Games Don’t Have to be Pretty to be Fun
There are a few ways that games come to market. There’s the traditional idea of selling your game to one of the very large publishers (Hasbro, Milton Bradley, etc.). You’ll also hear a lot about Kickstarter, where 100’s of games have found great success by pre-selling copies before they are made. And then there is the old tried-and-true method of manufacturing them yourself and attempting to sell your own inventory.
The latter is by far the riskiest and most capital-intensive, but can also be the most rewarding. Without any middlemen in the picture, the designer can either recoup a larger portion of the revenue or provide better components at a cheaper price. Either way, it is still a long-shot.
That’s the path NateCo Holdings took with their game, Middle Empire. Self-described as a cross between Settlers of Catan and Risk, we found the claim of a 30-minute game to be spot-on. Let’s take a look at what in entails.
Each player represents an army expanding their influence across the Middle Empire. To do so they must build strongholds, construct new roads and establish their empires while preventing the other armies from doing the same.
There are three types of cards that allow you to perform specific actions. An attack deck has cards that allow you to attack your opponent or destroy (or move) a road. A defense deck provides the tools you’ll need to defend your cities. Whether it is drawing additional cards, building roads or defending against attack, you’ll want to have some of these in your hand at all times. The construction deck has cards that allow you to expand your influence. Each card allows you to build a stronghold in a specific region and a couple wild cards add to the variability.
On your turn you can draw up to two cards, remembering your hand limit of seven cards (at the end of your turn). You can play up to three cards per turn, but no more than one of each kind. Place your stronghold, build a road and maybe attack a neighbor – then your turn is complete.
To win the game, you must establish and defend three (or 4 in a two-player game) empires. Empires are created by building in an area in which you already have a stronghold – this simply upgrades them to empire status and takes two coordinated attacks to defeat (as opposed to just one for a stronghold).
You can also build a city wall around your empire (another defense card item), further protecting it from attack. Roads provide defense along with a path to your neighbor so you can attack. In the base game, roads can only be traveled upon by the person that owns them. In the optional rules, you can allow anyone to utilize (or move) them at will.
Players take turns drawing and playing until one player erects their third empire. They must then successfully defend it for an entire round before being declared the winner. Middle Empire rules are very easy to explain or demonstrate, making it a great introductory game for families introducing themselves to more advanced strategy titles.
But here’s the one downside of Middle Empire. It isn’t pretty. You can make your own judgement about the artwork, but we found it to be the one obvious area the game suffered. I’m no artist, and can barely eek out a stick figure, but for a few hundred dollars an art student could have been hired to dress up the box, board and cards (basically everything). I joked in the photo at the top about the art, but after showing it to others, they agreed one of the main characters on the lid also reminded them of Butthead.
Overall though, I wouldn’t let that be a deal-killer. Middle Empire in its current form does lack the shelf-presence that it would need if retailed at a hobby shop. But for a game that you can order direct from the creator for under $20, the game play and good balance more than make up for the lack of high-quality art.
And thank to the generosity of NateCo Holdings, you can win a copy of Middle Empire for yourself right now! We’re giving away TWO copies to TWO different winners! Enter using the form below and don’t forget to come back tomorrow for additional entry opportunities!
Middle Empire Game Giveaway
45 thoughts on “Games Don’t Have to be Pretty to be Fun”
Thanks for the opportunity, looking forward to learning more about your games!
I actually love it for it’s simplistic look. Believe it or not, I like the cards and the cover. I couldn’t tell you exactly why, though.
This is definitely my husband’s type of game. I actually like the graphics on the board game. It’s a nice change from a sea of neons everywhere.
If your husband likes this type of game, I’m sure he’d love a surprise gift! Check out natecoholdings.com to get him that gift 🙂
Noticed this one recently! Looks interesting and thanks for the review!
Thanks for the contest!
I think my husband would love this game. He is a huge fan of Risk, and this board game looks like a physical representation of my husband’s PC game, Total War. I don’t play, but to me it looks similar with simple graphics and main focus on the game.
Think of the time you can spend with your husband getting him off the computer and at the table to play a game with you!
Thank you for the contest and bringing this game some awareness.
Middle Empire sounds like a great strategy game and I like the fact that it’s not an overly long game to play. I agree that the artwork isn’t the prettiest but I can understand the designer doing the artwork himself so he can say that the whole game is his creation.
This looks super fun. The <$20 price tag makes this great for birthday party gifts. We buy a lot of games for gifts.
Thank you for the contest!
Oh and I play on offensive! 🙂
Thanks for the contest!
What a great game! My son would love this!
I like to go on the offensive.
This looks like a good one to add to the collection. I’m tired of playing Ticket to Ride every night.
I like to play both but my favorite is the defensive my son likes to be the office side
I go on the defensive usually.
I wish I would’ve know about this game a few weeks ago! This looks like an really solid game!
This game is still available and at a great price! Check out http://www.natecoholdings.com for more info on the game and to grab a copy if you so desire
Looks like a very interesting game!
Looks interesting. We love to play games as a family. I usually go offensive, but it just depends on the game.
I like the offensive but usually end up being Defensive.
I typically like goin on the offense when playing games. I like strategy games.
Kohls is a stalwart around the xmas season. I’d love to pickup a gift card to have a bit better run at the place when the time comes.
Whoopsie, wrong window 🙂
I typically start off on defense for a while as I build my forces and then unleash the beast. Win or lose, I’m done at that point.
I used to play on these kinds of games as a child and loved them! Board games are the best kinds!
Laura / http://www.smileatstyle.com xx
The cards remind me of tarot cards. Sounds like a fun game 🙂
Looks like a great game. Sometimes the simple looking are the best.
I am so glad you called out the Beavis and Butthead. I was totally thinking that when I saw the game.
I have to admit that I’d probably overlook it for the design, but that’s what your review does. It helps the rest of us know it’s worth it!
This game looks super fun. This will be perfect for our family game nights. Thanks for the nice review.
Not a game that I would probably play but definitely not because of the artwork or lack thereof!
I think it is great that this game makes references to the past. It teaches kids about historical concepts.
This game sounds fun and right up my son’s ally. It did look slightly cheesy, but I doubt he would care if the game is fun!
I agree, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, as they say. This looks like a cool game!
This game looks like a fun game, I agree don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Thanks for the opportunity to win!
i have never heard of any of these games but they sure sound like fun!
Here goes nothing.
We have the first RISK board and it isn’t so pretty, and the pieces are wooden blocks — but we love it. It’s about the gameplay not necessarily the art 😉