Conquer the world in eight minutes or less, how cool is that?
Android & iOS
# of Players
1 - 5
Red Raven Games
Eight-Minute Empire pits players against each other in an area control battle, with a set collection aspect, to see who can conquer the most lad in, well, about eight minutes. Players start on a central region on one of the game's maps, they take turns selecting their actions to add more armies and conquer more regions. After a limited number of turns, the player who has accumulated the most points wins, this usually takes about five minutes, false advertising!
Eight-Minute Empire begins with each player receiving the same amount of coins, depending on the player count. Players immediately bid their coins on the right to select turn order. Once that is decided, each player takes their turn selecting from an available set of cards, each of which provides a good and an action. The available actions in the base game are: recruiting new armies, moving existing armies (on land and/or on sea), building a city, and destroying enemy troops. After a few turns, the exact number depends on the player count, the game ends and the points for controlled regions/continents and total good values are added to determine the winner.
This is a very straightforward game with small, but meaningful, decisions to be made each turn. Scoring comes from controlling a region (1 point), controlling a continent by having control of the most regions in a continent (1 point), and points received by collecting goods throughout the game (points vary by good type and quantity). The area control aspect is as straightforward as it gets: move your armies around to control a region. If you have two armies in a region versus an opponent's one, you have control and the point.
The goods add a necessary twist to the game. Each action card has a good associated with it and as you collect the same type of good over the course of the game, you can gain significant points. For rubies, for example, are worth six points at the end of the game. That is substantial when many games end with scores in the low double digits. Rubies are the most valuable good, it takes eight carrots, for example, to gain six points. The remaining three goods land in between, but all have the same max of six points. Adding to the fun is a wildcard good, which the game will automatically move around for you to give you the best possible use.
The final twist to this game is that you cannot regain coins. The action cards are on a sliding cost system where older cards cost less (down to zero) and newer cards cost more (up to three coins). The whole coin system is a fantastic mechanic in this game. You can easily run out of coins if you take a few of the higher cost cards early. You can still play out your turns without any coins, but you are then at the mercy of the draw as to what action card will be sitting in the zero cost spot when your turn comes up.
Add all of this together and you have a pretty interesting, quick-playing game. The core is a very simple area control game, but the goods and coin limitations really add some important decision making. The game plays quickly because there are only six cards available on each turn, and they will very likely have overlapping actions so the decisions can be made quickly. That doesn't mean they aren't important decisions. You can win games by focusing on goods and a few key conquests, go ahead and let the other armies fight for control while you rack up those goods bonuses. Or expand and build cities (which allow you to recruit new armies to whichever region the city is in) to allow you to take control of multiple continents.
The point of all of this is that there is more to this eight minute game than I, personally, was expecting and it's a lot of fun. Let's see how the implementation stacks up.
Barrier to Entry
Eight-Minute Empire is a straightforward game, but thankfully comes with a tutorial and rulebook nonetheless. The tutorial is as bare bones as it gets, simply overlaying some of the rules on the screen early on in a game, but mostly letting you play the game on your own anyway. It is hardly a comprehensive tutorial, but honestly is fine for this game. The rulebook offers descriptive, concise overviews of the various gameplay aspects. The tutorial and another game or two will be more than enough for many, but the rulebook is well done if you'd rather learn the game that way. It's nice to have options.
Early on in a game
Look and Feel
This is a decent looking, polished app. The gameplay graphics are simple, but they do the job. The menu and load screen graphics are quite pleasent. There are only a few different actions you need to take in the game, and the controls are simple and intuitive to mirror that. Some might have preferred drag-and-drop rather than clicks at times, but the clicks work just fine. Nothing in this category really jumps off of the screen for Eight-Minute Empire, but the app works well and looks pleasent while doing do.
Eight-Minute Empire offers cross-platform online games, real-time or asynchronously. Games are created and joined in a lobby, with a chat available to discuss setup with potential playing partners. The Mountains Expansion, Goods Tokens variant, and three game series game be selected when creating a game, you also choose which map to use. The details of the game variants are explained later. You can optionally password protect your game to allow only friends to join or vet potential players in the lobby chat. You don't select the number of players for a given game, other players joins and as long as you have two people, you can start the game at any point after that.
My problem with online play is that is has been difficult for me to finish an online game. In the lobby there are always a handful of games waiting for players. Most of these are usually password locked, waiting for a friend to join or whatever the case may be. There are usually a few that are open games, I keep joining these but most of them never actually start and when they do, most of them don't finish. I create me own games and wait for players to join, they usually do within an hour or so. I then start the game, only to inevitably have other players stop playing at some point. I have yet to see a real-time game to join and my attempts to create one (admittedly fewer than my attempts to make asynchronous games) haven't worked so far.
I'm not entirely sure why online games are so difficult to start or finish, but I suspect a major contributor is the lack of system notifications. Asynchronous play is fantastic and always a welcome addition, but without system notifications, what's the point? People forget they are playing games and don't want to check in frequently. Hopefully this issue is addressed with an update, the game is well suited for async play and I would certainly bump the score up if the game had notifications.
The game offers pass-and-play. This makes a good pass-and-play app as there is no hidden information so you can set a tablet in the middle of the table and gather around.
The game features a single player game against one to four AI opponents. They can be set to Easy, Medium, or Hard. There is an option to randomize the number and difficulty of the AI opponents, which is a nice touch. The AI is solid. Easy will put up a decent fight, with medium and hard both providing a challenge. The games will almost always end with close scores. If you have manage to get the right amount of luck and be able to constantly expand your control while picking up related goods, you are going to win. This won’t happen often and the AI can see your status on the goods and block you if necessary
You can use any expansions you have purchased and also toggle the Good Tokens variant and optionally turn it into a three game series rather than one, with the highest sum across three games winning. The Good Tokens variant places goods on random regions and the controlling player adds that good to their supply. A common thread for Eight-Minute Empire, the single player is well done, a lot of fun, and provides a fun challenge, but also has no bells and whistles.
Empires are expanding
Starting a local game
There are quite a few in-app purchases for this game. They come in two forms: the Mountains Expansion and additional maps. Mountains changes the game in a few ways. First, regions on the map are randomly chosen to be mountains at the start of the game. These regions have a few rule variations, most notably they are worth two points instead of one at the end of the game. A city built on a mountain region counts as two points towards control of that region rather than the standard one. Two new cards are introduced: settlers and builders. These both alter the way cities can be built or used, adding new wrinkles to the game.
The maps are what you would expect, different setups for the game. The base game comes with three maps and four more are available via IAP.
Each map and the mountain expansion currently cost $1.99, so a total of $10 for all of the IAP content as of the time of this writing.
The Wrap Up
Eight-Minute Empire is a fun game. Having not played the physical version and seeing the weight and simple rules, I wasn’t expecting a lot. This game surprised me, it isn’t a deep brain burner, but there are fun, meaningful decisions to be made every turn. The game manages to pack a lot into a very short playtime. There are other games out there that do the super short playtime well, but to play in around 5 minutes for a fun, competitive game is both rare and impressive.
On the downside, the app doesn’t have any extra features to it. That isn’t a necessity, but when combined with the lack of online notifications and lack of ability to find anybody willing to finish a game with you, the end result is essentially a simple, yet fun, single player mode and nothing else.
Overall, the game is fun and the app is mostly well done. Add online system notifications which will hopefully spur the player base to actually finish the games, and this score will go up.