Warning : This is out of date.

Empire FAQ

26 Mar 1996

This FAQ answers these questions:





What is Empire?
It is a strategy wargame played by a number of people (usually between 4 and 100) on the internet connected to an Empire Server. If you've ever seen the game "Civilization", Empire is a lot like it, except it is more detailed, and of course multi-player. As the leader of a nation which consists of certain sectors on a large hexagonal grid, you decide (based on resources) what each sector's "designation" should be. This way, you obtain food, iron, gold, oil, uranium. You distribute these raw materials to factories to convert them into more useful things. You manage a civilian and slave populace for producing goods, and a military populace for defense and conquest. You also have the tricky job of balancing a budget. As the technology level of your country increases, you are able to build more and more advanced units: for example, at tech 0 you can build fishing boats and cavalry, at tech 100 you can build planes, submarines, and artillery, and by tech 300 you can build missiles, satellites, jet planes, and armored tanks.

NOTE: rec.games.empire has nothing at all to do with a commercial PC game called "Empire Deluxe" (1993) or the PC version of an old VAX classic called "Empire: Wargame of the Century" which came out in the 80's and may be found at ftp://ftp.iol.ie/users/ai/pcempire.zip The newsgroups comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.announce and comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.strategic concern themselves with games like these. However, people who enjoy those single-user versions of Empire would certainly enjoy the multi-user kind of empire we play here even more!

Do I need direct internet access ("telnet") to be able to play?
Yes. It is a "real-time" game. You can not play by mail.
What kinds of machines can I play from?
You can play from a Unix, VMS, VM/CMS, Macintosh, or PC (MS Windows or OS/2) machine that is directly connected to the internet (via LAN, SLIP, or PPP).
Are there "turns" in this game?
Most aspects of the game are "real-time" (i.e. it isn't like risk or diplomacy where there are turns), for example you sail ships, march armies, and fly planes in real-time--so if you type fast, then you will have an advantage. The aspect of the game that has turns is economic: goods are produced, population grows, and arms are constructed only at a specific time (called "updates").
How long does a typical game last?
This depends on how often updates occur. There are two types of games: A "blitz" has updates every ten minutes. They last about 24 hours. A "long term" game usually has one update every day or every few days. They last 2-6 months. To learn the basics of empire, it is highly recommended that you first try "blitzing" a few times.
Sounds neat! How do I play?
Well, you can play right now if you want! All you need to do is get a client program onto your computer, and then connect to a game.


Where do I get a client for my machine?
The standard Empire clients are located on the World Wide Web in the Planet's Empire Archives (PEA), in the directory player/clients. If you have trouble connecting to the PEA, then you should try the PEA Mirror which is updated once per day.

The standard Empire client has been ported to:

I'd recommend using a web browser to get your client. But if for some reason you can't do that, then here's how you get a client using ftp:

ftp ftp.empire.net
cd pub/empire
cd player/clients/UNIX/empclient
get empclient-2.5b.tar.gz
gunzip empclient-2.5b.tar.gz
tar -xf empclient-2.5b.tar
cd client
All those clients are in tar.gz format. How do I get something out of tar.gz format?
In unix, you simply follow the steps above. For other systems (e.g. home computers), you would need to get a copy of gzip and tar for your computer. Here is a short list:

For MS Windows, the program av.zip will unpack files in many formats including tar and gzip.

For the Macintosh, look on any Sumex archive, such as The Hyperarchive:

For DOS, look on any Simtel archive, such as oak.oakland.edu:

For other platforms, go to The Virtual Software Library and do a 'power' search for "tar" and "gzip".

OK, I compiled my client. The docs said something about a "host", "port", "country" and "password". I need to specify these to connect to a game--what should I put for these four things?
What you are really asking is "How do I get in a game?". To get in a long term game, you need to keep watching the newsgroup rec.games.empire for new game announcements. You can also check the New Games Starting Up section of the EMPIRE NEWS. A new long term game is announced about twice a month.

However, there is a blitz up and running even as you read this post. The blitz resets every evening at 19:02pm EDT (so if you want to play competitively, you should connect at that time), but you can connect to it and play any time. The host is "empire.net" (, and the port is 7778. For country, use a number from 1 to 10, and use the same number for the password. For example, to use the standard client to connect to country number 9 of the blitz, type:

setenv EMPIREHOST empire.net
setenv EMPIREPORT 7778
setenv COUNTRY 9
setenv PLAYER 9
Note that if country number 9 is already in use when you try to connect, then you should just try a different number from 1 to 10. A complete list of blitzes currently running may be found on the PEA Pages. Immediately after successfully connecting to a blitz, you should change your country name and representative (password). This prevents others from using the same country and adds texture to the game. Nobody likes to be attacked by a number! If you quit a blitz and don't intend to return, be sure to change the country number and representative back to the original state.
Just out of curiosity, what long term games are going on right now, and is there a way I could peek in on them?
Most long term games have "visitor" countries (country "visitor" or "Visitor" with the same name for a password) that you can use to log into the game. For a list of the current long term games, check the PEA Page Currently Running Games.

Once you connect to one of these games, you can have a look at what's going on by typing power or news.

The basic unix client is, well, basic. Are there more sophisticated clients available?
Yes. Ken Stevens has written an Empire client called "pei" with lots of nice features and many built-in tools. The latest version of pei is on the PEA in player/clients/

If you're looking for a UNIX client that's something in-between the standard client and pei, then try out player/clients/eif1.0.3.tar.gz. There are also two X-windows clients available on the PEA at

Are there any tools available for playing empire?
Yes. You can find a small arsenal of player tools on the PEA in player/tools. However, some of the tools in this directory are out of date, and most of the useful tools in this directory have been integrated into "pei".


I'm keen, I can connect to a blitz, but I haven't a clue what to do! How do I learn how to play?
Ask and read. Most Empire players are happy to answer newbie questions--heck the more players we have the better! There is lots of material on Empire that you can read. You have to be careful with the documentation, though, because the game is always changing, and much of the literature is out of date. The surest way to get the most up-to-date info is using the "info" command in empire. The first info pages you should read are "info Sector-types" and "info Products". If you have World Wide Web access, then I highly recommend browsing Drake Diedrich's harmless guide to Empire. The entire Empire "info" docs are on the PEA in player/docs/chainsaw.3.0.info.tar.gz I would also recommend having a look at player/docs/WhatIsEmpire-FAQ.txt. You may also want to have a look at the Empire Users Guide, although this document is a few years out of date and is currently being revised.
There seem to be a million commands! What are the basic commands I should read about first?
Use the "info" command to read about these commands: change, break, map, ann, wire, tel, read, expl, move, res, cen, dist, thresh, lev, com, prod, budget.
What is a Representative?
A password.
What's a BTU and how do I get more?
A BTU is a "Bureucratic Time Unit". Most Empire commands require BTU's. In a blitz, you don't need to worry about BTU's. In a long term game, BTU's are generated by civilians in efficient "c" sectors (capitols) in the following way: every time you log on, the server gives you a number of BTU's corresponding to the length of time since the last time you logged on and the number of civs in capitols which are at least 60% efficient.
How do I build a ship?
Using the build command.
How do I load stuff on a ship?
Using the load command.
How do I get civilians to another island?
nav a ship with mil up to the island and look with the ship to get the coordinates of a land sector. Then assault the sector with about 20 mil. designate the sector to be a "h". Then next update, the harbor should be 2% efficient and you will be able to nav a ship carrying civs into the harbor and unload them.
Where do you make land units?
In a "!" sector.
Why aren't my ships/planes/units gaining efficiency?
Ships need to be in an "h" sector, planes in a "*" sector and units need to be in a "!" sector. The sector must be at least 60% efficient. Units and planes need mil in the sector. Also there needs to be sufficient "avail" in the sector (note the figures for "avail" in "show * build" are misleading--the actual avail you need is actually 4x what "show" says). You need to have enough lcm's and hcm's in the sector. Land units can also need guns and shells. In the client "pei" you can use the "sneweff", "pneweff", and "lneweff" tools to find out what efficiency your ship/planes/units will have after the next update, and if they won't get maximum efficient, what the sector needs.
I have a ship with "oiler" capacity, now how do I find out how much oil a sea sector has?
While you're navigating the ship, type "v" and you will get output like:

  [oil:82] oil derrick 1 (#297) @ 11,-1 0% sea
which means that that sea sector has an oil content of 82.
Who can help me get started playing Empire?
Before asking anyone, please try to find your answer in:

If you are new to playing Empire and need help getting started, and you can't find your answer in one of the above sources, then send email to one of the Empire Newbie Helpers.

Mark Ballinger (uesugi@empire.net)