Title Empire: Wargame of the Century (Second Review) Game Type Strategy Company Interstel Release Year 1988 Players 1-3 Compatibility OCS, Kickstart 1.2 or above, 68000-68060, screen can be promoted to gfx card HD Installable Yes Features supports play by e-mail, comes with a map editor Submission Thomas M. Beck, tbeck@BACon.de Review 'Empire - Wargame of the Century' by Interstel is one of my favorite turn based strategy wargames on the Amiga. It is part of Interstel's Star Fleet series of strategic simulations where the player takes the role of a (would be) planetary conqueror, with air, sea and ground forces, and can be joined by up to 2 other players. The game starts with a simple intro picture of the colorful game box cover, a commander holding his hands over an invasion scenario, accompanied by a simple rendition of Edvard Grieg's 'Hall of the Mountain King'. After that, a word has to be looked up from the thick 'Star Fleet Planetary Task Force Command Manual' to proceed with the planetary landing. Besides that, the game is pretty self-explanatory and you do not need to read the complete manual. When a new game is started, you are presented with some option screens first. The number of players, the difficulty level and the map to play can be configured here. The planet or world map is organized in 60 rows by 100 columns and is presented in top down view. It consists of land and sea squares with a varying number of up to 99 cities sprinkled over the islands. The game comes with some predefined maps and features a map editor with a random map generator. So, the number of different maps that can be played is almost unlimited. Empire can be played by 1-3 players, and of those 2 can be controlled by the computer. A computer player's skill can be set to normal or expert. While Empire's computer AI is limited even on the expert level there are two other options that can be adjusted to make the game unplayable. One is the combat efficiency of the units and the other is the production efficiency of the cities. Both can be set from 0-100% for all 3 players separately. The default setting is 50% for all, and that gives a difficulty rating of 50%. If production efficiency is decreased to 25%, the cities of that player will produce new units at half the rate that the cities of another player whose settings are 50%. If combat efficiency is increased to 100%, the units of that player have doubled their probability to score a hit on a unit of another player whose settings are 50% only. Setting combat efficiency to 100% additionally gives a big advantage if attacking cities. An army will always succeed in capturing a neutral or enemy city then. When playing against computer controlled players, the game becomes very difficult and long if the rating exceeds 60%. My last game with a difficulty level of 62% percent took 660 game turns and about 60 hours playing time before the last of the two computer controlled expert players surrendered. The chosen rating also contributes to the statistics that are stored for all human commanders. The commander history contains the overall rating of played games, the number of played games and the number of wins and losses. Finally, after you have chosen a map or have let the game pick a random map for you the game begins. The player starts at a random position on the map with one city producing armies. The map is covered in black and only the 8 squares around the first city are visible. Even if a square is uncovered once a unit moves to the adjacent square, it just gives a picture of the time it was uncovered. Later in the game crucial squares have to be monitored permanently by patrolling fighters, armies or ships to give an accurate sight of the battle field. After some time, depending on the chosen production efficiency, the first army is built. If the production is not changed, it will take less time to produce the next army in that city. The first army is used to scout the island and attack the next city that is found. If it is a coastal city, it has a port and ships can be built. The first coastal city conquered should produce troop transports. The starting island usually has only 2-3 cities on it, so a troop transport should be available early in the game to be able to continue expansion. If I play with combat efficiency set to 100% I switch production to transport in the first city as soon as the first army is built. Here is an overview of the units available in Empire. The values given in brackets are movement per turn, hit points and production time for the first unit for a 50% production efficiency setting. In order of production time there are armies (1/1/6), fighters (5/1/12), submarines (2/3/24), destroyers (3/3/24), troop transports (2/3/30), cruisers (2/8/42), aircraft carriers (2/8/48) and battleships (2/12/60). The army unit although week and slow is a very important unit in Empire. It is the only unit that can attack and capture cities and besides the submarine it can attack all other units in the game. An army attacking a city either is destroyed if the attack is repulsed or if the attack succeeds the army forms the new defending garrison that is no longer under the player's control. Armies need troop transports to be transported to other islands. A troop transport can carry up to 6 armies. If a transport is damaged it can carry less units. If the transport was fully loaded with armies when ist was damaged, excessive armies are automatically destroyed, too. The fastest unit in Empire is the fighter. It can stay in the air for 4 game turns moving a maximum of 20 squares in that time. Therefore, it is best used as a scouting unit to discover the next island and the location of the cities on it. Later in the game fighters can be used to patrol the sea in front of your cities, to intercept incoming enemy troop transports before they unload their armies. Fighters can either take off and land in cities or on aircraft carriers. Aircraft carriers can carry up to 8 fighters, unless they are damaged. Carriers and transports are not suited to attack other ships despite their many hit points. They have only half attack capability. The transport is even more vulnerable, like the submarine, it has only half the standard defense capability. To compensate that, the submarine scores 3 damage points per hit like the battleship. Another advantage of the submarine is that it is invisible to all units besides destroyers and cruisers. A submarine entering a sea square adjacent to a city will become visible however. Destroyers are the fastest ships. They can be used to explore the unknown world, search submarines and sink transports. They should avoid combat with all other ships. Cruisers are the all-purpose ships in the game. They have the best combination of production time, hit points and attack factor (2 damage points per hit). They are capable of detecting subs and are able to attack armies stationed on the coast. Attacking armies is a good job for cruisers and battleships since armies have only half the defense factor if bombarded. Cruisers can be used to attack all other ships besides an undamaged battleship. They are good for leading convoys and escorting transports and carriers. They only have to fear the most powerful ship in the game, the battleship. With its superior attack capabilities of 3 damage points per hit and 12 hit points it can stand the attacks of many fighters, armies and other ships. Unfortunately, it takes a very, very long time to build. If a ship has only half (or less) of its total hit points it slows down to moving only 1 square per turn. If it is computer controlled, it stop attacking armies or other ships. This is a good indicator how severely a ship is damaged. Now, it is time for a chase to make an easy kill. In phase 1 of the game you explore the world and try to conquer as many cities as possible before you actually encounter the enemy. Phase 2 starts when you encounter the enemy. Now, the exciting part of the game begins. Have you built up production so much that you can stand the enemy hordes and hold a stable front? If not, are you able to delay his troops until your big ships back up your defending cities? If you encounter the enemy very early in the game, by no means try to throw all your forces against him. Keep back a small force to continue expansion at another place in the world. If all neutral cities that just defend and do not produce neutral units are conquered, phase 3 of the game begins. The game action concentrates at the front line. You have to defend against the massive enemy attacks and at the same time you have to build up an invasion army. A good invasion fleet would, for example, consist of a battleship and a cruiser leading the convoy, two cruisers escorting the flanks and two fully loaded transports in the middle. City based fighters can patrol the sea to detect enemy ships. Invasion gets more complicated if the enemy island you wish to conquer is far away from your nearest island. In that case you have to build a carrier to increase the fighter's range or you have to sacrifice them sending them on a mission of no return. Unfortunately, the ideal invasion fleet at that stage of the game is unlikely to exist, since you have not got the time to wait until these ships, armies and fighters are built. You have to find a compromise between time and speed. The sooner you attack, the less defence you will encounter and the less enemy ships will 'pollute' the sea. So, pick a nearby enemy island as a target and 1 or 2 cruisers, a transport loaded with at least 4 armies and 2-4 fighters should do the job. If the leading ship reaches the island, it clears the coast around the target city of armies. The fighters do the same for the land squares around the city that cannot be bombarded by ships. In the same turn the transport will unload its armies directly in front of the city. That means that the army unloads and attacks in the same game turn, leaving the enemy no time to destroy the army before it reaches the city. All enemy units that were in the city will be destroyed at once. Now, you should think about fortifying the beach-head. The enemy will switch production of the other cities on that island to armies soon. This will happen either immediately, or after an almost complete ship or fighter has been built. So be prepared for some massive counter attacks. Possibly the best thing you can do is to move the damaged ships and at least one cruiser or battleship of the invasion fleet into the new city. Each game turn a ship stays in a city one point of damage is repaired if it spends one of its two movement/action points for repair. The remaining fighters and ships patrol the sea, so that no enemy transport can reach the city unnoticed. The cruiser or battleship in the city defends against the hopelessly inferior enemy armies. A computer controlled player is not clever enough to intentionally attack with more than two armies in the same game turn to force a withdrawal of the defending ship that can only attack two armies per turn. The remaining armies also in the city just wait for the next invasion or help out the defending ship in a critical moment. It is not advisable to move the armies over land to the next enemy coastal city. Most of the time they will be defeated by enemy armies and fighters. The new city should produce armies, fighters or cruisers. It should produce armies if there is no way to get reinforcements from your other islands. It should produce fighters to keep up the radar effect of patrolling fighters to protect the ships in the city from incoming enemy transports. It should produce cruisers to further build up the city's defense and to build up the next invasion fleet. If the next coastal city on the island is easily reachable by sea it is an easy catch. Such a city is an even better target if it has not switched production to army and still is building a big ship. By the way, the production project of an enemy city can be discovered by a scouting fighter. Another tactic is to move the invasion fleet to another island and just hold the beach-head city on the first island. If you are able to conquer a city on another island, the same will happen for the other enemy cities on that island as before, sooner or later the production will switch to building armies. Therefore, the enemy's production will suffer more than had you just conquered another city on the first island. If you can take some cities in that way without getting into trouble somewhere else on your other islands, you are left in a very strong position. Now comes the boring part. It can take hours and hours until you have conquered about 80% of the cities and a computer player finally surrenders. To speed up the game you can switch production of the cities far away from the front to fighters. The game has a nice feature to install flight paths between cities. A newly built fighter will fly to the last city of a flight path automatically. Another good feature is, that you do not have to enter every move for yourself. All units can be told to move to a defined position. They will be moved automatically then. If they encounter an enemy unit on their way control is transfered back to the player. All orders that are given can be cleared at any time. So, a unit told to do sentry duty or to patrol to position x can be interrupted and given new orders. If the computer wishes to surrender you can accept or continue until he is totally crushed. I would accept, since it would take another hour or two to capture the remaining cities. At the end of the game you can view the enemy's game view and statistics and see where his remaining troops are. So, there is no need to play until the bitter end. Conclusion Empire is a game with simple computer AI, simple graphics and even more simple sounds, but hey, this is a very playable strategy game. With its unique features like separate production and combat efficiency settings for all players, reduced production time after the first unit is built, flight paths, sentry, escort and patrol commands, units that can carry other units, many combat affecting factors (hits to destroy, damage per hit, attack factor, defense factor, combat efficiency), some units cannot attack other units, some units cannot see other units, ..., Empire was far ahead of its time and is highly still addictive today, especially in two player mode. If you can buy it somewhere, by all means get it.