Developer: Fabrice Noui
Price: $1.99
Version: 2.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

All of my coastal territories were well defended. Honduras was absolutely packed with hundreds of my troops. It didn’t take much for them to overpower the handful of enemies stationed in Columbia, and from there my forces spread through South America like locusts. Once I acquired a foothold it was simply a matter of using ships to funnel the rest of my soldiers from my capital in Washington D.C. to Guyana, where I managed to wash over my enemy’s stronghold in Para like a tidal wave. I’ve been playing Empire II: What Would You Risk for World Conquest, and loving every minute of it.

empiresii05empiresii12Empires II takes inspiration from other world domination games such as Risk, but it simplifies the processes quite a bit. Each of the empires battling for domination starts off with a capital city (or sometimes two) where they can buy more troops, ships, or fortifications at the beginning of spring. After that they must spend the rest of the year deciding how they want to move their troops. Should they hunker down in a key location? Focus on defending territories that can be attack by ships? Or maybe spread out quickly to potentially earn more income for the following year’s purchases? The decision is in their hands, but making the wrong one could cost them dearly.

I’ve always enjoyed Risk-like games, but sometimes the heavy-handedness would be too much for me. That’s probably why I’ve been enjoying Empires II so much. It’s similar, but feels a lot more streamlined. Purchases can only be made once per year, which means the rest of that time is all about shuffling troops around. Neighboring countries all display the current number of stationed armies so there’s not much guesswork involved. And it’s easy to see at a glance how your soldiers are spread out. It takes out stuff like dice rolls and the near-constant bolstering of forces but leaves the satisfaction of crushing one’s opponents fully intact.

empiresii11empiresii07It can be a bit confusing the first time out, though, which could turn some players off. The beginning moments are crucial, so any missteps by a newcomer could completely wreck their chances for success. It also doesn’t help that the game fails to explain the importance of spending all available money each year (since nothing can be done with it in the interim) early on. It wasn’t until I was a year or two into my first game that I even saw the tip message. Naturally I was doomed by then.

Empires II could use a bit more explanation for players just starting out, but it doesn’t take long to learn. And once it’s been figured out there’s plenty of no-frills world dominating fun to be had.

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