The Barracks Emperors from GMT Games

(Edit – 8/29/20) – This has now made the cut! Good to hear this will begin production soon.

In another quest to get a cool-looking GMT game over the P500 hump, I have to write about The Barracks Emperors.


For those of you who don’t know what the P500 is, basically GMT Games has a bunch (actually, I think it’s more officially known as a “crap load”) of games that they are looking to see if they can garner enough interest in order to go into production with them.

It’s sort of like Kickstarter, except that you don’t have to pay ahead of time.

Instead, once the number of pre-orders hits 500, they are ready to put the game into production. This would include finalizing all of the rules, the artwork, graphic design and actual components, etc. A game can take 1-2 years to come out even after getting over the hump, but that’s ok.

You don’t have to pay anything until the game gets ready to ship.

In fact, you can even cancel your order ahead of time, all the way up until the time GMT starts charging.

I’ve already had one success in getting a game over the hump (ok, that one still took a few months and didn’t really increase the number of orders each time I retweeted it, but DAMMIT LET ME LIVE IN MY FANTASY WORLD!!!!) so let’s see if we can do it again.

What is so great about The Barracks Emperors that I want to get it produced?

Doesn’t that sound fun? (Banner is from the GMT page for the game)

First, it looks like an interesting game.

Secondly, its pedigree.

Let’s take a look.

First, talking about the pedigree, it’s designed by Wray Ferrell and Brad Thompson, designers of my favourite game, Time of Crisis. This game heavily references that game as well, with the cards and the iconography being very similar.

The Barracks Emperors is, boiled down to the extreme basics, a trick-taking game, but it looks like so much more than that.

This ain’t your grandma’s Diamonds.

Instead, it is kind of a strategy game as well.

All of the cards that you are trying to win are out on the board in a grid format. All 13 “tricks” are out there on the table waiting for you to go after them.

These 13 cards are emperors that you are trying to influence, and their colour matters.

These pics are taken from the game entry on the GMT site, and are obviously prototype artwork.

When you’re playing cards to “win” the trick, your card is going to affect every card that’s next to it, and you won’t know if you win it right away.

Your cards will have three “suits”: Red (military), Yellow (Populace) and Blue (Senate) and when placed next to an emperor, the correct suit will be trump for collecting that emperor.

Since there’s no way to tell who played what card, the symbols on the side of the emperor determine who actually “controls” that card for the purposes of taking that emperor. Each player will be a faction (maybe Sword, maybe something else).

So take the bottom row pictured above, with a red, yellow, and red emperor.

Placing a card to the right of the yellow emperor will benefit one player for the yellow emperor, but will benefit another player for the red emperor it’s also next to!


Strategic card play will be very important in this game.

I’m not going to go into huge detail because Brad already did in his Inside GMT post, Trick Taking Weaponized.

Here’s a brief excerpt from that:

“In a traditional game, each trick is played one at a time, and each player takes a turn playing a card to that trick only. Then the next trick is played. In The Barracks Emperors, players can see all 13 tricks laid out on the board, and as each player takes their turn, they may choose to play their card on any trick that is still in play.

This means that tricks are not just resolved one at a time in a certain order. Players must assess all of the tricks still in play and decide where their next play needs to be made most urgently. You can find the best match between the cards in your hand and all the plays still available to you, but your opponents can do the same. Timing is important – among other factors to consider is the fact that if you place the third card on a trick, you might be giving the player on the fourth side a golden opportunity to know what he needs to play to win the trick, but at some point your options may be limited!

Players place Influence Cards into the spaces marked with dashed lines around the Emperor Cards. Note the icons on the edges of the Emperor Cards. Each player can only place their Influence Cards into an open space that is on the edge of an Emperor Card denoted by their faction’s icon. If I’m playing the Swords faction, I can only play on the Swords edge of an Emperor Card on the board. This is very important and leads to the next twist…”

The article has tons of detail about the game. It made my mouth water, reading all of that. It has crappy emperors! (It wasn’t called a time of crisis for nothing). It has barbarians! It has intrigue! It has cards with special abilities!

I think what’s most amazing about this is how it turns trick-taking on its ear and becomes a strategy game instead.

As I write this, the game is at 254 orders.

We need to get it up to 500 stat!

For even more information, you can check out a couple of other posts.

The Barracks Emperors Preview (with videos!)

The Players’ Aid (one of my favourite blogs) interviews Brad & Wray

What do you think of this one? Does it fill you with anticipation as it does me?

Let me know in the comments.

6 Comments on “The Barracks Emperors from GMT Games

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