Emperor is a game of quiet whispers, cunning, and misdirection. While it is an abstract strategy game at heart, there is a dash of push-your-luck. It is rare that an abstract strategy game can work well (or in this case, better) as a game for 3 players over the usual 2 for the genre *we’re trying to see how it can work with 4.
Each player takes turns moving one member of their house (pawn) to either influence the emperor or subtly shift the balance of power through manipulating members of other houses (or both). Each player can, using her own pieces, maneuver to manipulate the position of other players’ pieces or even the emperor himself.
There are three different ways to win the game — once any victory condition is met, the game ends. Eliminate the other houses through Conspiracy by surrounding the emperor with three members of any other house; that house is eliminated from the game — to win through conspiracy, you must be the only house in the game. There are two different score tracks that could also win the game. When your house reaches the end of the Influence track, you’ve created enough influence to control the court and immediately win. Each time you move a rumor (flipped pawn), you gain influence. Moving the crown of Favor to the symbol of your house on the Favor web means you’ve made the Emperor your puppet. Scoring favor requires getting one or two members of your house adjacent to the emperor at the end of your turn.
2-4 Players *Best with 3*
Approximately 10 minutes per player per game
7-13 pieces on a three dimensional board resembling steps up to a throne room
Board consists of 9 triangles on the edge of a hegagon shaped board.
- Favor: The first player to move the crown of favor to his house’s symbol wins. Each turn, pawns adjacent to the emperor gain favor. Win: The emperor becomes your puppet.
- Influence: Victory can be gained through spreading rumors (flipping pawns) each turn. Each pawn flipped earns one influence. The first player to move their influence marker all the way around the Influence Track wins. Influence is not scored until after a house has gained favor with the emperor. Win: Your house controls the court.
- Elimination Victory (Conspiracy): All of the remaining player’s units surround the emperor. When three members of any other house surround the emperor, that house is eliminated. Win: You are the only house remaining.
A round consists of each player taking one turn.
There are six (6) phases per turn. Phases must occur in this order:
- Create a rumor (flip a pawn of your house)
- Move the pawn (spread the rumor)
- Resolve Influence (if any, move pawns sharing sides)
- Score Influence* (add 1 point for each flipped pawn)
- Score Favor (each player sharing points with the emperor moves crown of favor)
- Reset pawns
*Influence is not scored until the house has gained favor.
The active player chooses one of her own pawns, flips it (to represent a rumor), and moves it a number of spaces up to the distance granted by the terrain. A flipped pawn carries the active rumor.
- A pawn spreading a rumor is flipped before it is moved.
- Movement occurs through the points or sides of the triangle.
- Pawns cannot move into an occupied square.
- A pawn may move a maximum of 1 to 5 spaces as determined by its starting terrain.
- Pawns moving toward the throne room pay one additional movement (2 movement to move 1 space). Moving away from the throne room, or within a terrain type costs the normal (1) movement per space.
- If a pawn influences (shares sides with) another pawn:
- Check to make sure the move is legal. A pawn cannot approach an already flipped pawn.
- The active player moves the approached pawn to a new, legal position on the board (even if it is another house’s pawn).
- Conspiracy – Resolved immediately. When three pawns of the same house share points with the emperor, that house is eliminated from the game due to a conspiracy. If one house remains, that house wins. If more than one house remains, continue play minus the eliminated house(s).
- Favor – How much the emperor will listen to your house. Basically, each pawn is trying to make the emperor a puppet of their house. Favor is gained each turn for each pawn sharing points with the emperor.
- Favor Web – A 2 dimensional measurement of how much the emperor favors one house over the other. When scoring favor, if a house’s pawn shares a point with the emperor, move the crown of favor one line toward your house’s emblem on the favor web. One victory condition is to be the first house to place the crown of favor on your house’s symbol. Active player moves the crown first, then continue clockwise.
- Influence – Influence is the spreading of a rumor. It is both the number of pawns aware of the current rumor (flipped), and the accumulation of influence on the track around the board for each house. A house cannot accumulate influence until it has gained favor with the emperor.
- Influence Track – The Influence Track surrounds the playing board and is used to monitor the number of pawns flipped (rumors created or spread) during the game. The game ends, and that player wins, if she has flipped 60 pawns. Note: A house cannot accumulate influence until it has gained favor with the emperor.
- Movement – Movement is granted whenever a rumor is created (a pawn is flipped). This occurs at the beginning of each player’s turn, and again for each rumor being spread. Movement is always determined by terrain (see Terrain – numbers indicate maximum spaces). Note: movement toward the throne room costs two rather than one movement.
- Rumors – The active pawn creates a rumor (flipped), and attempts to spread the rumor to other pawns. Rumors are spread when two pawns share sides of a triangle space (influence). Rumors create movement because they need to be spread (resolve influence), so the approached pawn must be moved to another legal space (using its current terrain’s movement).
- Terrain – Terrain is the location/texture of each space. There are 5 terrain types in all, each associated with a maximum movement allocation:
- Throne Room
- The emperor may also be moved through rumors and count toward scoring influence (spreading rumors).
- If one active pawn moves to share sides with 2 or 3 pawns, the approached pawns must be moved. The move is illegal if any of the approached pawns is already flipped.