Empires at Sea is a strategy board game set in the 1800s. It's set in the same time as Master and Commander and the Pirates of the Caribbean, quite possibly the most exciting period in the modern history of mankind. There were fortune hunters and adventurers, pirates and pirate hunters, and there were empires, Empires at Sea.
Our board game is a way to explore the world when weather was variable, nations were hostile, piracy was rampant, trade was critical, and empire was everything. We did our best to stay really "close" to the period. The historical events are real and their impact tries to align to the realities that those events imposed. The ships were designed to closely match the ships of the time. The maps are almost exactly lain out as they were known in the 1500s for the two-player map and the 1750s for the full game. Ships fight each other simultaneously, and many times both attacking and defending ships are thoroughly wrecked at sea. Even if you launch your Ship of the Line, often you can't use it. The weather can trap you for several turns, just as it did to the great ships of the time, who couldn't leave port for months until more favorable seasons set in. Countries can form alliances, traitors can break them. The line between a pirate and a prize hunter was razor thin. These aspects of the game are subtle, but permeate thoroughly. This is the charm.
The art used in the game's creation is also contemporary to the world we create. It is a rare case where the public domain is perfectly aligned to the private enterprise. We have thanked these great masters in many formats, but for this art the entire world is eternally in debt. I hope our project brings these images to a new generation who then take the time to seek out these great works in their original glory in the museums where they live. A 3 x 5 card is no place for a Turner, but here you have it in your hands.
For those of you that are "gamers", we have tried to build Empires with a focus on balanced strategic options and elegant mechanics. The hardest parts of Empires are the tension between the "correct" strategic move and the inner desire to crush that little transport with a fleet of Frigates; the balance between attack and empire building; the management of alliances; sailing to avoid being penalized by the weather; and the large potential end-game swings of flagship launches and naval defeat. These swings should be mentioned twice. Britain faced down France at the Nile and again at Trafalgar, battles that truly turned the tides of war and empire. This happens in Empires at Sea as well.
For those of you that are more "casual gamers", you're in for a treat. Empires is forgiving and it is easy to learn. We have played many strategy games with 30-40 page rulebooks and hundreds of effects, and dozens of games like Settlers. Some of these are really wonderful (Twilight Struggle and A Few Acres of Snow are games we love) and you will quickly see their influence, but Empires is truly unique. It is "real". We set the stage, now you take command.
A final note: We know that only 1 of the 4 or 5 players will win, so we made a game that is also exceptionally fun to lose.
Hope you all enjoy. Please buy our game.
Bear & Bandit