Dec 062010
 

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By David Scolari

Concept:
We Must Tell the Emperor (Emperor) is part of the States of Siege games meant for solitaire play from Victory Point Games. In a nutshell, you control a centre point on a map (in this game, the Home Islands of Japan) and must defend this point from attack by enemy forces (In Emperor, the Allies). The Allies (and the enemies in other SOS games) are controlled by a card system that moves them closer to the centre point. At the same time these cards designate the number actions you can take, give you Die Roll Modifiers (DRM)for these actions, and add or subtract resources that are necessary for your actions.

Quick Review:We Must Tell the Emperor is a game of the finest quality. Its event-card system keeps you on your toes with you agonizing over every decision you make. Overall it is an amazing solitaire war-game experience.

The Review:
pic847776_md[1]Components:
First off, let me be clear here, Victory Point Games is a small game company that does not have the resources of such game companies as Fantasy Flight or GMT. Thus if you are looking for a game that has “blow you away” components, Emperor is going to disappoint you.

However, if you are looking for a great gaming experience with solid components, Emperor has you covered. The counters that come with the game are artistically pleasing and nice and thick.
The map is also a thing of beauty and printed on nice sturdy paper.

Finally, the cards for the game are well done, clean is how I would describe them. There isn’t a whole lot of clutter, which is good because the cards are the main mechanism in the game, as you draw one every turn and follow the instructions on each. As for the durability of the cards, I think they are printed on a thick card stock and thus will hold up reasonably well.

Overall, with the VPG being a small game company, the component quality is very good. The art is great and as long as you take care of the game (as you should with all your board games) it should last one a decent amount of time.
Score – 8/10

Rules/Rulebook:
The rules are 8 pages long and they are clearly written and well organized. After one read through, I was ready to play with only an occasional reference to the rules. By the second game I had everything down. The rules are layed-out and formatted well so that it is easy to find a rule if one needs to refresh your memory. In addition, much of the information to play the game can be found in well placed areas of the map which saves one from spending time looking for a particular rule.
Score: 10/10

Gameplay:
pic841392_md[1]So good components and well organized and written rules; how does it play? In a word: Wonderficalicously. As mentioned before, you draw a card each turn. The card that you draw (which represents a historical event that occurred during WWII) move enemy units, deal with resources, gives DRMs, gives actions, and includes historical flavour text. After completing everything on the card, one does a housekeeping phase and then draws another card and repeats until one either wins or loses.

The way one wins is if one successfully draws all the cards from the draw pile and is still standing. One loses the game if either you run out of resources (representing military, political, and economic collapse) or one of the Allies occupy the Japanese Home Island. I love these conditions because it gives game winning conditions that seem historically realistic.

The main mechanism of the game are the event cards that you draw every turn. These cards make up the Artificial Intelligence (AI)(a very challenging AI at that). Normally, a mechanic like this would be pretty random if it did not have some sort of element to control the randomness. Fortunately, Emperor has just such an element. The event cards are divided into three periods of time: Early War, Mid-War, and Late War. These time periods correspond historically with actual events of WWII. For example, in the Early War, event cards will favour the Japanese giving Japan plenty of resources, positive DRMS, and lots of actions. Thus, at the beginning of the game, Japan (you) will dominate the early phase pushing back the Allies along all fronts. In the Mid-War, one will find things mixed with things slowly turning against Japan, and finally, the Late War phase see things totally turn against Japan just like it did historically. So bottom-line, the cards (the AI) are shuffled before each game but the three phases of time ensure that the game follows a basic outline, while the shuffling combined with dice rolls make the game different (but not totally random) each time and thus allows a player to constantly try new strategies and approaches.

pic824362[1]Speaking of strategy and approaches, this game has plenty of them. Each event card gives the player a limited number of actions to take. These actions include ATTACK allied units, roll for RESOURCES, FORTIFY islands, and roll on the BATTLE TABLE (a table that corresponds to major event cards that allow you to roll and change the outcome of these major events, such as the Battle of Leyte Gulf). One never has enough actions to do everything that one needs to do and there is definitely lots of tension in making and implementing decisions (and things can become excruciating when die rolls don’t go ones way at all and one spends all their actions on failed attempt after failed attempt).

Does one attack the allies to push them back before they get too close, or can one hold off on attacks and instead roll to increase resources so that one does not find later offensives hamstrung by a lack of resources? Does one fortify key islands to hold off the Americans (who advance more often, or does one concentrate on the Chinese and British who if left untended (like they did in my second game) might roll on through other territories and take Japan by surprise. Does one take the normally bad results from major event cards, or does one tempt fate and roll on the Battle Table to try and change the outcome in Japan’s favour (at the risk of making things worse). These are just some of the decisions one will make as one spends their precious actions.

So, overall, gameplay is tense and exciting as one’s breath hangs on every die roll and every card. I cannot tell you how many times I held the die in my hands for several minutes thinking “Is this really the right choice?” Not only is gameplay exciting but it is challenging. In the two games I have played thus far there was a point in the middle of the game where I thought I was going to win it and coast to victory. The Allies were far away and resources were stockpiled high. However, as each card was played, resources were lost and the Allied march seemed unstoppable. By the end of the game, I was struggling just to keep afloat and while I was down and struggling the game just kept on kicking until defeat came like an Atom Bomb sneaking through the night.
Score: 11/10 (not a typo)

So if you like tense and exciting solo wargames that contain lots of historical elements, this game is for you.

To purchase this game, please visit Victory Point Games website.

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Paco G. Jaen

Born in Spain with a talent for dyslexia, I am gamer, player, graphic designer, photographer and psycotherapist. Also online magazine publisher and writer. Yep.. I do lead a busy life!

  2 Responses to “We Must Tell the Emperor”

  1. This is an excellent account of the game. The reviewer really “gets it.” He sees what the game is trying to accomplish, and gives great insight as to how well it measures up to that task.

    Alan Emrich
    Developer, We Must Tell the Emperor

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  2. David, thank you for taking the time to craft such an excellent review.

    I’m so pleased that you were able to grasp some of the game’s depth in only two plays – Emperor was designed for repeated play and has a plethora of ‘voyages of discovery’ built into it.

    Here’s hoping for many more fun (and tension packed) games ahead!

    STEVE

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