The Empire Engine

Chris Marling & Matthew Dunstan

with illustrations by Sebastien Antoniou

Card game

2–4 players • 30 minutes

Revised 07/08/13 • Cards v1.1 • Rules v1.0
Fixed error on action summary card.

What you need

You need the 18 cards, plus 45 counters of three types and 2 markers.

In a dystopian alternate reality, four great powers vie for control of the continent. Each Empire’s soldiers lay siege to opposing cities, while their war efforts are funded by exotic exports and ingenious inventions. Only one state will orchestrate their limited resources into an Empire Engine powerful enough to lead them to victory.

About the game

As part of the Cambridge Playtest game designers’ group, Chris was inspired by Brett’s 18-card microgame idea. What mechanism did he love that would make an interesting but realistic challenge to fit into just 18 cards? After a bit of head scratching, he settled on the ‘rondel’: a fixed circuit of game actions, pioneered by game designer Max Gerdts.

The Empire Engine offers its players three pathways to victory: military power, industry and technology. Chris came up with idea of placing twin rondels on two cards, giving players a total of eight actions that they could use to acquire and manipulate the game’s three resources: Soldiers, Goods and Inventions. Now it was just down to the details…

Since Chris was new to game design, he turned to Matt for help. While the core game remains, Matt’s experience helped fine tune the rondels, actions, turn structure and scoring — everything, in fact — and together they whittled the game into playable shape.

About the designers

Chris Marling is a journalist living in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. He gets paid to write about things he doesn’t care about, so that he can write about things he does care about — gigs, drinking in interesting places and playing silly games — on his blog. He is not a game designer.

Matthew Dunstan is a scientist and game designer living in Cambridge, UK (far away from his sunny homeland of Australia). His first published game, Relic Runners, is being released by Days of Wonder in September 2013.

Sebastien Antoniou is a Cambridge-based illustrator and concept artist, who also produces contemporary portrait and landscape paintings. Chelsea fan, dad and comic nerd, he has played The Empire Engine just once — and beat Chris with consummate ease.