Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Empires in America

The next random game from my collection is Empires in America, part of the States of Siege series of solitaire games by Victory Point Games.  Back in 2010 I wrote about another game in the series, Zulus on the Ramparts, also by designer Joseph Miranda, as fate would have it.  Empires in America deals with the French and Indian War, and puts the player in charge of the French forces.    Like all "States of Siege" games, the player is defending a central location (Montreal, in this case) while the opposing forces (British) are moving in along different tracks.  There are some differences, though, as is the case for all games in the series.  Where "Zulus" had the player randomly drawing counters from a cup to determine which attacking force gets closer, "Empires" has each army with a leader advance every turn.  This can turn ugly in a hurry.  To counter this, the player can use his French leaders to attack British armies and, if successful, force them back.  Of course, the player can't have it all his way, so you are limited in what you can do each turn by only have a few action points.  Want to launch an attack?  That takes an action point.  Want to play a card from your hand?  That takes an action point?  Want to build a fort (which helps slow down British armies)?  That takes TWO action points.  And on, and on.  You usually don't have enough actions.

The pace of the game is determined by drawing "historique cards."  Three per turn until the Seven Years War kicks off in Europe, and then four cards per turn.  The expansion set (which I have!) adds more cards, so if using that you draw four / six cards, instead.  Cards can provide new leaders to the French and British, militia or indian allies to either side, or world events, which change events some how.  There is serious randomness to the cards, and I have lost games because I drew a bunch of British leaders and not enough French leaders (the games rules mitigate this somewhat by not allowing any side to have two or more leaders than the other side, but some of those British leaders are nasty).  Thus, I have had British just march up the map and lose the game in five turns flat.  Granted, I've also had a game where I just stomped the British into dust every time they poked their heads out of their home bases, so that's how it goes in a card-driven game.

Even with the inherent randomness of the cards, I really like this game.  It captures the hard time that the French had in the war once the British really committed, and I like that feeling of needing to do five different things, but only being able to do two or three.  Solitaire games live and die by the decisions the player has to make, and this game provides good tension and decision making.  Also, how many games of the French and Indian War are out there?  Not many.  This game has earned its place in my collection.

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