games that take half an hour or forty-five minutes. Games that you can play multiple times in a row. But with this game, although it plays in about twenty minutes, one play is enough for me.
There not enough strategy, the game is over before I even started and the finals score feels a bit too random sometimes. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s not bad, but certainly the basic EME: Legends game just does not scratch my gamer itch.