Automata Empire is, to the best of my knowledge, the most complex ‘gamification’ of Conway’s Game of Life, the game/life simulator which -from my recent discussions- appears to only be known to a grand total of 4 people on this Earth.
Automata Empire has several different modes each with differing goals, but, basically you have to beat the enemy. This can be done either by killing off their population, destroying their buildings, or stealing their all important flag. There are also extra modes based around having as many of your people around as possible, or successfully migrating from one place to another.
The crux of each of the modes comes to controlling your populate, however unlike conventional games you don’t directly control them. Instead control your buildings which in-turn control your population. These are displayed as little furballs, with the number of white dots on them representing the number of population in that tile.
Your little population of monsters has a pile of rules which decide how they move. A single monster will move randomly around, two monsters will never turn back on itself, 3 will just go in a straight line, and 4 will go after the nearest enemy monster. 5 or more monsters will split apart, but with one more monsters than before (many more than that will just die off from overcrowding).
This is where the meat of the game is, sticking a bunch of monsters together to get an extra monster, and using that monster to create another, and another, and another ad infinitum. These points of feedback are the core of Automata Empire, trying to make as many of them as possible and trying to find ways to disrupt your opponent’s loops. Now, for the most part, I’ve made my way through by just making a metric ton of monsters and unleashing them upon a hapless world, but there is a serious depth to this game. At one point chatting at B3 Towers about the game, I quipped that it was “Like building a Turing complete computer out of ants” and -while that is a bit melodramatic- I am certain that with enough time and effort I could build a simple calculator in this game. (Even a universe, if I had the time)
To corral and shape your little monsters (ra ra), you must use buildings. The simplest building is a road, which makes your monsters march along them, and with the added bonus of preventing monsters from splitting whilst on a road it makes them great for transporting monsters between points, especially useful with the next building, the tavern. The tavern exudes a square 2 blocks out in each direction, which friendly monsters will not leave unless commanded to by a road, and their size is perfect for feedback loops, making them the central piece in any large setup.
To help an ailing tavern you can use the arsenal or armory, which boosts the defense or attack of a group of monsters respectively. There’s also catapults, which launch any monsters that walk over them a distance away, good for spreading out your base and great for getting a sneak attack against the enemy. Finally, the walls are fairly self-explanatory, blocking any units from passing through. Each building has a cost, equivalent to a number of monsters, which is subtracted from a random monster, which can sometimes mess stuff up, so don’t build a neat feedback loop whilst building something else.
There are a ton of titles you can choose when starting a map (the game claims over 40,000) with more able to be unlocked by completing games my favourite I’ve seen so far are ‘Decrepit Don Sporkepak’ and ‘Provisional Witch Slygrep’. The game’s five modes, and option to play in both singleplayer and multiplayer, as well as various other gameplay options,to spice it up, ensures Automata Empire has a lot to offer. And after the few hours I’ve pumped into it, I still feel like I know nothing about this game and its intricacies.