Earth lies nearly in ruins. Yet there is hope for a new planet on which humanity can continue. A distant planet known only as 581 lies in the vast emptiness of space. Four different factions battle one another in order to take control of artifacts left behind by an ancient alien civilization. The first faction to gain enough artifacts to build a Wormgate will be able to transport their armies through to a new solar system and claim the new Earth for their own. Lost Empires originally launched on Kickstarter back in April of this year. However, after receiving some suggestions from the public, the developer decided to cancel the campaign and add some new and improved features including the ability to play with 1-4 players instead of only 2 players.
What Is Lost Empires?
Lost Empires: War for the New Sun is a head-to-head, card-driven area control game for 2 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about 45 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with pledge levels of $25 for a copy of the base game and all stretch goals. For $45 you can get the base game, stretch goals, and the Crown of Ashes expansion which not only adds more cards but also modes for single-player as well as 3 and 4 player games. Lost Empires was designed by Brad Pye and published by Kolossal Games, with illustrations by Ryan Pye. The Kickstarter campaign is already underway and ends Tuesday, October 19, 2021, so check it out before it closes.
New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.
Lost Empires Components
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy of the base game, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality.
- 96 Unit cards
- 32 Support cards
- 24 Installation and modification cards
- 3 Objectives
- 4 Hives
- 1 First player token
- 8 Gate progress tokens
- 2 Supply tokens
- 8 Command tokens
- 20 Artifact tokens
- 45 Double-sided damage tokens
- 25 Drain tokens
- 4 Reference cards
- 2 Result Dice
- 1 Rulebook
- 1 Glossary book
Unit cards are placed onto battlefields to attack other units and take control of objectives. The number in the top left of the card is its control value. The attack value is in the lower left and the defense value is in the lower right. The cost to deploy the unit is listed in the center to the left of its name. Most units also have an ability described in the text below the name.
Support cards have an effect that is resolved after their cost is paid, then they are placed in the discard pile.
The three objective battlefields are placed in the center of the play area and provide alien artifacts to the player who controls them during a round. Each faction also has its own hive battlefield where it can deploy its units.
Command and supply tokens are used to activate your units as well as pay the cost to deploy units or play support. A command token provides 2 action points during activation while a supply token only provides one action point.
Damage tokens are placed on units that receive damage. Artifact tokens are earned for controlling objective battlefields as well as for destroying an elite unit. The artifact tokens are traded in for gate tokens which are needed to win the game.
How to Play Lost Empires
Note: this description of the rules is for the 2-players included in the base game.
The goal of the game is to gain four gate tokens so you can build the Wormgate and win the game.
At the start, each player selects one of the four factions. For your first several games, it is suggested to use the starting decks. However, once you learn the factions, you can create your own deck by selecting nine different cards from one faction and then adding a second copy of each of those cards to form a deck of 18 cards. Shuffle the cards in this deck and then place them face in your play area. Now each player rolls both result dice and adds the results. The player with the highest roll is the first player and takes the first player token. Each player then takes one result die and places it near their deck along with four command tokens and one supply token. Since players only get two commands for their first turn, flip two of the command tokens over to their depleted side.
Place the center objective in the middle of the player area between the two players and then place outer objects to each side of the center objective. Each player then takes their faction’s hive battlefield and places it to the side of their deck. Place all of the damage, artifact, and gate tokens in separate piles within easy reach of both players. Finally, each player draws six cards from their deck to form their starting hand. You are now ready to play.
Lost Empires is played in rounds with each round divided into five phases: Orders, Control, Gate, Casualty, and Wrap Up. Continue playing until there is a winner. Let’s take a look at each of the phases in order.
During this phase, the players take turns giving orders. These orders include deploying a unit, activating a unit, and playing support. A player must either deploy a unit or activate a unit each turn or they must pass. When a player passes, they cannot give any more orders for the remainder of this phase. A player can perform as many orders on their turn as they wish except for activating, which they can only do once per turn.
In order to deploy a unit, the player chooses a unit card from their hand and pays the cost in command or supply by flipping that many respective tokens to their depleted side. Place the unit next to your hive battlefield in a deployment zone. At the end of that turn, move the unit away from the hive into the ready zone. Players can also play a support card by paying its cost in command or supply, resolving that card’s ability, and then placing that card in the discard pile.
Finally, players can spend command or supply to activate a unit. Spending a command token provides 2 action points while spending a supply yields only one action point. You can spend an action point to move one unit to another connected battlefield or spend an action to attack. While you can spend 2 action points to move during a turn, you can only attack once per turn. Each hive is connected to the two outer objectives and the two outer objectives are connected to the center objective. Therefore, if you had a unit at your hive in the ready area, you could spend one action to move it to one of the outer objectives, and then a second action to move it to the center objective. On the other hand, you could move it to a connected battlefield and then attack an enemy at that location.
You could also attack for your first action and then move. Finally, you can spend action points for a unit’s ability. Most abilities cost one action point. However, if the ability has the work “draining” in it, that ability costs 2 actions. After a unit has used its actions, rotate it 90 degrees to show that it is drained and cannot receive any more orders during this phase until it is readied. Players continue taking turns until both have passed.
When a player chooses to attack, they activate a unit and spend an action to attack. Select an enemy unit at the same battlefield location as the target of the attack. Both players roll their result die. The attacking player adds the result of their roll to their attack value while the defending player adds the result of their die to their unit’s defense value. Now compare the results. if the attacker’s total is greater, then the defending unit receives two damage tokens. If the results are a die, the defending unit takes one damage. If the defending result is greater, the attack fails and no damage is dealt. If the result on the die is the 4 inside a circle, it is a critical result. If the defender rolls a critical, the attack automatically fails and no damage is dealt. On the other hand, if the attacker rolls a critical, after comparing the results, if any damage is inflicted, then 1 additional damage is dealt to the defending unit.
Damage affects a unit. If at least one damage token is on a unit, its control value is decreased by one. When a unit has 3 damage on it, it will be destroyed later during the round. However, once a unit has 4 damage tokens, it is immediately destroyed and placed in the discard pile.
Once both players have passed, the Control phase begins. Players check to see who controls each of the three objective battlefields. If only one faction has units at an objective, they automatically control it. If there are units from both factions, then add up the control values of the units for each faction. Remember to lower a unit’s control value if it has any damage tokens on it. The player with the highest control value has control of that objective. In case of a tie, neither side has control. Now award artifact tokens for control. Each outer objective awards one artifact while control of the center objective awards two artifacts.
After artifacts have been awarded, players who have at least four artifact tokens can exchange four of these tokens for one gate token. Each player can only gain one gate token per round no matter how many artifacts they have. If at least one player has four gate tokens at the end of this phase, it triggers the end game. Otherwise, continue to the Casualty phase.
During this phase, any units with 3 damage tokens on them are immediately and simultaneously removed from the battlefield and placed in the discard pile. Abilities that trigger during this phase are performed in the order chosen by the first player. Continue to the next phase.
This phase prepares you for the next round. First, if any players have units at the enemy’s hive battlefield, they must fall back to one of the outer objectives where there are friendly units. Otherwise, they must fall back to their own hive battlefield. This is not considered a move and thus does not trigger any movement abilities. The first player always goes first. Next, players ready their drained units by rotating them back into a ready position. Both players turn their command and supply tokens to their unused side. Each player then draws 1 card from the top of their deck. There is no maximum hand size. If a player has no cards remaining in their deck, they skip this step. Finally, the first player token is passed to the other player and the next round begins with the order phase.
The game ends when at least one player has four gate tokens during the Gate phase. If only one player has four gate tokens, they are the winner. If both players have four gate tokens, then the player with the most artifacts is the winner. If there is still a tie, then the player most total control value on their units in play wins. The game is a draw if there is still a tie.
Why You Should Play Lost Empires
Daniel Alejos, one of the lead developers on Lost Empires, was kind enough to teach me the game as we played a virtual version online. Even though I had not read the manual to the game, I was able to pick up the rules fairly quickly since they are quite straightforward. I find the simplicity of the rules is one of Lost Empire’s strengths. However, don’t mistake Lost Empires for a simple game. The depth comes out through the unit and support cards. Most of the unit cards have an ability in addition to their attack, defense, and control values. The strategy is in using these abilities to their greatest advantage, some of which require coordination with other units. Furthermore, each of the four factions has unique abilities that focus on different areas, requiring players to use varying tactics as they play to each factions’ strengths. In fact, the differences between the factions are one of my favorite aspects of the game.
The Feng faction were the first humans to arrive on Planet 581 and they have created a guerilla army that can strike first and strike fast. Their faction ability is called Frontline which allows units with this ability to be activated the same turn they are deployed rather than wait until a future turn. Some of their units can be activated without paying any cost, attack enemies that move into their battlefield, or even attack twice. These abilities let the Feng get more actions per round than their opponents when played right.
The Terra Corp is a mercenary military for the Earth’s most powerful corporations. As such, they have superior weaponry as compared to the other factions. Their Ruthless ability lets you deal one damage to a unit when your faction wins control of that unit’s current objective. Since the Control Phase comes before the Casualty phase, this can let you inflict a third damage on a unit so it will be eliminated before the next round begins. Many of their units have abilities that increase offense or damage or even let this faction gain additional artifacts.
The Neo-Human Republic was formed by the five remaining nations of Earth after the Corp Wars. Many of their units have abilities that heal or bolster other units. The Formation ability lets these units with this ability gain +1 offense when on the same battlefield with another friendly unit and its control value is not reduced when it takes damage. Some powerful abilities also let you drain enemy units or even deplete your opponent’s command.
The final faction, the Scion Imperium, uses genetic manipulation and religious zealotry to help defeat their opponents. Their faction ability, Melee, requires these units to attack the same enemy unit twice during an attack action. However, these attacks can only inflict one damage whether it wins or ties the battle. They also have some other interesting abilities that include sacrificing units to inflict damage on enemies or manipulating enemy units by moving them, preventing them from attacking, or even preventing them from refreshing at the end of the round.
Lost Empires’ command mechanic offers a smooth yet effective means of forcing players to balance deploying new units and activating either support or units already on the battlefields. Some units cost most of your command to deploy, limiting your activations for that round. This challenge is especially apparent during the first round when each player has only two command tokens and a supply token to spend. Do you try to deploy two inexpensive units or deploy one and get it onto an objective right at the start? By providing each player with one supply, which is like half a command, the game seems to offer a free action to each player though some support and unit cards only cost one supply to deploy or activate an ability. The command system also keeps the game moving since players can only activate one unit per turn.
I was hooked on Lost Empires from my first game. I had a lot of fun playing against Daniel even though I did not yet completely understand all the abilities of the units and only saw two of the factions. However, once I received a physical prototype of the game, studied all of the cards, and played each of the factions, I really came to appreciate how well-designed and balanced this game truly is.
Playing each faction offers a different experience by itself. Since you can only have 9 pairs of cards out of the 16 pairs available in your deck of 18 cards, how you build your deck for a single faction can let you focus on different abilities, allowing you to pursue varying tactics. Plus, with only 18 cards in your deck, and the fact that you don’t replenish your deck from the discard pile when it is empty, each card is precious and losing a unit can be a bit painful.
I recently had a chance to try out the solo rules for the game which are included in the Crown of Ashes expansion. This includes four commanders, one for each of the factions, as well as a a deck of solo cards for each faction. Since each faction plays differently, their commanders also fight against you using their faction’s strengths to try to defeat you. The solo system works well and provides a good challenge. It is great for when you are lacking an opponent or want to test out some of your own strategies and tactics against other factions before taking on live opponents. The rules for 3- and 4-player games are also included in the expansions as well as more tokens, dice, and other game pieces. 3-player games are free-for-alls while 4-player games can either be a free-for-all or a 2 vs. 2 team battle.
In conclusion, I am very impressed with Lost Empires. The rules and gameplay are fun yet challenging. The art on the cards is great and the game offers a lot of replayability. Finally, the command mechanic offers a great representation of the limits of leadership during a battle while rewarding players who can get the most out of what they have available. I really enjoy playing Lost Empires and highly recommend it for anyone who appreciates a well-designed and executed game. The Crown of Ashes expansion really adds to the base game and is totally worth the cost.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Lost Empires Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.