Empire is a simulation game of unique proportions. While it concentrates mostly on the war simulation aspects, it also has economic, political, and other more subtle real-world parallels.
Empire is a game that is played against human opponents over a computer network, usually the internet. It is possible for a game to last from a few hours to many months. While the common goal of an Empire player is to "win", there is no clear cut definition of what winning is. Players may seak to achieve whatever goals they want to achieve.
Typically, a game is "won" by a player or group of players who make a "win declaration" and defy the world to oppose their declaration. Such declarations usually must stand unopposed either for 24 hours or by all players still playing in the game. If they are opposed, they typically wipe out the opposition and re-declare. However, it should be noted that even finishing a game with a viable country can be considered a victory (especially for a new player).
Short games, called blitzes, require an intense and concentrated amount of effort on the part of players participating. They are a tremendous amount of fun if played against a full set of active players. Such games can heavily task your physical stamina. After many hours, your hands are dying to be unattached from the keyboard, your stomach is screaming for some form of sustenance, your family (if you have one) will wonder what deamon has possesed you and your brain will turn to putty, to say nothing of your digestive system and its need to purge itself once in a while. Ahh, Empire at its best!
"Regular" games usually have some sort of sign up period lasting a week or three, and will have a well announced start date. Games typically last around two months, give or take a month though some games have been known to go for the better part of a year. "Updates", which you may learn about in other parts of this guide, typically occur once a day. It is usually a good idea to be on the game around updates, though not absolutely necessary.
Empire is complex. There is no denying that. There are hundreds of thousands of 'pieces' in the game ranging from civilians to satellites to single units of food. The computer removes most of the complexity of the game, and allows you to manage things more easily. However, if you want to be the best of the best players, it will require you to micro-manage your country, paying attention to every detail. Small advantages in the beginning of the game can pay big dividends later. It is hard to catch up.
The learning curve for the game is, as a result, rather steep. But it is far from impossible to become a good player in just a few games. Once in a while there are players who become great in a few games. It's a matter of how good you really are at such games combined with your knack for managing the environment of the game.
Empire is not for the light of heart, nor the weak of mind. But for those who tread in the tortured landscapes of Empire battlegrounds, you will no doubt enjoy yourself on some level, perhaps satisfying inner neo-lithic desires in the process.
Quite simply, in this writer's mind Empire is the best game ever. Bar none.
Geoff Cashman (Mithrilien)