As explained in the his­tory sec­tion, there have been sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of Empire, some of which had no writ­ten rules, or the rules have not survived.

Empire Rules Cover (3rd edition)

Empire Rules Cover (3rd edition)

The only widely used writ­ten Empire rules have been those com­piled and recorded by Andrew Nisbet, pri­mar­ily from 1969–76. The mas­ter copy of these rules is kept in a tat­tered green binder of inde­ter­mi­nate age (no less than 34 years, pos­si­bly quite a bit older). These writ­ten rules are, as the title page sug­gests, incom­plete and inac­cu­rate. As new sit­u­a­tions arise (or old sit­u­a­tions never well resolved or doc­u­mented arise anew), the rules are inter­preted by the play­ers as required. There are for­mal processes, includ­ing rules change peti­tions, rules inter­pre­ta­tion peti­tions, and so on (see, for exam­ple, the last 25 pages of the doc­u­ment “empire rules.pdf”); more com­monly, play­ers ask Andrew Nisbet to remem­ber and/​or inter­pret the rules.

Here are all the major ver­sions of the rules, includ­ing place­hold­ers for ver­sions never writ­ten down, or lost to antiquity.


  • Summary of 1938 rules. This sum­mary was writ­ten by Stillman Drake in 1960 for his son Dan, based on the 1938 rules cre­ated by Drake, Mark Wrede Eudey and friends (which at the time were writ­ten down by Eudey). This is the only ver­sion of the 1938 rules in exis­tence, as far as we know. Licensed under Creative Commons CC-​​BY-​​NC 3.0.
  • Empire 1960–68. The game cre­ated by Dan Drake, J.D. Eveland, Jim Trosper, Alan Arey, and friends (which was in turn inspired by the 1938 rules sum­mary seen above). This was an almost entirely unwrit­ten game, ever-​​evolving, with just a few charts.

Classic (3rd Edition)

  • 1976 3rd edi­tion rules. PDF from scan of type­writ­ten and hand­writ­ten doc­u­ments. Written by Andrew Nisbet from 1969–76, based on the early 1960s game above. These are the rules that evolved and were used for about two decades, and are gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be the canon­i­cal (albeit incom­plete, unfin­ished, etcetera) Empire rules. PDF includes sub­se­quent rules petitions.
    • Empire Rules 3rd ed (4 MB)
    • Empire Rules 3rd ed OCR (3.5 MB). The OCR attempt was only mildly suc­cess­ful, but it does make the PDF at least partly search­able, etc.
    • Various unfin­ished rewrite attempts. Better visual qual­ity, and bet­ter OCR as a result in the PDFs.
      • Rules Rewrite 1with notes:
      • Rules Rewrite 2with notes
      • Rules Rewrite 3with notes:

Logistics branch, 4th Edition

Derived from all the above, Thomas Phinney has been work­ing on these spin-​​off rules on and off since about 1990. This branch is intended to be more like a typ­i­cal strat­egy game rule­book, includ­ing a table of con­tents, glos­sary and def­i­n­i­tions. It also incor­po­rates all avail­able rules change peti­tions, mar­gin­a­lia and so forth. These rules will be of less his­tor­i­cal inter­est, but may be use­ful to peo­ple want­ing to play Empire today, par­tic­u­larly if they do not have vet­eran play­ers to teach them. Most recent is on the bottom.

  • Alpha 1 pre-​​release, 24 Feb 2011: PDF (460 K)
  • Alpha 2 pre-​​release, 2 March 2011: PDF (460 K)
  • Alpha 3 pre-​​release, 5 March 2011: PDF (490 K)
  • Alpha 4 pre-​​release, 18 March 2011. PDF (490 K). Corrects a cou­ple of minor errors around frac­tional goods, and a spot where the movement/​carrying abil­ity of a pirate ship was attrib­uted to an armor unit.
  • Alpha 5 pre-​​release, 30 September 2011. PDF (1.1 MB). Tiny clar­i­fi­ca­tions, includ­ing what farms look like on clas­sic maps. Corrected food dif­fu­sion rules to one turn range (72 phases) instead of 100 phases. Minor for­mat­ting changes (turn­ing on hyphen­ation which saved four pages, under­lin­ing > ital­ics, lig­a­tures on). Probably the last 4th edi­tion alpha release.
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