In EMPIRE: The Deck Building Strategy Game (out now, $2.99), you’re a part of a waning civilization. Purple monster hordes are infecting the land, creating expanses of desolation and causing irreparable damage. On infected grounds, you can harvest no crops and build no cities. And unfortunately, the enemy is stronger than you.
This isn’t a game in which you’ll be able to turn the tide. Once you accept the fact that this is a survival game you can’t exactly win, you might have fun. The tutorial makes EMPIRE easy to pick up, though how long you survive after the tutorial is another matter.
Basically, you’ll start with one city, from which you’ll begin to harvest resources from the surroundings, such as crops from farms and stone from mountains. To move forward in the game, you’ll have to press “Next Week” or perform an action. At the same time, your resources will increase with each passing week. You’ll need to use them to pay for various things, such as building mines and training your army. Though this is titled EMPIRE, you can only manage three cities at any one time, and each city may only be expanded three times (to build new facilities). After that the city will eventually die due to depleted resources. You’ll then be forced to abandon it, but you can build a new city somewhere else.
As the purple infestation grows at random places on the map, some areas will develop into monster nests. You’ve got to attack them, and hopefully defeat them. If you wait and let the monsters launch an attack on your cities, you will most likely be at a disadvantage and may perhaps lose the battle. Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t see the monster nests due to the fog surrounding your lands. You’ll have to send out explorers to uncover new lands and reveal more infected areas.
The cards/deck-building aspect of the game comes into play in the battles, which are turn-based and resemble a chessboard. You’ve got different units, such as cavalry and archers, and cards may grant you special moves. The strife cards, however, fill up your deck like useless rocks. By winning a battle, you’ll be rewarded with a choice of cards, which you can keep for the next battle. Your goal in EMPIRE is to survive for as long as possible and earn as many victory points as you can.
iFanzine Verdict: EMPIRE: The Deck Building Strategy Game should appeal to card- or board-game fans, especially if you enjoy strategizing. The gameplay is interesting, although winning battles can be challenging. This is more a game of survival and tactics than empire building, so it’s probably not suitable for those who enjoy creating a sprawling civilization since you’re limited to three cities.