Players must first secure control of their starting province from an AI opponent in the form of barbarian invaders. Once this has been done they can attempt to take over neighbouring provinces, whether controlled by the computer or by another player.
Society will be running continuously - including battles - so players must be careful not to let their holdings slip from their grip overnight. To lessen the effect of constant warfare, only 1/4 of a player's provinces may be contested during any one day, and players can band together into empires to take over the defence of each other's provinces. Provinces that have no player to defend them will be defended by the AI.