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March 28, 2006

Your Deluxe Empire: An Owner's Manual


by Julian Jackson

Thank you, U.S. citizens and taxpayers, for your wise purchase of the latest, top-of-the-range Mark 99 Empire, the latest in a long line of highly expensive, unsuccessful, and impermanent empire products.

If you take care of your empire, it will give you many months/years/decades/centuries of hegemony, and will be the envy of lesser imperialists.

However, all our empires are built from a multiplicity of incompatible components by underpaid and undermotivated imperial citizens ("slaves" in Marks 1-32), so bits continually break or fall off. Constant military maintenance and endless diplomatic efforts will be necessary. You will notice a hopper in the top labeled "Money In": this is where a continuous stream of cash is essential to keep your empire functioning. On the certified environmentally unfriendly fascia, built of freshly logged rainforest hardwoods from a special environmental protection area, you will see the Front Bonus Panel, which resembles a fruit machine: here in the drawer marked "Loot," you will – from time to time – find a payout of all sorts of wonderful goodies: gold, gems, vital resources, finished luxury goods, nubile females (nubile males were an option for our ancient Greek customers, regrettably no longer purchasing from us), and a wide variety of the other prizes our discerning customers demand.

Warranty

Your empire is customized and ruggedized specially for you. It is unique. However, because of supply difficulties, empires being a specialty product only for the wealthiest and most confident of nations, your empire was partially constructed from pieces belonging to other empires, including our award-winning, since-discontinued Mark 92 British Empire, as well as the French, German, Ottoman, Russian, and Japanese empires.

Thus, no warranty is offered. All sales are final, and your empire is nonreturnable. You may find you can exchange parts with other empires; however, the usual practice is for bits to remove themselves, declaring independence ("seceding"), or for one empire to be gobbled up by another up-and-coming empire.

As stated in your specifications, the "Soft Power" switch has been permanently configured to the off position. This will result in increased wear and tear on your empire, as you will have to resort to military force more often than others with similar products, which have the option of using concessions and diplomacy.

Most empires keep their owners fully occupied for a long time – our first continent-spanning product, the Mark 5 Roman kept going for hundreds of years, and the Mark 5b Byzantine continued for several hundred years more after some of its main components were gone.

However, users these days are far less diligent with their empires. Indeed, the Romans' descendants broke the Mark 88 Italian Colonial Empire (1936-47) through careless handling.

The key factor is liquid fuel: besides money, empires need a constant supply of fresh blood. Neglect this, and it's like forgetting to put oil in your vehicle: the whole thing seizes up pretty quickly. Fortunately, empires can run on any kind of blood, supplied by (a) their own citizens, (b) foreign mercenaries (or "contractors"), and of course (c) what we call the "conquerees"; many successful empires try to limit the waste of (a) by substituting (b) and (c). This will prolong the life span of your empire, but it is more difficult a balancing act than it might seem at first. Once you start an empire, it's difficult to stop shedding blood without getting out of the game entirely.

Helpful Hints to Keep Your Empire Going

Terminology note: we use the term "Friction Events" to delineate those occurrences that upset the smooth running of your empire. We deplore the use of the words terrorism, war, rebellion, and insurrection. Indeed one J. Christ, whom Empire Mark 5 labeled an insurgent, is today generally regarded as a larger-than-life figure; ironically, he later became the inspiration for our highly successful Portuguese and Spanish models, as well as the multi-part Crusades series ("You can't just do one Crusade, you gotta pop the whole lot!").

You can expect Friction Events: these can be internal (rebellions, strikes, and passive resistance) or external (attacks on your empire, either overtly or covertly, by single nations or groups of them, particularly if you are the top empire at any one time). The latter require what is called "Balance of Power Strategy," which gave our European customers centuries of dedicated play. (Please note: both France and Germany complained that after pouring millions of people into the top hopper, all they won was Alsace-Lorraine several times.)

As always, we listen to our customers: by increasing the playing area, we are trying to avoid duplication (Balkans excluded). Note that the new prize Iraq is in no way the same as Mesopotamia (1914-1932), won and lost by the British in an earlier edition. The spelling is quite different.

Most parts of your empire should not stain your conscience, but if you are of a sensitive disposition, please try it out in a non-staining area of your personality as we cannot be held responsible for any morality problems caused by lack of imperial callousness and xenophobia.

Getting Out of Your Empire

All empires come to an end. Some finish abruptly, leaving impressive, enigmatic ruins (e.g., Mark 29, the Mayans), some are crushed militarily, some just implode, and others run down slowly as they deplete their resources.

Empires are as addictive as Pringles or heroin: once you are in imperial mode, you cannot give up. Nor can your empire remain stationary; it can only expand or contract. This makes ceasing very difficult. Although one of our best customers (the French) did manage to stop quite quickly in their Mark 62 (1797-1815) after their "invincible" army was defeated and their emperor sent to St. Helena, after a short break of less than half a century they were at it again.

The British claim that they had the best disengagement post-1945, but they had to pour a lot of other peoples' blood into the hopper (e.g., 1 million Indians during the partition of their country in 1947). The Russians (another excellent customer) had their game taken off them in 1989, but couldn't keep away and are now considered up and running again (they also like to play with the "Soft Power" switched off for a more challenging game).

Our longest-running model, the Mark 3 Chinese, is still in play; however, the reserved Chinese style of empire-building is too gradualist to attract the attention of any but the most discerning of imperialism fans – though some experts do consider them to be the empire to watch in coming years (someone has to be the last man standing).

Finally, thank you for bringing civilization to whomever with your unique combination of civilizing weapons. We value your patronage and hope you will purchase the upgrades to your existing kit. Coming soon: Iran – the ME Extension Pack – more of the same lies, with added bloodshed.

Product recall: Product No. 46, the Holy Roman Empire, has been withdrawn from circulation now it has been established that it was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire; we apologize for any inconvenience caused.

© Julian Jackson 2006. Creative Commons License: this may be freely reproduced and distributed for a non-commercial purpose, without modification, with acknowledgment.

 

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Julian Jackson is a British writer/consultant on technology and photography. Visit his Web site.

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