Seven Reasons I Keep Trying to Play Shadow Empire

There are a lot of reasons to stop playing Shadow Empire.  I’ve hit many of them several times over

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I’ve been following a playthrough thread elsewhere, and there’s so many cool bits, most of which you highlight in your article…but it’s clear I’ll almost certainly never play it, because these amazing ideas are being brought to the table by a very groggy wargame developer and it has the presentation and learning curve of that sort of game. Not for me, alas. I’d love to see what someone like Triumph Studios or Amplitude could do with them, though.

Then again, it’s entirely possible the sort of developer that would create a game without those sorts of rough edges would also fail to capture the magic due to less robust simulation, less unexpected esoteric corners, etc.

I’m really enjoying the game albeit stumbling through it as well, Tom. I just want to know the rules…how it works. That’s the frustrating part. Not knowing the rules. It’s the most innovative, complex, unique and ambitious game I’ve seen since I don’t know when.

If you’re down with spending a LOT of time watching video tutorials, DasTatic on Youtube has some fairly instructive tutorials, especially on Logistics. You’ll definitely learn something. Also, eXplorminate on YouTube has one titled “Over eXplantion” where I picked up quite a few things. I think I’ve spend probably 6 hours watching those videos. I also learned something new by reading your article. I knew the profiles Democracy, Meritocary and Autocracy affected each other but I didn’t know how or really understand the color codes. Now i do thanks to your excellent explanation.

Unfortunately, I believe, Shadow Empire is going to be one of those rare delightfully brilliant games that only comes along every so often but will require a lot of patience research and learning for the player. I think I’ve finally found in this game one worthy of that time and effort from me. I think it will be worth it and I think I may be playing this game for a very long time.

Best -

Really enjoyed reading this. Much like I enjoy messing around with this game. It’s the most old school interesting TBS game (circa 1990) released in a long time. I wish I had the time and energy of my 26 year old self to truly do it justice. But I’m trying my best.

You’ll be happy to know that the recent beta branch will significantly change logistics. So even if you do figure it out you’ll have to figure it out again.

Which patch? 1.04?

No the beta branch of 1.04, which you can get from the forums. Presumably it’ll show up in a future release. There’s a link in the main Shadow Empire thread.

Yeah, thanks. That’s what I meant. Typo there. But 1.04 messes with logistics? Great. You’re right, I’ll have to figure it out all over again. I’ve been downloading them as I see them over there.

Essentially it changes logistics from a push system to a pull system. Which mean not mean much if you don’t grok the current system. Theoretically it’ll make it more intuitive, but I haven’t played on that branch yet.

I was just reading the beta notes wonder what a pull point was and wondering how I missed it…

I followed the thread for the game for about 100 posts, and then gave up as I probably don’t have the time (or patience). Then I saw this review and really wanted to dive in… but I had no idea you were talking about the same game! (Is it a hex and counter or a card game?)

So maybe I’ll try to catch up on the thread…

Great write-up, Tom. Convinced me to take the plunge.

This sounds thoroughly fascinating, and if there is a version of me in an alternate universe that doesn’t have small children, I hope he’s playing this.

I’ve played war games since forever but have never been a min/maxer or even gotten to the point of worrying that my move may be .08% less than maximum. I did used to read the various rule books all the time though. But to this point SE gives enough info to me that I can continue to push on with my plans and I learn more about the specifics as I play. Even if I lose. And if I lose it’s still enjoyable due to the fact that I’m either being overrun by giant worm-asaurs or mutant cultists or being destroyed from within by a crazed doctor/general. Now if I had played for a couple of hundred turns only to find out I’d put myself in a jam 80 turns ago I might feel different. But as of now the learning process is still mostly enjoyable and intriguing. And when it gets to be too much I can boot up Caves of Qud and do some low level apocalypse adventuring

Go go Shadow Empires!

Mighty Morphin’ Shadow Empires!

Hex and counter. Counters in NATO symbols or icons. PLUS cards that affect various dimensions of the game. It’s pretty ambitious. It can frustrating from the lack of explanation to understand its depth. However, I’m really enjoying.

Tom’s reactions very much match my own. The attractions of the game are very, very attractive. But the logistics system had led me to quit. Very definitely, but with regrets. So I was very pleased to hear that that system is being fixed, at least in the beta branch.

As I commented in the main thread for the game, the logistics system was not just impenetrable. It also struck me as an absurd idea. That not only did you need sufficient (defended) roads and trucks and supplies, but you, as leader of the nation, needed to direct traffic, such that the trucks did not go out in random directions each morning, with no regard for where the deliveries and pickups actually were. “Yeah, too bad the troops are starving to the east, we’re going to run half our trucks empty to the west every day, unless the president tells us exactly how many trucks to send east.”

Hopefully, this has truly been fixed. And I am once again optimistic. However, for those on the fence, I think I am being helpful saying that this logistics thing was not entirely a fluke. Take researching an upgrade for your troops. First you need to discover the idea for the upgrade. Then you need to research that upgrade. One of your appointees does both of these things. Then you need to repeat the process to use that discovery to upgrade your “model” of machine gun or tank or whatever. A different appointee does that. Then you need to discover the possibility of using your new model as part of a military formation, and once you discover that possibility, you need to research it. A third appointee handles this.

Of course, there are many, many technological advances, so the detail of this process must be repeated repeatedly. And although you do delegate each job, you have to be very cautious not to “get ahead of yourself” because if technological advances get too far advanced without some basic things getting discovered first, you can become stranded without something essential, like, say, a way to power your industry. Because although you do get involved in rather granular decisions about technology development, you do not pick which of the possible things to discover.

That is the nature of this game, for better or worse. Extraordinary detail in somewhat arbitrary areas, with many fatal pitfalls that have little to do with your battlefield enemy.

None of which means that the attractions of the game are not very attractive. But if you do not enjoy very granular, often arbitrary detail, you may not get much out of this purchase.

Another ambitious, self-indulgent mess created by an auteur developer.

/me nods in approval, but stays back 12 feet

Fascinating to read about, but probably not something I have the energy for at the moment.

A couple corrections:

  • 1) Shadow Empire [is] a card game
  • +7 metitocry