David Scolari
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After having played two full games thus far, I am going to give my first impressions.

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 center 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 center 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 wargame experience.

The Review:

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 yone 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:
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 occured during WWII) move enemy units, deal with resources, gives DRMs, gives actions, and includes historical flavor 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 sucessfully draws all the cards from the draw pile and is still standing. One loses the game if either you run out of resources (represnting 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 favor 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 bottomline, 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.

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 excrutiating 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 favor (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, resouces 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.


edit: for grammar
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Alex Brown
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Any comparisons you would make to other games in the series? I'm mostly looking for any comments you have about relative complexity.
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David Scolari
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AlexBrown wrote:
Any comparisons you would make to other games in the series? I'm mostly looking for any comments you have about relative complexity.

I would love to comment, but this is my first States of Siege game from VPG. I am hoping to get another one in the near future, but that does not help you right now. Looking on the VPG website, Emperor has a complexity of 4 which is comparable to the advanced game of Lost Cause. Having skimmed the rules for Lost Cause they do seem to be comparable in complexity except that Lost Cause has more special rules. Though again, I have never played so take my opinion with a grain of salt and a touch of pepper.


Perhaps either VPG designers or veteran States of Siege gamers can clarify?
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Wendell Martin, Jr.
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AlexBrown wrote:
Any comparisons you would make to other games in the series? I'm mostly looking for any comments you have about relative complexity.
I agree with David (great review, BTW) about Emperor being comparable in complexity to The Lost Cause. I found it a bit more complex than Lost Cause's basic game and a bit less than its advanced game. The only other SoS game I own is the introductory Israeli Independence, and Emperor is much more complex than it.
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David Kennedy
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I would recommend Soviet Dawn. Complexity is comparable. Game time is less. I find replayabilty is off the charts. Unlike WMTTE which follows a historic arc of expansion followed by contraction, the Rusian Civil War is total chaos and the game engine shines. If you get it, definitely order the Expansion Kit, which is well worth it.
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Steve Carey
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David, much appreciated your taking the time to share your thoughts on the game! Here's a peek at the components:



I can heartily recommend both Soviet Dawn: The Russian Civil War, 1918-1921 and Levée en Masse: The Wars of the French Revolution, 1789-1802 as being close to the complexity level of Emperor, and both are truly excellent games. Ottoman Sunset: The Great War in the Near East 1914-1918 is a bit simpler, but also very elegant, and likewise is an outstanding game.

More on Victory Point Games' popular solitaire series can be found here: Victory Point Games States of Siege Series, inlcuding The Lost Cause: The American Civil War, 1861-1865 which I don't have enough experience with (yet), but have heard very good things about.
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John Foley
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I just concluded my first session - took about an hour-and-a-half from punching the components to frantic conclusion.

I thought it was game over when I suffered Coral Sea just before Midway (last card of the early deck), followed by the Solomons Campaign (start of the middle deck) and instantly getting hit with Imperial Intervention (no more fortification of the Solomons). I figured I was toast.

I made it through the middle deck with the Chinese in Manchukuo the entire time, with some desperate attempts needed to push the front back repeatedly.

I arrived at the end of the middle deck with NO Army/Navy, NO Prestige and NO Oil. I figured I was totally done because the late deck is a crazy "let's every front move forward". Amazingly, the Home Islands Defense managed to repeatedly stop the Chinese, the British and MacArthur from getting in. Step by step, I had to struggle to get one or two or even three of my tracks alive. After Nimitz had toasted me early on, I managed to prevent that front from ever reaching past Iwo Jima.

The next to last card was blessed - the Monsoons!!! I popped all my resources back to 1 again and waited. Monsoons will let me cancel one advance. Last card - Thousand Bomber Raids (ugh) but a good roll will let me cancel one more advance - yep - I rolled a six, no cancellation. D'oh!

But I had previously retreated the British back to Hong Kong, Nimitz could advance to Iwo Jima, I used my cancellation from the Monsoons to block China, so all I had to face was MacArthur - with the free Home Islands Banzai - rolled a 1 - no dice - and with still one last Kamikaze saved for this moment, I rolled a 6 on MacArthur and retreated him back.

Game over.

Steve, I've been studying the Pacific campaigns in general and very deep work on the Solomons & Guadalcanal and armed forces capabilities, and I have to tell you, the narrative for this game is really top notch. WELL DONE!
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Richard Pardoe
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johnfoley79 wrote:
I arrived at the end of the middle deck with NO Army/Navy, NO Prestige and NO Oil.
If you truly had none and all tracks were at zero - this is Complete Collapse or immediate defeat in the game. So perhaps you had the tracks very low?
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John Foley
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I see, Mr Pardoe, once again, you have confused the issue at hand with FACTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

zombie
zombie
zombie

Uh, um, d'oh.....

I lost. Miserably then.

BUT! In my game I miraculously resurrected my resources and went on to win! ninja


cry

Boy, did I ever have fun!!

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Steve Carey
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johnfoley79 wrote:
In my game I miraculously resurrected my resources and went on to win!

Well, it was your first session so let's consider it a learning game triumph, John.

"Miraculous" is a good word as you really beat the odds for being in such poor Resource shape so early in the game. Usually it's the exact opposite - the player builds Resources and then slowly collapses, instead of the other way around.

Making the game resilient enough to offer the player even a remote chance for an early Military Victory or to Recover Resources as play proceeds was something important we looked at closely during the design and development process.

Now play again and have more fun so we can tell the Emperor some real good news!

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Charles Vasey
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WendellM wrote:
AlexBrown wrote:
Any comparisons you would make to other games in the series? I'm mostly looking for any comments you have about relative complexity.
I agree with David (great review, BTW) about Emperor being comparable in complexity to The Lost Cause. I found it a bit more complex than Lost Cause's basic game and a bit less than its advanced game. .

Excellent summary
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Brad Heath
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I got this in the mail yestereday and look forward to drinking sakai in Washington! I have The Lost Cause, Ottoman Sunset and Zulus on the Ramparts and can recommend all of them. I wonder if a similar game involving Germany in WW2 is on the cards?
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David Scolari
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irreg77 wrote:
I got this in the mail yestereday and look forward to drinking sakai in Washington! I have The Lost Cause, Ottoman Sunset and Zulus on the Ramparts and can recommend all of them. I wonder if a similar game involving Germany in WW2 is on the cards?

According to the November 21, 2010 update, found on VPG's homepage under Articles, VPG does have such a game in the works titled "The World Will Hold its Breath" by Luke Hughes!

It quite honestly sounds like it is going to be awesome (though at this point, having played Emperor and just getting into The Barbarossa Campaign, I am beginning to question whether something bad can come from VPG...)

What I think would be the ultimate next step would be to somehow link the two games...:whistle:

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John Foley
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Quote:
If you truly had none and all tracks were at zero - this is Complete Collapse or immediate defeat in the game. So perhaps you had the tracks very low?

Actually - went through my game play again in my mind. On the next to last or the last card of the middle deck, the Military section forced me to zero, but my presumption was that while I was - for the moment - at zero, I still had my 3 or 4 actions to still roll, and I managed to get two or three up, and I was slammed again on the next card, but I still rolled my actions to get them above the gutter. I was under the impression that it was AFTER I had completed the actions on the card AND I was at triple-zero THEN I was done.

That's why I continued forward (since I avoided by this means the triple resource calamity). I did not get a chance to check the rules on this. Perhaps I was completely wrong and triple-zero is "instant loss"?
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Steve Carey
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johnfoley79 wrote:
I was under the impression that it was AFTER I had completed the actions on the card AND I was at triple-zero THEN I was done.

Perhaps I was completely wrong and triple-zero is "instant loss"?

[11.0] Victory and Defeat

Losing the Game

You have suffered a Complete Collapse if, at any time, all three Resource markers are in their 0 boxes.
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Richard Pardoe
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John, you are probably thinking of the other loss condition which does have an end-of-turn check point. Specifically if both Army-Navy and Prestige are 0 at the end of a turn -

Quote:
You are Defeated if, during the Japanese Defeat Step of the Housekeeping Phase (see 9.1), an Allied unit occupies the Japanese
Home Islands space OR if both the Army-Navy and Prestige Resource markers are in their respective 0 boxes.
I will gently point out that the yellow highlights on the tracks on the map clarify both loss conditions as a reminder while playing the game..
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John Foley
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Okay.

I am now going to PLAY THE GAME AGAIN!

TAKE THAT!





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Jonan Jello
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I'll mourn over the marble steps, Junkies of the world lay across the monuments, I climb and blister on the mount, Drunks take a piss where heroes once bled out
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Insightful and Wonderficalicous review!
Thanks for taking the time to write it and share with us.

Today I ordered my copy of We Must Tell the Emperor and its expansion. I'm hoping the game will arrive this week. Most likely won't get a chance to play, but am anxious to get in a game the following weekend.



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Steve Carey
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VPG ships really fast Jonan, so you never know!
 
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David Kennedy
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Hex_Enduction_Hour wrote:
Today I ordered my copy of We Must Tell the Emperor and its expansion. I'm hoping the game will arrive this week. Most likely won't get a chance to play, but am anxious to get in a game the following weekend.
I'd urge you to hold off playing with the expansion kit until you've played plenty of the core game.

1) Here's my take on how to play => http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/640531/how-to-play
2) Here's my take on how to win a Military Victory => http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/643922/how-to-win
3) Check out my breakdowns of the event decks =>http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/606809/break-it-down-for.... This is elementary information you need to play effectively.

Good luck, young warrior. The Emperor is counting upon you.
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Jonan Jello
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I'll mourn over the marble steps, Junkies of the world lay across the monuments, I climb and blister on the mount, Drunks take a piss where heroes once bled out
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Will do, David. Thanks for the links!
 
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Martin Gallo
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I agree - Play the base game a few times first to get the hang of losing. That will serve you well when you add the expansion and the game gets harder and more ways to lose are added.
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