Empyreal feels more like an efficiency and resource management game with a magical rail theme than anything else.
Theme and What is it?
The world of Indines has entered the industrial era. New corporations and powers are sprouting up everywhere and attempting to be the first into a new emerging market. Get your rail lines built up the fastest and to the most critical locations so you can trade your network resources to the cities that wish to have those commodities. Empyreal is a highly thematic magical train route building game. You don’t need a continuous line of trains to bring goods back to a city, just trains on the good and trains by the trade city. MAGIC!
Empyreal has a simple system for generating fast playing turns. You move your conductor down the line (paying more if you go further) and then use spellcar abilities where he stops (paying more if using more or particularly powerful ones). Or, alternatively, you can regain your mana and reset your leader/engineer for use again while coupling a new spellcar onto your company board. These turns generally flow quite fast. The spellcar abilities range from destroying your opponents hopes and dreams to simply increasing your own engine components. There is so much variety that each game will unfold differently.
This is an impressive box! And the best part was that there was no disappointment in checking out the components. It feels like an impressive array of components. I am certain this could have fit in a smaller box if they didn’t leave room for the expansion and shipped the punchboards out of the box. But there is a lot of excitement generated just by sorting everything into these very elegant and functional trays before the first play. A short train game that ramps up in engine efficiency the longer you play, sign me up!
Game Build Quality
Oh. My. Gosh. This isn’t the deluxe edition. But geez, what could the deluxe actually offer? City stands that hold delivery tiles are excellently produced. The trays hold everything and sort both for play and for storage. The leaders for the factions have shiny gold print on the back of them that is amazing looking. Everything is just so sharp and pretty. Everything fits in the box.
There is a wisp of anime artwork to the world building. You can see it more on some tiles than others (and their names definitely give it away). But overall the spellcars are dedicated to being clear useful symbols. The characters are still crisply drawn, so that any influences in art style are unlikely to be a drawback to those not into that world. But those that are into the world will see its influences and enjoy it. I am very pleased by the overall artistic presentation of Empyreal! Well done, Level 99 games!
Empyreal offers a great deal of positive attributes for play. You need to expand your trains to the same type of goods and be adjacent to a city that has demand for those goods when you hit the end of the line and make a delivery. Players who have trains on the same tile can both deliver that good so there is a race to utilize resources. There are also spellcars, engineers, and leaders that can use goods as a payment for strong abilities which can tactically deny what your opponents are looking for. You cannot just focus on one big delivery, however. You must also be setting up future deliveries and leave yourself a network you can build out from without stalling to cross wastelands over and over.
Empyreal is an excellent, shifting puzzle with a moderately strong level of player competition without often being directly negative.
Age Range & Weight
There is no rating on the box or Board Game Geek. I would venture a guess that 12 is a fair point. You could play with a 10-year-old but they might get caught up with all the bits and have trouble understanding the extra cost payments based on how much they try to do at once. A 12-year-old player should be able to handle it. The complexity is a fairly low rating overall as the gameplay flows fairly fast. I should warn you that each game you will need the rulebook appendix for specialist tile explanations almost for certain. They are a big part of the gameplay and there are many possible abilities.
If you want to play a classic rail game, this will definitely rub that itch but might not scratch it. The way you can jump around when building and magically transport goods anywhere along all your train connections without being touching takes a little away from it. But the theme is strong, and the magic infused gameplay is going to be a strong selling point for most potential players. Empyreal feels more like an efficiency and resource management game with a magical rail theme than anything else. And man, did they poor production value and table presence into the game.
It is a significant expansion and if your children love My Little......