Launch your fleet, capture ports, and wage war in the absolutely epic board game for 2-4 players. In Empires at Sea, you play as one of four nations, and work to amass the largest empire at the end of 15 rounds of play. During each round, History confers benefits and setbacks to each nation, while the Weather limits (and occasionally improves) movement around a to-scale map of the Atlantic.
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The best way to understand Empires at Sea is to follow along with our walkthrough. We're doing one round of play each day until the end of the campaign, check it out:
- Round 1: Hoist the Sails
- Round 2: Famine & Gales
- Round 3: Thick Fog & Dead Pirates
- Round 4: The War of Jenkin's Ear
- Round 5: Wars & Winds
- Rounds 6 & 7: The Second Era
- Round 8: West Wind & Crisis
- Round 9: Umm... our notes to Round 9 were lost at sea...
- Rounds 10-13: The Third Era Begins
- Rounds 14 & 15: The End
Here is a quick overview of the core elements of the game:
- Players each command a nation: America, France, Britain or Spain
- Players take command of ports, which each produce resources
- Resources are used to buy bigger and stronger ships
- Ships are used to attack your enemies and to settle new ports
- Each Round opens with a History Card, which hurts or helps one nation or another based on the actual impact of the actual historical event.
- A Weather Card is played, limiting or improving movement for all players for the Round (e.g., ships can only move North and East)
- Each player then takes a turn, first by by playing a Captain's Card (used to launch a ship, advance your military, strengthen a port, etc) and then by sailing their fleet to take command of new ports, trade, or attack their enemies.
- The combat system is based on a roll of the dice, plus modifiers for ship size, the weather gauge, military advancements, and Captain's Orders.
- At the end of the round, all players may bribe the Pirate. The highest bidder gets to use this ship to attack their enemies.
The rules are pretty straightforward (there are no tracks to manage for example), but the deck composition, weather, powerful history events, random starting ports, and the combat system create a ton of variety and lead to exceptional, balanced gameplay regardless of the number of players.
- Beautiful Art. Our art comes from the greatest artists of the 18th and 17th centuries, from Turner and Manet to Stanfield and a host of contemporaries who painted these beautiful ships.
- History Cards. History dramatically drives strategy for the Round. If the US throw a Tea Party, they dump 5 gold into the ocean. After the Congress of Vienna, the European nations can't initiate military action. History can be brutal and unpredictable, and a wise leader anticipates the future and plans accordingly.
- Movement System. The Weather Cards and movement actually make it feel like sailing. You get stuck. You can't quite make it. Ships run away to avoid war, or hide behind islands and in little coves. The map is almost perfectly to scale (I moved only Reykjavik), and really mirrors the 18th century naval experience.
- Combat Consequences. In naval warfare of the 1800s, both ships were able to fire cannons and so even an attacking ship risked being sunk by the defender. The same is true in Empires at Sea, both Attacker and Defender fire their cannons (i.e., roll the dice) and if the total attack is great enough, sink the opponent's ship.
- Bribing the Pirate. Every Round ends with all players effectively playing poker for strongest battle unit on the game board. You secretly select an amount of gold to bribe the Pirate, and if you win, you get to use this Ship of the Line against your opponents this turn. But Bribes cost gold, which translates to Empire Points at the end of the game. "What do you do Jack? What do you do?"
- Dynamic Gameplay. Empires feels like 2 or 3 different games in one. The First Era is all about expansion, bribery of the pirate, and resource accumulation. The Second Era is where you begin to launch the more powerful elements of your fleet and advance your military. The Third Era is mostly warfare and fortification of your holdings.
- Great Replay Value. The game begins with each player assigned to a random port. Sometimes you can expand unhindered, sometimes war is brutal even from the first turn. Sometimes your Frigate is trapped in New Orleans because of the weather, and sometimes every single setback that could befall a nation over the course of History comes to pass in a single game.
- The Proper Length. The two player variant takes about 60 minutes after you learn to play, and the four player game is just under two hours. If you prefer to extend gameplay, you can do so by playing Empires to 18 or 21 rounds.
We have a very trusty Captain's Log Book with all the detail about how to play Empires at Sea. Please note that this is still a work in progress, we will be updating this as we move to printing (and incorporating changes from other play testers).
A big thanks to all the folks who have chipped in to make Empires at Sea possible. For more about the history of making the game, check out the earlier Instagram posts or this great post on the making of the map.
Risks and challenges
While this is my first board game, I have successfully developed many products (albeit always software) over the years.
There are some unique challenges in manufacturing and distribution, and in an effort to keep this risks mitigated I am using only top-tier manufacturing facilities. This does raise our costs, but we want a job very well done with the maximum amount of support in the process. It's a big game too, lots of pieces, so costs are going to run a bit higher than I had hoped.
Similarly, I will be leveraging Amazon for all the fulfillment. Perhaps not the cheapest option, but by far the most effective.
There is still a lot of work to do. Every element requires time and attention, but I am hopeful that folks will see the awesomeness of this game, back the project, and lend a hand with ideas and support as we move through the process.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)