Mighty Empires Review
Having run four different map campaigns so far, I was looking forward to the
new Mighty Empires set. I was a bit disappointed to hear that the rules you actually
got with them, but I have enough experience with these things to compensate for that.
Other players might not, though, and this will be a critical view at what you get in
the box. It has been said that campaigns should be mostly about having fun and that
they aren't really meant for competitive play and that one should therefore not be
too critical towards the rules. I disagree; casual gamers will rarely complain about
balanced rules and having rules that cannot be easily exploited is more of an advantage
for the casual gamer since he is less likely to be victimised by competitive players
Anyways, the rules are mostly okay and much better than I feared when I heard that they were five pages long.
The tiles and features
The tiles and features
I haven't actually gotten my talons on the tile set yet, so my comments are limited to what I can tell from the contents list and the two extra tiles you get with WD.
What you get in the box
- 48 hex tiles (42 double-sided and 6 single-sided)
- 24 castles
- 12 cities
- 12 mines
- 72 banners
- The tiles are very nicely detailed, considering their scale. The size is also good. Having struggled to create dozens of hexagonal tiles out of styrofoam (it is almost impossible to get them all the same size), getting plastic ones are great!
- All the tiles apart from the mountain tiles are double sided, which adds more variation, and is a nice thing.
- The sides of the tiles have only one of two different connector points each, which drastically limits how the map can be set up. It would have been much better with a system that let you combine them however you wanted. Thus instead of the tiles having pegs on three sides and holes on the other three, they'd have holes on all sides and you would get little separate pegs to hold them together.
- The little features you get to add to the tiles are rather fragile and some parts snap easily.
- There are relatively few city and mine features, both of which you would probably want a lot of, and no way of getting more other than buying extra sets.
The rules as a whole take up four pages, where the first page is mostly
dedicated to setting up the map (which is a bit long for something that is
essentially: "randomly draw tiles and connect them"). The actual rules take up
three pages, which is (perhaps surprisingly) enough for an okay set. They do in
fact resemble the Warmaster Mighty Empires rules that were released a couple of years
ago and which I belive you can download from the Specialist Games website.
People have complained a lot about the length of the rules, but most things I object to are not related to the length, but the lack of clarity. For example: The rules do not really say one way or another whether it is possible to claim a territory and then claim another tile that is adjacent to that, but not adjacent to any tile you had at the start of the phase. If this is allowed it is possible to block in other players that have no victories against you by claiming a chain of neutral tiles in his path which he cannot take from you until he gets any victories in a later turn.
The rules at a glance
Briefly speaking, the rules work as follows:
- Everyone starts by controlling one tile. If you get to ten tiles you win and if you are reduced to one tile you are out and the player that knocked you out wins.
- Each turn each player can issue a challenge against a named opponent who then has to fight you. You cannot issue a challenge if you have already been challenged, but you can challenge a player that has been challenged already. Battle size is determined by the players, though there are some (limited) ways of getting more points.
- The result of the battle(s) you fight determines how many empire points you get that turn, from 1-5. These points are spent on either grabbing tiles (2-4 points), building stuff on tiles or getting more points for later battles. Unused empire points cannot be saved up.
- In addition to this, at the start of each turn, each player chooses one event out of a list of 8 different ones (each can only be chosen once), which either benefit you or hinder one of the other players. Only one event is, as I see it, overly powerful.
- There is no advantage in having a larger realm other than the fact that the biggest realm will eventually win and you get +100 points in your army for having the largest realm. Having a smaller realm, on the other hand, has the advantage that you go first in each phase, giving you more choice in events and which tiles to grab.
- The stuff you build in your tiles either makes the tile more difficult to conquer (castle), count as two tiles when determining the size of your empire (city) or give you extra points for your army (mine).
- There are no army-specific rules. In fact, there is very little in the way of game-specific rules and it would be very easy to adapt the rules to Warhammer 40K, Lord of the Rings or indeed any other game (always a nice bonus).
- There is very little random-factor in the campaign. I really hate campaigns such as the Lustria one where the roll for action points at the start of the turn (there is a heap of difference between rolling a 1 and a 3 on that D3) can be a deciding factor. The Mighty Empires campaign is almost only decided by player actions and not by randomness.
- You can start attacking each other right away - there is no need to spend several turns in the beginning where armies just move around and claim neutral territories. This is a very good thing as few things are more boring than spending an entire campaign round just moving a marker while other players fight battles and have fun.
- Anyone can attack anyone, even if they are on the other side of the map. This has some downsides as well (most notably it makes it easier to just pick on the weakest opposition), but large campaigns where you just fight against the same one or two opponents each turn quickly gets dull. Of course, there is not a whole lot of point in attacking someone far off, as you can only conquer neighbouring tiles, but there are other benefits to be gained from victories as well.
- You don't actually move armies across the table, which means that you cannot get the "chase" situation you can get in other campaigns, where it is nearly impossible to force a player into battle. You can declare a challenge in ME and it cannot be avoided.
- I really like the mechanism that lets the smallest empire do their actions first in each phase. It gives smaller empires a break and more of a chance of getting back in the game.
Sadly, there are enough bad things in the rules that I would not want to field them unmodified.
- The things that happen on a campaign level do not affect the battles, apart from increases in army size from having the largest realm and/or spending gold, and even that depends on the players' haggling skill (see below). This is actually rather disappointing as one of the things I like about campaigns is the chance to play unusual battles.
- The bonus to your army size you get from having the largest realm and/or spending gold varies according to the size of the armies being used. If your opponent gets a large bonus you will want a larger battle where this will matter less and if you get a bonus you will want a smaller battle. There should be some mechanism for setting the army size without the players needing to haggle it out.
- It is possible for the campaign to only last a single turn if the players go by the interpretation that you can chain-conquer tiles (explained above), as you can start as little as two tiles away from an opponent, and it is possible, through a combination of a large enough win and the right even to grab the tile between you and your opponent's tile in the first turn. Instant win!
- It is necessary for new tiles you grab to be adjacent to tiles you already have, but it is apparently not important that they stay connected to other tiles. It is apparently perfectly okay to have a fragmented empire and this even gives you some advantages in which new tiles you can claim.
- The victory conditions are not particularly good and in my opinion,
neither of the two should be used. To take the second (and worst) one first,
it says that anyone that conquers the last tile belonging to an opponent
wins outright. This was probably written in good intent and to allow those
who were not in the lead to have a stab at winning, but coupled with how the
campaign works it is rubbish and should not be used. What is the problem? As
soon as one player is reduced to only one tile remaining, that player
declares a challenge first next turn and no player can declare a challenge
against him. Now, if the player who was challenged beats the one-tile owner,
he can claim that last tile and win the campaign. Essentially, once you are
very near losing, you decide who wins the campaign and you can decide
on a player that has done nothing to knock you out so far and who is nowhere
near winning. This is nonsense and should not happen.
The second victory condition (first player to get ten tiles wins) isn't that bad and can certainly be used, but it allows for infinite campaigns that go on and on forever without no winner. Instead, I would suggest that after a given number of turns, the player with the most tiles wins.
- The "Elite army" event allows for armies consisting almost entirely of war machines (20 spear chukkas only cost 700 points), chariot or giants. This one should really have been limited in some way.
- Teaming up to fight someone is essentially a disadvantage, for some reason, as the challenged player always gets as many points as the other players combined (not counting bonuses). It would be better to fight several individual battles.
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