In the Shadow of the Emperor is a tactical game for 2-4 players. Players represent aristocratic families at the Court of the Holy Roman Emperor. Players seek to get their family members into influential positions with the various electorships of the Empire. Once there they accumulate votes towards being elected to be Holy Roman Emperor. Players choose actions for their family members to take, which allow them to wrest control of the various Elector States (each of which has a special ability in addition to its voting power) whilst displacing their opponents. However, family members age and die and the number of action cards is limited, restricting the tactical options. As players build their influence they collect victory points and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins.