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‘Conquest of the Empire’ is Like ‘Risk’– But It’s Actually Good

4 Minute Read
Jul 26 2023

Risk has a lot of room for improvement. The Conquest of the Empire board game improved on it, in every way possible.

It’s hard to know why some games are famous enough to snag a space in every grandparent’s closet, while others only garner cult following status.

Previously, we took a look at Lionheart, which is something of an upgraded version of Chess. Today, we’re continuing the classic-games trend by looking at Conquest of the Empire– which is very much an upgraded version of Risk.

Conquest of the Empire Gameplay
Images via Board Game Geek

Conquest of the Empire is a competitive, area control, strategic combat game for 2 to 6 players. It’s set near the Mediterranean Sea around 200 BC. The objective of the game is simple–all players are trying to eliminate any other Caesars.

The game was originally released by Milton Bradley in 1984, and then again by Eagle-Gryphon Games in 2005 with some more updated rules. Even though the 2005 version is way more popular, we’ll be looking at the 1984 version, because retro board games are my shtick.

Conquest of the Empire Board Size Comparison
Considering the size of the 2005 board vs the 1984 one, I’m not surprised it gets more attention.

If you know Risk, that will save us a lot of time in explaining Conquest of the Empire. The basic foundation is the same: move your armies, fight their armies, get money to buy more armies, repeat.

But literally every step of that sequence is improved.

Move Your Armies

There are two categories of units in Conquest of the Empire: Leaders and Combat. Leaders can move, but not fight. Combat units can fight, but not move. So to move your combat units, you need a leader to form a Legion.

Conquest of the Empire Close up

A Legion is a single Leader unit and up to 6 combat units. Legions can move and fight, so your units defending your territory don’t need to be a Legion, but your attacking forces do.

Each player has their Caesar and several Generals as their Leaders. Remember, your Caesar is your Chess King equivalent. Lose your Caesar, lose the game.


Fight Their Armies

When entering into a battle, each player selects up to 5 of their combat units in the contested region (+1 if there is a Leader present). These are the only units that will fight in this combat.

Combat in Conquest of the Empire rides on an interesting mechanic called Combat Advantage. Every unit requires a certain value to be rolled to be defeated in combat. However, catapults and fortified cities grant Combat Advantage, which lowers the value required to kill a unit.

Conquest of the Empire Combat Chart

Players alternate between making a single attack with choosing their target with that attack. So, for example, tactical players may want to target their opponent’s Catapults early to lower their Combat Advantage. Then they can go after their Infantry or Cavalry. But bold players might push their luck and try to wipe out the infantry before they have a chance to strike back. This continues until one side’s combat units are all destroyed–or the attackers choose to retreat.

The winner has the option to capture your opponent’s General. That player can either eliminate the General whatever they want, or they can ransom the General back to the owning player for any price they wish.

Get Money to Buy More Armies

Each region grants the controlling player a certain amount of money to buy more units, plus cities and city walls. You can also buy roads, allowing free movement and ownership of any units on them. All newly-purchased units are placed on your starting province, so roads become essential to moving your units to the front lines of combat.

But, if you know your Ancient Roman History (I don’t, I just read the section in the game’s rulebook), you know that inflation was rampant at the time. This is evident in Conquest of the Empire as well. Once any player reaches a certain level of monetary gain-per-turn, inflation triggers, and the prices of all units double. This happens again when you reach another threshold– then all prices triple from their original value.

Conquest of the Empire Inflation

Conquest of the Empire isn’t about controlling every province–it’s about eliminating every other Caesar. So, no amount of turtling in Australia is going to keep this game dragging on for hours.


Who can say why Risk still has the following that it has? But with games like Conquest of the Empire–which does all the same stuff, but better–I’m happy to be a part of the push to replace older games with better ones.

And so, if you have that weird uncle who breaks out Risk every family gathering, why not pick up a copy of Conquest of the Empire? Who knows? Maybe the next holiday won’t be so grueling.

Author: Matt Sall
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