by Alan Emrich with Mark Carroll
Published by Prima Publishing
Reviewed by Sir Launcelot du Lake
To Sir Launcelot,

    Singapore is as good a place as any to conquer the world from.
                                                          Alan Emrich

This is the message that Alan autographed on my copy of the book (how I managed to get him to do that halfway across the world will remain a secret :-)). After going through the book, one should have enough information to be able to conquer a world from any position in Empire Deluxe, at least against computer opponents. This tome is a wealth of information on general strategy, tactics, combat tables, and the innards of the game system that should appeal to both beginners and veterans alike.

The book was obviously written in very close association with the developers of the game, Mark Baldwin and Bob Rakosky of White Wolf Productions. The three tutorial scenarios that came with the game are actually meant to be used in conjunction with this book. Sprinkled throughout are comments from both designers about why they decided to opt for or discard certain features. Two appendixes written by the designers about various approaches to designing artificial intelligence and modem- play are also included.

Most interesting is the revelation of the inner workings of the computer player, including its initial building strategies, production and exploration methods, and its expansion and conquest tactics. Apparently there are some differences between the artificial personalities as to what they will tend to produce, for e.g., some may lean towards more armour. The computer players also have a hate scale, which is increased whenever one of its units or cities is attacked. So technically, it is possible to get the computer player worked up to such a state that is will come after you and ignore everything else. Thus, it is obviously not advisable to antagonize too many computer players at once.

Some undocumented features are also mentioned, like how you can trick a destroyer or any other ship into automatically circumnavigating a continent, thus revealing the entire coastline in short order. Whole chapters have been devoted to terrain, movement, exploration, war principles, tactical operations, and economics. The issues discussed in these chapters are all geared towards achieving mastery of the Advanced game. While most veteran players are likely to be aware of the general principles discussed, like the importance of reconnaissance, escort, and combined-arms, there are many strategic and tactical tidbits that can advance the understanding of the game. The huge one-on-one combat results tables are very detailed and lists all the probabilities in combat between all possible types of units, including units that have suffered damage. Another useful table is the production times of units cross-referenced with production efficiencies in both specialized and ordinary cities.

Two chapters are focused on gaming with live human opponents, be it by modem, network or email, although much more is discussed about modem-play. There is even a shameless (Emrich's own words!) pitch for Computer Gaming World and their Opponents Wanted section. Another chapter discusses the issues involved in designing your own maps and scenarios. A very interesting appendix details the history of Empire, from the evolution of its philosophy on the PLATO project at the University of Illinois in the late 60s to the VAX mainframe version, and on to the introduction of Empire to the PC world via Interstel. A list of all the versions of Empire available on different platforms has also been compiled from the Internet.

I highly recommend this book to all Empire Deluxe aficionados, it should give you an edge over computer opponents, and may just give you enough to beat that smug, slimy human next door, or at least let him know he was in one hell of a fight.

This review is Copyright (C) 1994 by Sir Launcelot du Lake for GameBytes Magazine. All rights reserved.