After the Empire is a unique Tower Defense/Worker Placement game from Grey Fox Games. Players will build up their castle defenses and hire soldiers and mercenaries to defend against the ever-growing threat of invaders. Will you be able to build the wealthiest kingdom by the end of seven rounds? Lets find out in this review of After the Empire!
- Players: 2-4
- Playtime: 90 minutes
- Publisher: Grey Fox Games
- Designers: Evan Halbert, Ryan Mauk
Art and Components
Strong medieval theme | Great artwork | Cool castle miniatures
The game art is excellent. The card and board illustrations are very well done and add to the theme of defending a medieval kingdom. I appreciate detailed touches like the unique themed art style on each player board. For example the northern player board “The Bluffs of Noridin” is a bright snowy region and the southern player board “The Swamps of Sudosh” is a muddy marsh.
The plastic castle walls and turrets look great during play. The castle components have slots for resource cubes used to track damage done to your castle. The other game components in the standard version are decent quality cardboard tokens and wooden resource cubes. There is also a deluxe edition with additional miniatures and sculpted resource cubes.
Worker placement | Tower defense | Streamlined combat
The bulk of the gameplay happens in two major phases: Actions and Combat.
During the Actions phase you will take turns placing workers on the main board to gather resources, buy refugee and building cards that add unique bonuses and abilities your kingdom and recruit troops to defend your castle. Your personal player board gives you actions to build and repair castle components, improve your farms and heal your wounded soldiers.
I like the tension between choosing actions that will enhance your kingdom long term like taking refugee or building cards or and taking actions that will directly help defend your castle in the next combat phase. Improving your castle by adding turrets to the corners and upgrading to stone walls is quite satisfying, but it is important that you have enough soldiers to man those walls!
In the combat phase, you will assign troops to castle walls as archers or inside the castle as melee defenders. Invading archers, swordsmen and siege weapons will attack your castle on one or more sides based on your current gold level. The more gold you have the juicer of target your castle is for the invaders! Combat proceeds through multiple rounds of Archery, Movement, and Melee until you’ve defeated the invaders or the invaders have broken your defenses and sacked your castle. The wealthiest player whose castle wasn’t sacked gains victory flag worth points at the end of the game.
Though the combat does not involve any dice rolling, there are some aspects of luck/uncertainty. Depending on the orientation of the invader cards you could be facing one large assault on a weak side of your castle or attacks from smaller groups on all sides. The Siege cards can also add additional attacking invaders or even let some invaders bypass your walls with Siege Towers and Ladders! Ultimately I think this uncertainty creates a fun sense of anticipation when invader cards are revealed at the start of the combat phase. Thankfully game allows you to rearrange troops during the Movement step to put them where they will be most effective. The flow of the combat can take a little getting used to but since this phase is done simultaneously by all players it resolves quickly once the rules are learned.
To be victorious in After the Empire your kingdom must have the most gold at the end of the game. Gold acts as both victory points and a resource. You will need to spend gold during the game for many actions including hiring troops. And you will gain gold each round for the number of castle pieces you have after combat. After seven rounds the player with the most gold after adding gold gained for buildings, refugees, victory flags and secret objectives is the winner!
Unique combination of mechanics | Satisfying and Great Replay Value
I really enjoy the combination of tower defense combat with familiar worker placement mechanics. There is a real weight to your limited action choices each round. You may choose to construct a building instead of bolster your castle. Or it might be better to hire a useful refugee instead of recruiting more troops. These choices can have immediate consequences in the combat phase but prove to be better for a longer term gain.
Building and defending your castle is satisfying and tense and combat offers enough tactical choices and complexity without being overwhelming. The Building, Refugee and Secret Objective decks allow for plenty of variety and keep the game repayable.
After the Empire is a worthy addition any game collection. I recommend it especially to fans of worker placement games that don’t mind the aspects of uncertainty in the combat. Head over to Grey Fox Games or your local FLGS to check it out!