First Impressions

Home Forums Previous Months 89 – February 2024: Empire First Impressions

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  • Pix

    I gave this a good go yesterday. I’m playing the Deluxe version which comes with a fairly hefty ringbound manual so I worked through the tutorial on that. Initially the game screen seems oppressively complicated but it’s actually quite simple once you’ve gone through the tutorial so that did it’s job well enough.

    The deluxe version has 3 different modes. I started in basic which has fewer units and no visibility restrictions. After a good hour, the game I played ended up in a sort of near stalemate where I’d just end up capturing/recapturing the same cities. I daresay I was making some progress as I got ships online but it seems to me like games of this could take days! I tried using some of the multi-turn commands for move-to, sentry and the like which does help a little.
    I thought maybe the speed of everything would be resolved in the standard game with the extra units but the pre-set scenarios were huge and even slower. And the one I picked made me play as Hitler attacking the English which wasn’t exactly endearing.

    I can cope with games on small maps that don’t take too long but was bored before I’d even assigned the starting production for all my cities on the larger map. To compound things, the music is on incredibly short loops which started winding me up. The rules of the game are surprisingly basic. It didn’t even feel like I was making any major strategic decisions most of the time, it was more about endlessly shuffling units about.

    To summarize, I gave it a go but I’m clearly not going to get on with this game. This is not a genre I’d usually play so this isn’t entirely surprising. Hopefully the rest of you will enjoy it a lot more. The deluxe edition has options for serial play and there is also a play by email option for up to six players where you can post files around. Sounds likes one of those could be fun to try out for the club for anyone who enjoys this stuff.


    The music loops! Ugh, totally agree with you on that one, pix.

    I’ve played a little sampler of three different versions for DOS – version 1 point something, 2 point something and deluxe. (I sort of like version 2 the best)

    Having dabbled in a number of 4x games in the past, I was able to pretty much figure out all the versions of empire on the fly with just a text document open for reference.

    My thought is that it’s clear just how influential this game was. Every 4x game there is probably owes a lot to this title. As I implied, if you’ve ever played civilization, master of orion, master of magic or anything vaguely like that, you’ll have no problem picking this up. It almost feels like a 4x game engine of which “empire” is itself just the barebones sample came that came with it!

    But as basic as it seems, you have to remember that it was originally made in the late 70s on a mainframe computer! I think you could say that it’s way ahead of its time in that respect.


    I am having a good go at the 1987 version, Empire: Wargame of the Century.

    This is my kind of game. I’m not particularly great at it, but it infects me with brain worms. I keep thinking about my strategy even while not playing.

    I find keyboard-only play is the easiest for this version. The use of the SHIFT key to move and scroll in larger increments is a nice quality-of-life touch. The small things make a difference, you know? Like the WAIT and SKIP TURN commands, and being able to issue orders to a group of units.

    I have never PBEM before and have always been curious about this mode of play. This game would be the one, if I ever tried play by email. Yes I’m aware a game with dozens of exchanges could take months. That prospect intimidates me… yet I’m still curious.

    Aside: Relocating my home later this month so my playtime will be reduced. I will keep on playing this game into the year though, the addiction is taking hold.


    My first impressions have me feeling so bad here! I played Empire: Wargame of the Century and the only feeling I came away with was just this overwhelming sense of tediousness.

    I admit to being impressed with everything on offer considering the age of the game and the amazing ability to even play by mail if you wanted to, don’t get me wrong, but this game to me is the ultimate reminder on how far we’ve come. If that makes sense?

    I will absolutely agree too that the games are incredibly long and with having to keep track of all the movements, even with certain commands to help, it’s just so much to have to think about constantly while waiting tons of turns to be able to do anything. If you’re stuck on a small island to start, prepare to be doomed to just be stuck waiting for transport production for AGES while having nothing left to explore.

    Maybe my first games were just a bad example of things but I truly am unsure I’m going to be able to convince myself to go back and give it a second go.


    I might revise my previous statement 😉

    Games do take a long time to complete, don’t they? I’m still on my first game. I can only afford one or two hour sittings, but still it’s a long game.

    I think there’s an enemy ship hiding somewhere, there are no enemy cities left in the 87% of the map I’ve explored – save for the 13% of the map yet unexplored.

    Edit: I found the last enemy city, mission successful!

    I actually don’t have the will to finish this game today. I’ve run out of time and will continue next week 🙂

    Great game, but it’s a major time sink. No doubt about it.


    Agree with your summary, Wesbat. Cool game, but it just takes forever! I love a good 4X game though, so this just hits all my dopamine centres and I definitely got that familiar feeling of obsession that I get from these types of games.

    I had a quick go at ‘war-game of the century’ to get a feel for it, and have played through a couple of games on the ‘deluxe’ edition.

    My first impression was “wow, you mean I don’t have to worry about economy OR keeping my population happy, and I can focus ONLY on military production and strategy?!”. I thought this would make the game quite simple, but as the game progresses you end out having quite a lot to think about. I found I would easily lose track of units stationed inside my cities, and it was quite time intensive to take stock of them all without a summary window like in other 4X games.

    The long build times in particular require a fair bit of future planning. Control of the seas really counts here and ships take AGES to build, so you need to make sure you don’t neglect that otherwise you’ll just not be able to progress in the end game.

    Likewise, what appear to be basic manoeuvres/invasions can take a long time to execute, as you have to navigate production, transportation/concetration, and sometimes even your own traffic jams!

    I did not find the UI very intuitive to start with, particularly in WGOTC. I just wanted to click on everything I wanted to deal with then and there rather than work through the order of moves determined by the game. This resulted in a few bungled moves (thinking I was in survey screen). I definitely recommend skimming over the manual to understand the different screens and keyboard commands etc. Once you get the hang of that, then the rest of it is pretty self explanatory. The ‘W’ key (for wait) is very important so you can sequence your units moves right. Took me a while to figure that out…

    One frustration was also the combat variables/odds. I couldn’t tell if there was an obvious way to know if I’d win a conflict or not? I’d be keen to know if there is, other than a unit’s relative hit points etc. To me this just seemed a bit random and I wanted something that would indicate whether a battle is worth picking or not. More often than not though, I just threw caution to the wind (maybe that’s what they want you to do?).

    In deluxe I played a few ‘basic’ games. In these games planes aren’t available and you can see all the enemy’s moves and production. This is probably too basic, but a useful introduction. On my second game I was able to quite quickly isolate my enemy’s city and destroy their transports while I built up a big enough invasion force to take them out, so yeah, definitely too basic. I will have a crack at a ‘standard’ game soon which I imagine is similar to the standard WGOTC game.

    The music is… annoying… but helpful so I know what type of unit I’m moving I guess. But hey we’re not in it for the music right? This is all about guns and conquest.

    Overall, love it, just wish it didn’t take so long.


    The RNG seems a bit dicey in some of the versions. I read somewhere (can’t remember if it was a manual or text file, nor for which version of the game) that taking a city with an army is supposed to be a 50% chance.
    Well, sometimes I found myself pouring upwards of five armies each into three or four cities in a row to take them…


    I cannot get into this at all. It is interesting to see this proto-civilization type game and I’m looking forward to learning more about it through the podcast but for me, with my addiction to more modern RTS-games, this is just too limited, and frankly, boring. I guess this is partly because I didn’t start pc gaming until the mid-90s and my first games were Warcraft 2 and C&C so I don’t even have any kind of nostalgia to lean on here.

    More power to those of you who enjoy it, hopefully that’ll lead to some good conversations in the podcast 🙂


    I managed to squeeze in a ‘standard’ game of the deluxe edition before the month wrapped up. Result: a victory over ‘Ludendorff’ no less (he’ll say he was stabbed in the back, but don’t listen to him).

    Overall, my impressions are largely unchanged from my earlier post where I tried out a few ‘basic’ games. The standard game was a much better fit, and a bit more enjoyable and varied for that reason. The main thing is to just keep building ships, especially battleships in the late stage of the game.

    This probably isn’t one I’ll revisit, at least soon, but it was great to experience. To me, this game is quite ahead of its time. I can see its influence in games like civilisation (of which I’m a big fan of the 4th installment) and so I certainly owe a debt of gratitude to this enjoyable but time-consuming game. A game to pay homage to, but a game that has ultimately been superseded.

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Home Forums Previous Months 89 – February 2024: Empire First Impressions