To address the obvious, strategy games are notorious for taking exhaustive amounts of time to play, but Eight Minute Empire: Legends ($20) streamlines traditional rules to such an extent that it is possible to complete a game in just eight minutes. Or so one would hope. Some degree of agonizing over choices will still slow a game down, but it is entirely possible to complete the game relatively quickly. To the original game Eight Minute Empire, the “Legends” subtitle introduces a pretty standard fantasy setting and artwork. However, we are spared unnecessary lore and backstory. It also adds additional rules to vary game-play while still sticking to the time-sensitive nature suggested in the game’s name.
Setup of the game consists of laying out four island gameboard pieces in any scheme the players desire and player armies occupy the same regions at the outset of the game. Actual combat is minimal and the impetus instead is on maneuvering around regions and islands so as to outnumber opponents at endgame. Each player turn begins with a card being chosen from six which lay face-up and have a scaled price attached to them. Players have limited funds, which do not replenish. As one card is chosen, all cards of higher price slide down the scale and a new card is flipped up to occupy the highest price-point. Players can pay the high price or gamble on cards still being available for a lower price when their next turn comes around. Cards are all unique and give an immediate action and a lasting ability. Actions serve to allow movement, add armies, build a new city, or eliminate an enemy army in a contested region. Abilities continue for the remainder of the game and can increase movement, provide bonus armies, give immunity to attack, or in some way increase endgame victory points. The cards are themed around fantastical creatures and sublime landscape-realms. And all the artwork is exceedingly pretty.
No two games will be alike as there are many upon many slight variations and additional content that can be added to a game, from portals to dragon quests. And, thankfully, this content is included with the base game. The modular game board tile configurations vary the arena and each of the four tiles is two-sided with a different island realm on the reverse. Additionally, if you're anything like me, you can make up some house rules to slightly alter your gaming experience and even if you develop a poor house rule the game will be over in eight minutes. It is as good playing head-to-head as with three or four players. It is a simple game to learn and every beginner should easily become a legendary emperor at least once in less than an hour. Much as I sometimes prefer those more complex and risky board games, the straightforward play of Eight Minute Empires: Legends allows for replay, experimentation and many chances to win. – Stephen Webb
Eight Minute Empire: Legends
by Red Raven Games
Ages 13 and up, 2-4 players
$20 Buy a copy on Amazon