Friday, August 26, 2022

The imperfect world of Micro Space Empire

When I saw that someone had recreated Micro Space Empire as a set of tables, effectively making it a Roll and Write, that was when I decided I needed to try it.

Which is a fascinating statement about me. On the one hand, it speaks to my laziness. Absolutely no construction. I printed off the page and put it into a page protector so I could use a dry erase marker. So I was too lazy to print it off twice. And, on the other hand, I’m also okay with a set of tables instead of illustrated cards. Presentation is a big deal and means a lot but I can accept rough and ready minimalism.

At any rate, it’s a science fiction game about conquering worlds and adding them to your tax base. Or empire. 

Each turn consists of 1. Exploration/Conquest 2. Get resources 3. Use them resources 4. Get hit by a random event.

And, here’s what really struck me. The mechanics are very simple, very minimal. Every conflict revolves around rolling one six-sided die. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you’re looking for a coffee break game.

Every meaningful decision that you, the player, make is in the third stage. Building up military. Developing technology. Those are the only way to modify die rolls. In fact, you can pass on exploring and I think a basic strategy is passing early in the game so you can bulk up your military. Losing battles reduces your military so it’s important to bolster your military.

And I love me a tech tree. However, the tech tree in Micro Space Empire is very easy to prioritize. I honestly would say that the decisions you have to make with the tech tree are easy, even obvious.

All of those negatives aside, I enjoyed Micro Space Empire more than I expected to. And, yes, I am more forgiving of free PnP games but that’s not the only reason.

Micro Space Empire is a five-minute coffee break of a game. The simplicity in both its mechanics and its decision tree (which are very different things) becomes acceptable, even beneficial, when you only have five minutes to get the job done. I know what I want to do. Now, can I work with the one six-sided die and make it happen?

Yeah, there are a ton of five-minute coffee break games out there. I woke up one day and found I was collecting them. And there are better ones than Micro Space Empire but it does have its own way of being a 3.25X game. (The conquest really isn’t extermination) And I’d probably think even higher of it if I’d actually tried it back in 2011 when it first came out.

(Seriously, solitaire and PnP have really made strides in the last ten years)

I wouldn’t rule out actually make the playmat and the cards someday but I have at least fourteen projects already in the queue.

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