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For: iPad   Also on: Android, iPhone

Empirically sound

Product: Empire | Developer: Crazy Monkey Studios | Publisher: Crazy Monkey Studios | Format: iPad | Genre: Card/ board game, Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Empire iPad, thumbnail 1
Last stands are a staple of fantasy fiction, and mine takes place in the young city of Durogbia, the final bastion of an empire beset since its inception by the forces of darkness.

I've stripped the land bare of resources, sent countless men and tigers to die in forlorn attacks on vastly superior monster armies, and now the time has come for Durogbia to fall.

From crumbling city walls I watch the approaching doom. There's no time to send out settlers to build a new city and no resources to spend on toughening up my army, which was all but slaughtered in the last fight with the beasts that are symptomatic of the desolation sweeping the land.

Still, I've lasted for more turns than last time. And if I hadn't stupidly expanded too quickly into unknown territory then I might have gone on a little further. Ah well - there's always next time.

Empire building

is a simplified mix of strategy, deck-builder, and boardgame. You start with a single city, doomed to die like all the rest, and beset on all sides by problems. The resources you need to survive are finite, the monsters you need to defeat are strong, and your chances of survival are minimal.

You can spread out and build new cities in more fertile areas, but the same problems are rife here too. Once you've used up the resources of an area you need to up sticks and move on to the next, leaving an eradicated purple wasteland in your stead.

Each turn you automatically draw in resources, which you can then use to strengthen your army or explore fogged out parts of the map. Different map tiles give you different resources, but eventually they'll run out.

When you launch an attack, or when an attack is launched at you, the game becomes a mix of chess and CCG. The different units in your army move and attack in different ways, steadily stomping across a board towards the arranged mass of the enemy.

Card battlers

You have a deck of cards at your disposal that can change the tide of battle. Some are spells that give an attack or defence buff. Some let you move in different ways, swap characters round, or stop the advance of your army entirely.

Preemptive strikes can knock out monster dens before they've had the chance to gather their full strength, and award you more victory points. Winning fights gives you new cards for your deck, but taking casualties means you're forced to add dead hands, which take up space and are difficult to get rid of.

Sometimes all you can do is wait until the wolves are at the door, desperately hoping that you'll gain enough resources in the time between an enemy attack being launched and its arrival to bolster your defences and repel it.

War is futile

Empire is a grand strategy game writ small enough for mobile play. It's a game that makes you feel increasingly hopeless, as you destroy the land and send men to their deaths in the vain hope of progressing a little further than last time.

Durogbia falls to the monster hordes faster than I could have imagined, it's last defenders cut down before they even had a chance of a heroic end.

may be a little dour, but its strategy is tight and its deck-building is addictive. It might be a last stand, but it's a cause worth fighting for.
Reviewer photo
Harry Slater | 30 October 2013
A compelling catastrophe simulator masquerading as a strategy title, Empire is an entertaining game of endings
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