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Embers of the Imperium

Role Playing Game Review

Bottom line up front, I think that Embers of the Imperium is an interesting space opera setting and if your crew is looking for a space opera/spy vs spy setting, you should take a close look at this book. I’m liking what I’m seeing overall and I think Embers of the Imperium is a well developed campaign concept, so much so that I think it’s a game that I would enjoy playing or running.

Now as I write this review out, I’m going to take on a tone that will seem negative, and that’s because I’m drawing on analogies and metaphors for concepts in real life that should be seen as negative. However, on deep consideration and discussion on this topic, I want you to remember that my overall assessment of this setting is generally positive.

First, this is a Role Playing Game (RPG) that is based on the board game Twilight Imperium (and as of this writing, it’s a game that I’ve only played once). So I wasn’t terribly familiar with this as a prospective RPG setting nor am I what the developers would consider a fan or part of their target audience.

Let’s start with the gaming Universe

As the name of the RPG hints at, the universe is one where there was a “grand” imperium that has recently broken up and devolved into chaos!

Now the former key members of the former Imperium are vying for dominance in the embers of the former Empire.

While there are several key factions at play, the period of open warfare has subsided, but violence threatens to break out!

While the former capital lies in ruins, it remains the seat of power, and in the wake of collapse, a counsel has convened to try to maintain peace and order.

And it is that Galactic Counsel has formed a spy agency, Keleres, to help maintain that order.

Did you say we get to be spies?

Why yes!

The core concept is that the Player Characters (PC’s) are all members of the ‘spy’ agency “Keleres.”

But it’s not that simple. As the Galactic Counsel draws its resources from the various competing factions, so do the members of the Keleres.

So the Keleres agents are comprised of spies with conflicting allegiance and agendas.

On the positive side, Embers of the Imperium gives the tone that the players characters aren’t going to inevitably devolve into an inter-party firefight like Paranoia (where it’s assumed that the Players WILL kill each other off).

Keleres teams are dispatched to work for the Galactic Counsel, on fact finding missions and other errands, in order to maintain stability.

And as the members of the Galactic Counsel work to restore a semblance of order, external threats threaten the periphery. Threats adequate to force temporary allegiances among the most ardent foes.

At first, I had some qualms with this description. The metaphor that springs to mind is being a UN spy?

And like the UN, the Galactic Counsel only holds the informal power that the various member factions allow, and like the UN, it only has the resources offered by the same conflicting factions.

And like a UN agent, a Keleres agent will have the same “authority” and “respect” that one would imagine, if you were to meet a UN agent in real life.

Yeah, no authority and no respect.

Actually you’ll enjoy more respect as a Keleres agent. The Galactic Counsel is trying to emulate something that operated with something resembling actual benevolence and authority.

But the thing that intrigues me is the internecine conflict baked into Embers of the Imperium setting.

Each Player Character will be joining Keleres from conflicting factions, while working for an organization that is trying to temper said conflicts. BUT providing the very agents who may (or may not) be pursuing an opposing agenda.

And this is the bit that began to appeal to me. While the PC’s are unified with a common cause (and a common mission), each PC has the potential to be a double agent. But not to the point where PC’s will start killing each other. It’s like that adage, that he who takes the first shot will ultimately lose. So if you kill a co-worker, then you will be disavowed by your background faction, and spend the rest of your life in prison. (Time to ‘roll up’ a new PC). No, it’s actually better to blackmail or turn an enemy agent that you’ve unmasked.

However . . . if you can get your PC to advance your factions agenda, without tipping your hand, then rewards are in store!


I found that Embers of the Imperium has a nice balance of non human aliens for a new RPG.

There are fifteen playable PC races to select from, including Humans. Not too many to overwhelm a new player, completely unfamiliar with the setting (like me) but not too few to strain credibility.

And the aliens are a pleasant blend of the usual suspects, that we’ve all come to expect in every space opera, plus a couple of new options that are truly unique to the Twilight Imperium setting.


Unsurprisingly, each Faction is centered around each of the playable races available.

It’s a natural enough assumption and easy to wrap ones brain around.

And each faction is as represented in the board game Twilight Imperium. No surprises there.

However, this being an RPG, there’s room for some surprises. For instance, due to Human’s adaptability, it’s possible to find a human affiliated with ANY faction, including PC’s who are solely devoted to the Galactic Counsel.

And there’s the possibility for internecine conflict within the major factions too.

The other interesting thing about the factions is that they are represented as all being pretty neutral. There aren’t a lot of clearly white knights and no one seems especially devious or despicable. In general, it has the realistic feel of fifteen (or more) groups each seeking dominance in their own right. And this generally neutral treatments permits players to design PC’s from pretty much any faction, and that PC won’t (or shouldn’t) automatically be considered evil . . . or at least not until is appropriately revealed that they are evil!

The Spy RPG genre

I haven’t seen a good spy genre adaptation for any RPG since TSR’s Top Secret RPG which was originally published in 1980! And that largely depended on the players understanding of the current tensions of the Cold War era, (in which it was set).

But now we have Embers of the Imperium, which really captures the espionage intrigue well. There are also enough competing factions that a GM can avoid inter-party conflict, OR, if appropriate, can play up that friendly conflict. One should note that, unlike the sensationalized James Bond style stories, spies don’t actually kill each other! Indeed, the purpose of an intelligence agent is to gather and disseminate information!

On top of that, the Galactic Counsel has plenty of universal enemies to point its agents at too.

I’m very pleased with how well the authors have assembled a setting that allows the creative GM to assemble sufficient material for either a lengthy campaign or several shorter forays, without needing to repeat material.

Rules Mechanics

Being a product of Edge, Embers of the Imperium was designed around the Genesys RPG system.

My familiarity with Genesys is limited to my runs with FFG’s Star Wars RPG which used the same dice mechanics and very similar rules.

I really like the dice mechanics for FFG’s Star Wars/Genesys systems in that it provides a dual axis system for success and failure. (Where as most RPG’s have a binary Succeed/Fail matrix). It is a really unique method that yields varied results where you can succeed, but something bad happens, or fail, but you handicap the opponent, to the extremes of critically succeeding or fumbling horribly.

Please note that I had to highly modify the FFG Star Wars rules in order to run that campaign well.

I know that Genesys system altered their generic rules to address some of these short comings, but I haven’t played with Genesys in order to evaluate whether or not Genesys’s fixes are sufficient.

And I’m not sure how the balance changes in Embers of the Imperium will ultimately affect an RPG set in that campaign setting. But at a cursory glance, the numbers look reasonably balanced. So you should be able to run Embers of the Imperium using Genesys without too many alterations.

A quick glance at the Star ships looks like these rules are better balanced for space combat (the Star Wars FFG space combat wasn’t well balanced and I practically rewrote the entire space combat rules for my long running Star Wars game). The capital ships are smaller (than Star Wars) and balanced in such a way as to emulate the Twilight Imperium board game statistics reasonably well.

But with my limited experience with the FFG Star Wars system, I'd recommend that GM's plan on making rules alterations, as needed. And players should be patient with their GM's as they navigate and experiment with the Genesys rules.

That said, I think the dice mechanics are fun and interesting and well worth climbing the learning curve. And yes, expect a learning curve with these new dice. On average it took my Star Wars players about four sessions before they became comfortable with the FFG Genesys dice. (The poor guys were all D&D players, so they had some handicaps to overcome. But they managed and so can you).


While I was highly skeptical of this game when I first cracked open the book, my evaluation of this setting is yielding a positive outlook.

Embers of the Imperium is a production of Edge Studio.

I’d recommend that GM’s pick up a copy of this very well designed RPG source book.

You should also understand, that in order to run Embers of the Imperium, you will need to pick up a copy of the Genesys RPG produced by Fantasy Flight Games.