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Empire: Wargame of the Century

Empire, Wargame of the Century, is one of the first - if not the first - turn-based computer war games made. In fact its copyrights date back to the 1970s. You can play the computer or human competition with up to three total players. Amazingly, there is even a “play by mail” option (more about this below).

The goal of Empire is simple: race to get off your initial continent or island and build and manage your troop deployments as you continue to spread outward like a virus. Conquer all of the available cities on a gargantuan world map - so large that there are scrollbars on your window to access everything - and utterly dominate the world you find yourself on. And do this through a thick “fog of war” you must penetrate via physical surveillance.

Empire is all about war machine production. There is no leveling up of your forces, just different types of troop “tech”. There are 8 different types of units possible to create and and you want to produce as much as you can as fast as you can. Then you spread your forces out to neighboring land masses to conquer before your opponent does.

When your armies capture a city you can decide what types of troops to build from there - each with their own weighted time cost and movement advantages or disadvantages. You can produce Armies [viewed on-screen as little tanks], Fighters (planes, with an odd ability to fly 20 spaces but then simply run out of fuel without warning if they don’t make it back to a base), troop Transports [boats that can move up to 3 armies], Submarines, Destroyers, Cruisers, Battleships and [aircraft] Carriers.

In my limited experience, the key to beating the computer’s AI is to focus on building Armies, Fighters, Transports and Destroyers with a few Subs and Cruisers sprinkled about to protect coastal cities and a couple of Fighters to serve as limited reconnaissance and also act as canaries in the coal mine to find your opponent. Armies and Transports are the most important by far.

There are no “troop leveling” powers - just mass production. War, ultimately, is won in this game by who can create the best and most adept “war machine”; how fast and nimbly you can produce and disseminate your troops abroad.

It’s a tad easy (yet very fun) to play the computer’s AI as it’s not nearly as cunning as a human might be. The tedium of moving troops about can drag on a bit at times and frankly be quite a bit to juggle near the end. But when you conquer cities or destroy the computer’s ships and troops it really can be quite a thrill. That first time you see the computer’s troops poke out of a fog of war you’ve penetrated can be very exciting indeed as you scramble your efforts to attack.

Originally Empire was coded on Caltech mainframes in the 1970s by the talented programmer Walter Bright, and the game was played in a text input style.

In the early 1980s Mr. Bright and Mark Baldwin graphically re-coded Empire for several home computer platforms including DOS, Atari ST, C64 and Amiga. The Amiga version easily outshines them all in my opinion both graphically and UI-wise, even though the palette heavily shares from the original DOS and Atari ST versions.

The game manual sports an odd mix between an over-arching science fiction story (yes, it’s supposed to be about planet conquest) and the actual game, which looks suspiciously more like WWII or cold war era war machinery. It tries so hard to feel science-fiction-y, the manual is stated to be from “Star Fleet Command”, albeit with a unique logo. But this is not Starcraft by any stretch, at least not visually, even though the manual seems to imply that was its original vision. If you want to believe you’re playing a science fiction conquest game, though, be sure to read the manual first to get into the mood as there is scant evidence of it in the game. Frankly, you should read the manual no matter what. It’s quite helpful in getting your bearings and is a rather enjoyable read.

Game Notes & Trivia

There is actually a “play by mail” option where, incredibly (I assume) users would literally mail a disk back and forth (for years?) to compete against one another. Ah, the days before a modem connected world. . . And we think modem-to-modem games are old school!

The Amiga version was written in C in 68000 assembler.

Sid Meier was heavily influenced by this game and Civilization 1 bears this out.

Please feel free to download the Amiga ADF found elsewhere on this page with Killer Bee Software’s kind permission.

Notes About the ADF Download

While playing Empire, Wargame of the Century for Amiga and preparing to craft an in-depth review, AmigaLove determined that the original creator of the game, renowned programmer Walter Bright, might still hold the rights to the game. On his personal website he actually provides downloads for PC as well as some other very interesting relevant resources.

As such, we felt morally compelled to reach out to him for permission to provide an original ADF of the game on amigalove.com to our users.

Mr. Bright quickly responded:
I'd love to allow you to, but I don't have the rights to the Amiga version. But these guys do:
killerbeesoftware.com
good luck!


AmigaLove then contacted the owners of Killer Bee Software based in Houston, TX, who purchased the rights to the original game in 2002. The owner, who goes by Mok online (Mark Kinkead), was extremely gracious and granted us permission to host an ADF of the Amiga version of Empire - quite possibly the first time this was legally permitted anywhere!

Mark Kinkead:
Hopefully it won’t sway your decision that I was on a rival team (Atari ST, father’s machine). Though in my NY days I had a C64 (cheaper). Ultimately ended up with an IBM 286.


Hah! We’re lovers of all things retro-gaming and computing at AmigaLove. We are extremely grateful and hope our users enjoy this gaming gem as much as we do.

Please feel free to download the game with Killer Bee Software’s kind permission.

For fans of the game, we highly encourage you to also check out Mok’s Kickstarter for an Empire Deluxe Combined Edition, which will conclude on August 28, 2017. The KS has already been funded by over 3X the original ask and is still going strong. The Deluxe Combined Edition, when it ships, will be available for Windows PC, Mac OSX and Linux Ubuntu. You can get a copy for only $13 - totally worth every penny. We funded it and can’t wait for it’s release!
4.5
2 total votes

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4.5
2 total votes
Developer:
Northwest Software
Publisher:
Interstel Corporation
Designer:
Walter Bright
Programmer:
Walter Bright, Mark Baldwin, Bob Rakosky (port)
Genre:
Strategy, Tactics
Perspective:
Top-down
Theme:
War
Player mode:
1 player, multi-player
Origin:
USA
Release date:
1987

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