Empire: Wargame of the Century

Title		Empire: Wargame of the Century
Game Type	Strategy
Company		Interstel
Players		1-4
Compatibility	All?
Submission	Peter Olafson

The title is extravagant, but well-deserved. Empire: Wargame of the
Century, published by Interstel for the Amiga in 1988, is the grandfather
of commercial world-conquest games.

Designed by Mark Baldwin (Star Fleet I) and Walter Bright, and ported by
Bob Rakosky, Empire's essential assets were a grand scale and an essential
simplicity. It's a very un-war-gamey war game: Anyone can play it.

Using a single starting city to build forces, you send your troops (just
one infantry unit to start) out to capture others -- either unowned or
belonging to an enemy. (You can configure the game to play against as many
as three enemies, if memory serves.) Each city can build one unit --
armor, fighter planes, destroyers, etc. -- at a time, with the number of
turns required commeasurate to the task. (The formidable battleship takes

Naturally, the idea is to take over the world.

Now, there's nothing particularly Amiga-tized or fancy about it (though I
wouldn't be surprised to learn that it multi-tasks). It's very close to
the Atari ST version. Empire has a plain, top-down, hex-like map, with
black-and- white units and pull-down and pop-up menus. I'd judge that the
game uses fewer than 16 colors, and the sound, as I recall, consists
mainly of boops and beeps.

But it did have thoughtful features, such as the ability to have your
units patrol a given stretch of  territory, beat a path to a distant
destination over multiple turns, transport other units in seaborne
invasions and perform sentry duty. The combination of units that are easy
to maneuver and features that allow them to behave in relatively
sophisticated ways was beguiling indeed.

It was timeless, it was fun and it was expandable. Empire came with an
editor, and users created hundreds of  platform-nonspecific maps (which I
collected and posted to the GEnie online service and, possibly, to
CompuServe some years ago, if anyone's interested in tracking them down).

And Empire was ahead of its time in one other respect. In an era when
games rarely were updated, Interstel released several versions (numbered
up through version 2.05) which, as I recall, corrected the minor bug and
tweaked the odd feature.

The only problem: Empire doesn't have much AI by current standards --
though it was OK for its day -- and it didn't take much to beat it when
playing against the computer. It was much more challenging as a
multi-player game. (On the same machine or via PBEM, I think. While the
inspiration for Empire may have come from the celebrated mainframe game.
there's no modem play; remember; this was the late '80s.) And the game did
have a tendency to slow down on 68000-based systems during large games.

Baldwin and Rakosky went on to work together on a number of other games,
some of which appeared on the Amiga: D.R.A.G.O.N. Force (Interstel, 1989),
The Perfect General (with Bruce Williams, QQP, 1991) and the Battles of
World War II  add-on for TPG (QQP, 1992). (In addition, Baldwin
collaborated with Trevor Sorensen on Star Fleet II (Interstel, 1988) --
the Amiga port of which was never completed.)

However, they never made another Empire for the Amiga. Empire Deluxe (New
World Computing, 1993) and Empire II (NWC, 1995) were developed for other
platforms. (However, Empire fans may want to check out The Perfect
General, which captures some of Empire's endearing simplicity -- albeit on
the tactical scale later explored in Empire II.)

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