I wonder whether Eight-Minute Empire: Legends should be considered a microgame. It should at least qualify as a filler. It is a very shortened dudes-on-a-map game, but shortened doesn't necessarily mean overly simplified. You can't play this in 8 minutes, but once you are familiar, it is entirely possible to complete a 4-player game within half an hour.
The map is modular, you can arrange it in many different ways. We started our game with the capital in the central island, where most of our troops were amassed. We had an expeditionary force on another island, the one at the lower right. Most spaces have a token. Some tokens give bonuses. Some are face-down exploration tokens. You get to peek at it if you end your turn controlling the territory. You gain the benefit (or suffer the penalty) when you build a castle there.
The game is played over only 8 rounds. On your turn you pick one card from six from the table, and add it to your personal row. The card picked allows you to perform some actions, e.g. producing soldiers, transporting soldiers, killing enemies, building castles. Some cards also give you long-term benefits, e.g. enhancing future actions and giving bonus points. Your ultimate goal is to control territory, i.e. to have the most soldiers in the territory. Scoring is only done at game end. You score 1VP for every territory you control, 1VP for every island you control (i.e. you control the most territories on it), and you also score points for some tokens on the board and some cards you have collected.
Three turns in, and these were the cards I had collected. The upper bar shows the name of the card and any long-term benefits. The lower bar shows the action(s) you get to execute when picking it. Here are what the icons mean: Cubes mean producing soldiers, struck out cubes mean killing enemies, and cubes with an arrow mean transporting soldiers.
Wai Yan (purple) and Dith (grey) had each built a castle here. New soldiers are produced at castles or the capitol.
I did a 4-player game with Ivan, Dith and Wai Yan. It turned out the game played more like El Grande than Risk. It's actually an area majority game. Killing your enemies is not the most important thing. You just want to have more soldiers than them in as many territories as possible. Quite often in our game we begged for mercy promising that we were leaving soon anyway. The key decisions in the game are the 8 cards you pick. You need to consider what you want to do on the board, your long-term strategy (e.g. do you want to focus on producing many soldiers, or moving soldiers around more effectively, or scoring using a certain type of card), and also what cards your opponents may desperately want.
The game started with a turn order bid. I didn't know whether it was good or bad to go early, so I bid nothing. I ended up being the start player. In the later half of the game, I realised going first was not a good idea. It's an area majority game, so going early means others can see what you do and then react accordingly. I thought my board position was decent throughout most of the game, but in the late game I sensed disaster coming, and in the last round my world collapsed. I lost majority everywhere, and in the end I came dead last. I can't completely blame turn order though. I did make some (in hindsight) dubious decisions myself.
At this stage Ivan (white) had completely vacated the capitol. The rest of us were still partying on.
Towards the later part of the game, we had spread out to most corners of the map.
I had done 7 turns, and only had one last card to go. I think my choice of long-term powers was poor (i.e. icons in the upper bar of my cards). I focused on collecting blue crystals, which was something used for game-end scoring. In hindsight, I probably should have collected abilities that let me produce more soldiers or move more soldiers. Having the most blue crystals only gave me 2VP eventually.
Eight-Minute Empire: Legends is more an area-majority game (like El Grande) than a dudes-on-a-map game (like Risk, Axis & Allies, Cyclades). You don't get to do whatever you want. You can only pick actions from among the six cards available. The game is less about attacking and destroying. It is more about simply having more men than others in as many territories as possible. It is also a tableau game like Race for the Galaxy, San Juan and Imperial Settlers. Throughout the game you are building a tableau of cards, and you want to make sure they jive with one another. I wonder whether the recent hot game Deus feels like this. It is also about building a tableau of cards, and the cards you pick determine what you get to do on the board.
I find I keep repeating that I don't like area-majority games. I want to be fair to the games I write about, so I feel the need to state my personal bias. The selling point of Eight-Minute Empire: Legends seems to be its shortness. Even the title reflects that. Shortness is not an important criteria for me personally, so it doesn't draw me. I'm perfectly happy to play a longer dudes-on-a-map game, or a more complex card tableau game.