Empire (strategy game)

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Empire is a turn-based strategy game of industrial development and military conquest. Empire is played on large maps with off-set squares (equivalent to hexagons) that display one or more continents and feature various resource squares. The game has undergone several incarnations and ongoing development. The first version was invented by University of California, Berkeley graduates living in the Bay Area in 1938, notably Mark W. Eudey and Stillman Drake. In 1960, Stillman Drake's son Dan went to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and developed a descendant of the original game with his friends, particularly J.D. Eveland. The Reed College version of Empire evolved over the course of the decade with several generations of students. It was a largely oral tradition, with just a few charts and key written rules, until the rules were compiled by Andrew Nisbet (ca. 1969–76).[1][2][3]

The economic elements of the game are complex, and involve exploiting resource spaces on the map board, and processing those resources, and continued processing and combining of goods through multiple levels. Roads, factories and cities must all be built, population fed, and so on. The military component of the game was originally based on Tactics II, particularly the combat results table, but with the added elements that the military units had to be constructed.

The original 1960 board was a square grid with a map of the world. This was soon replaced by a hex-gridded map, and then by a board featuring 1" offset squares that were equivalent to hexagons, but much easier to draw. The later maps typically featured several artificial continents, and were 42 inches by 72 inches. The board could be populated at the height of a game by nearly a thousand individual game pieces of various descriptions. After the first year and a half, games were played asynchronously, with each game lasting an entire four-month semester. Typically each of the six to nine players needed up to several hours per move, and each player would be given twenty-four hours after the previous player's move to complete their turn. [1]

For many years the board was located on a large table in the popular campus social room of the Winch dormitory; it is a commentary on the school and/or the times that almost never in the entire history of the game as a public campus institution was it maliciously disturbed or its participants harassed.[4] — although in later years, the game was moved to the furnace room of another dorm. Because of its public nature, the game became also a spectator sport for some, and a well-known campus phenomenon. Nicolaus Tideman, later a notable economist, was among the early avid viewers. Second-hand descriptions of the game inspired Peter Langston’s mainframe computer game of the same name.


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