In the Shadow of the Emperor
List Price: $27.95
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(Worth 2,250 Funagain Points!)
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Germany in the late middle ages! It is a time of flourishing cities, influential bishops, the powerful popes, and a pompous aristocracy. In such a volatile climate, no dynasty can remain in power for long. Several aristocratic families seek to acquire the crown of the emperor. But this decision lies in the hands of the seven electors. 2–4 emperor candidates use their knights and cities, arrange marriages for their barons, and work to influence the electors. But all efforts are useless if the candidate is not elected to be emperor. But, in the shadow of the properly elected emperor, are always those who want to displace him and become the new emperor.
I've played this game a handful of times with just one other person. It works really well as a two-player game, but some of the most exciting elements don't come into play. Tonight was the first time we played it with 4. It was a great game!
It isn't a simple game to learn, though, and there's quite a bit to think through on each turn. As we were playing it, we commented how it is almost like a chess match - where every move you make is going to affect what everyone else does. So you try to think it all through before making a move. As you can imagine, with serious gamers that love a real challenge, the game lasted a little while! After about 3 hours we finished and really weren't sure who was going to end up the winner.
The game has a lot of very interesting and exciting elements:AGING - your pieces age after each round. Knowing that your pieces will only be alive for about half the game means you have to consider how you'll replace them without losing your spot to one of your opponents.
ELECTION - will you vote for the emporer or for the one that is challenging him? Players cast their vote in favor of the one that they think will benefit them most (or hurt them the least) as emperor. (This is one of the features when playing with just 2 players that is non-existent.)
DESCENDENTS - the actions you choose to make in the game will determine whether you have a boy or a girl at the beginning of each round. If a boy, you place a new piece in the game. If a girl, you have a choice whether to offer her in marriage to one your opponents for a mutually beneficial relationship or send her to the convent and receive some money. Very interesting twist in the game.
I hope my review does the game justice. It has a great theme and is a lot of fun. All 4 of us playing loved the game play and the interaction and can't wait to play again. There is about zero luck. There are no dice or random cards to draw. The only element of luck is how the other players play. The only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is because of the length of the game. I generally love games where there is little to now luck, but really think I prefer ones that can be played in 2 hours or less.
This is a great game for people that love to game! I can't believe it hasn't caught on and become really popular yet. (Other games our group really loves to play are Puerto Rico, El Grande, Power Grid and St. Petersburg.)
First, let me say that I've only played the game once. But, since there are no other reviews, I feel it is my duty to provide some helpful information.
Out of the box, the game looks like its going to be great. It has a cool theme in which you try to control people/positions in the Emperors court, each of whom has has a unique ability which you get to employ. The game has some similarities to another game I love called Kremlin.
Alas, I feel that In the Shadow of the Emperor doesn't measure up. The special powers each member of the Emperor's court wields, isn't very special. The game-play isn't all that fun and Victory is not so much about achieving the Emperors position, as it is about accumulating points.
In my mind, the game does not rise above average. But, I do think it has all the classic elements which could have made it great.