Early on in my childhood, I found the love of board games. Back then it wasn’t a wide spanning genre as it is today, and so you relied on the good ol’ classics like Monopoly and Risk. The latter was my first foray into strategy games and I loved conquering territories and amassing armies. So, when I heard about a new game coming out on the Nintendo Switch entitled Eight-Minute Empire that looked like an ode to Risk with some added benefit of more recent board game mechanics, I was ready to conquer lands and opponents once more.
Eight-Minute Empire in fact originated as a board game for 2 to 5 players back around 2013. The objective was much the same as Risk, which was to conquer as many of the continent(s) as possible. The big thing here is that unlike Risk, which took hours upon hours if you were lucky to play a round, Eight-Minute Empire prides itself in very quick play sessions, and with enough pride to even name their game based on this feature! I am able to immediately attest that you can indeed play this game in 8 minutes or less depending on player count.
The objective when you start a match is to strategically deploy and expand your armies while conquering and holding as many territories as possible and banking resources for end game point tallies that can help you win the game. Each game is comprised of 13 rounds and so with a finite finish, there’s a lot of strategy to be played within a match.
The root gameplay is built on two primary actions for players, with layered strategic mechanics to make each round more interesting. When you start a match, you’ll engage in some preliminary betting for who gets to pick who takes their turn first. This uses your static action points that are extremely beneficial during your match, so it’s best to bet wisely and not overspend them or you’ll have less to use during your 13 rounds of actual gameplay.
Once you dive into your first round, you’ll see a community row of 6 cards, each ramping in cost from 0 action points required to pick up and play, up to generally 3 action points. The mechanic behind this cost association and community driven deck play is something I am personally very familiar with in some of my other favorite board games including Castles of Mad King Ludwig and Suburbia. The idea is that when a player selects a card (and they must) prior to the next person’s turn, the missing slot is filled out in the most expensive slot point, giving the next player a chance at using a new card on the rack instead of one that’s maybe been stale. On the opposite hand, if you’ve extinguished all of your action points, which frequently happens mid-game, you’ll be forced to use whatever free card is available regardless if you want it or not.
When you’ve selected one of the 6 cards on screen, depending on the action you’ll have a few things to look for, as well as take action on. Many of the cards focus on you reinforcing troops by adding more to any map point that you’ve got a City on or the starting City that all players are gathered at. The other action you’ll see the most is troop movement, which is nearly identical to Risk and other strategy games, and allows you to move troops into other regions up to a certain amount. There are additional actions, such as building more cities or killing off a single troop count of an opponent, which can easily turn the tide of the war.
Every card also has a resource symbol attached to it as well, which ties into a more meta/end game reward. For players that reach certain resource thresholds by playing corresponding cards, they’ll be rewarded with end game points that can also sway the winner pretty decisively. You can thankfully always view your opponents’ stats and how ahead they are to further aid your own strategy.
While all of this may sound a bit overwhelming, it’s actually quite straightforward and more importantly, fast. Your turn often times takes mere seconds as you’ll pick a card, and select a few places at most where you want to move your troops, etc. and then your turn is over and it’s on to the next. It’s exactly why I was able to finish 2 player games in less than 8 minutes, even earning an achievement for that feat. The best part of Eight-Minute Empire is that there just simply isn’t the slog of so many traditional strategic games. It plays more along the lines of a fast card game. When coupled digitally on the Nintendo Switch it’s a pretty solid fit for many as there’s no reason I couldn’t play several rounds on a short trip or over a lunch break with friends.
So, with very short game times, an important aspect would be how replayability is managed as a game like this can easily become stale rather quickly. Thankfully, the game includes a swath of maps to play (7 in total) with 4 of those maps introducing some variations on the rules to shake strategies up. There are also a few tick boxes that modify some game rules a bit, including enabling the Mountains expansion, and some additional token rewards on the map being available. I personally would have loved to have seen a custom game option taken even further to allow players to toggle some of these custom rules seen in some of the maps at will instead of being forced into them only on those specific regions.
For those that want a change against the CPU opponents or their own friends, the game also includes an online game mode that requires a quick account creation, however at the time of this review, we were informed this feature was being finalized, and so some improvements to that mode were on the way. Still, again with such fast games, it’s something you can jump online, play a few rounds with random folks and move on with your day as you see fit. The bite sized board game is always welcomed, even more so in a highly portable game system.
Eight-Minute Empire brings a solid digital adaptation of a quick board game to the platform. Aesthetically and audibly the game is pleasing and easily well read and played, supporting both on the fly Joy-Con controls or touch controls making interactions a breeze in however you like to play. The game does an appropriate job of a tutorial to onboard you with the mechanics, which ultimately are simple to learn, but offer a lot of reasonable strategy still to be had. Eight-Minute Empire delivers on its name in true form, creating a pretty enjoyable strategy game akin to Risk – without all the slog – in a nice time frame that’s easy to get into.
Eight-Minute Empire: Complete Edition Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 6.5/106.5/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Eight-Minute Empire is a perfect bite sized strategy board game adaptation brought to a befit on-the go platform with the Nintendo Switch. Easy to learn game mechanics without sacrificing strategy, combined with games that can be played easily on a 15-minute break or less is good fun. I wish the game had a custom match offering, as I think players would be able to really get a lot of bang for the buck then, but what is offered isn’t too thin thankfully.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.