Emperor's Fall is the collective name for two versions of the fifth terran mission of Episode V of StarCraft: Brood War. The two versions of the mission are named "Ground Zero" and "Birds of War," with the player playing one or the other depending on how they completed the previous mission's objectives.

After completing the initial mission, the other version can be played from the menu.



A siege on the outskirts of Augustgrad weakened the primary defenses of the Terran Dominion, and the UED Expeditionary Fleet prepared to invade the city itself to capture Emperor Arcturus Mengsk. Though Mengsk could not reinforce his troops, his standing forces were substantial, and while his defenses were weakened, they were still considerable.[1]

The UED's strike team encountered heavy resistance, but were able to break the Augustgrad defense and destroy Mengsk's command center. With the city fallen, Mengsk attempted to escape in the Dominion flagship Norad III. Mengsk was intercepted by Admiral Gerard DuGalle in the Aleksander in orbit over Korhal, where they parleyed. Mengsk was accepting of his defeat, confident he would be able to overthrow the UED in time as he had the Terran Confederacy, but DuGalle told Mengsk he intended to have him and his other ranking officers executed.

As the UED prepared to take Mengsk into custody, they were intercepted by an unexpected enemy; the Hyperion and a small protoss fleet. Commander Jim Raynor had come to save Mengsk from the UED, and both battlecruisers and the protoss fleet were recalled. The flustered DuGalle was infuriated by Mengsk's escaped and ordered his men to track them.[2] Though Mengsk had escaped, Korhal was still conquered, and the UED seized the planet. They would use it as their primary staging point through the rest of their operations in the Koprulu sector, until it was later retaken by Mengsk with the aid of Sarah Kerrigan, forcing the UED to relocate their forces to Char.[3]


Gameplay between the two versions of the map differs considerably with regards to defense, as covered below. Offensively, once the Dominion's opening attack is repelled, the player can begin rebuilding and expanding. The player should take the northern resource node as soon as they are able, as enemy troops need to come by this area to reach the player's main base, so it is in the player's interest to defend the area anyway. Two more resource nodes can be found in the far north-west and south-east corners of the map, behind some light enemy defenders.

For defense, station siege tanks and missile turrets on the cliffs around the base, allowing them to guard the choke points and bombard enemies from out of sight. In tandem with bunkers on the low ground the base will be fairly secure. Enemy attacks will include large groups of infantry with some mechanical forces. Wraiths are sparse but may be used, and will likely have cloaking, so missile turrets will help take care of them in tandem with mobile forces.

The map is extremely inhospitable to ground forces; aside from its considerable size, there are numerous enemy defenders placed on high ground and many choke points the player would have to push through, as well as the main bridge to the enemy bases in the middle of the map being layered with many spider mines. For this reason, a fleet of battlecruisers is optimal, at least a dozen. The player should also train several medics and research their restoration ability; when the fleet moves out to attack, the medics should follow in a dropship to restore the battlecruisers should they be hit with lockdown from an enemy ghost.

The best place to launch the attack is the south-east corner of the map and then move north. Enemy air resistance will be limited to goliaths and missile turrets until the player reaches the higher cliffs where the main enemy force is stationed, and here the terrain will make it difficult for defenders to move in properly. When Mengsk's command center is destroyed, the mission ends.

Ground ZeroEdit

In the Ground Zero version of the map, the player will be nuked by a trio of ghosts, a warning of a massive nuclear barrage incoming. The player will receive numerous reinforcements, but they will perish when the nukes land. The player then receives a small force of stragglers and some extra resources to begin the mission proper.

To defend against the enemy ghosts, the player should quickly tech up to a science facility and build several science vessels, then research their irradiate ability. When the player receives word of a nuke, they should quickly find the targeted dot, then have a nearby science vessel sweep the area and irradiate the ghost. Provided the player reacts quickly enough, irradiate will kill the ghost before it can finish targeting the nuke. A comsat station will help in quickly finding the ghost.

Stopping the NukesEdit

It is possible to save a substantial number of the player's reinforcements with foreknowledge of where the ghosts and nukes will come. The player should begin the mission by researching spider mines, then building vultures as resources allow; the player should have enough time to build two vultures before the nukes come, and the spider mines will finish researching in plenty of time.

  • The ghosts that nuke from these approximate locations are the crucial ones to kill.
  • A substantial part of the provided reinforcements will survive as a result.

Have the two vultures lay their spider mines in the key six locations shown on the image to the right; the ghosts that come near these locations will target their nukes closest to the reinforcements, and thus killing them will allow much of the reinforcements to survive the barrage. The two mines that are standing in the right-side images should be placed only once the nukes have been targeted; other ghosts walk past these spots to nuke other locations, and the player will waste mines placing them here before the ghosts get into proper position. The ghosts do not always move to the same exact spots, so there is some trial and error involved, but they will come to these approximate places; the player may wish to save their game before the ghosts come and reload to reset their positions and try again.

Note that it is impossible to stop all the nukes without cheats; the player simply does not have enough time or resources to build enough detection and units to kill all the ghosts.

Birds of WarEdit

The map begins with eight battlecruisers approaching the player's base. The player will receive back-up in the form of several goliaths, marines and ghosts, the latter already upgraded with lockdown. When the battlecruisers approach the player should quickly lock down each one, and then their army can destroy them.

For the rest of the mission, in lieu of missile turrets the player should continue to focus on goliaths, upgrading their weapons so they can more easily engage the battlecruisers that come. Cloaked wraiths are still a problem, so a few missile turrets will still be needed, but the goliaths are much more effective at long-term anti-air than the turrets. The player should also keep a close eye on their ghosts, as they are invaluable for defense against all enemy attack waves thanks to lockdown, and are costly to replace if they die. Medic support for them is a must.

Starcraft Brood War - Terran Mission 5b Emperor's Fall (Birds of War)05:46

Starcraft Brood War - Terran Mission 5b Emperor's Fall (Birds of War)


The two versions of this mission are not entirely identical in map layout. The position of mineral fields on several resource sites change, though this does not affect the total amount of minerals the nodes have between the two missions. The red terran force has several more supply depots in the "Ground Zero" version, presumably to allow the construction of nukes easier. The most significant change in terms of gameplay effects is the presence of a wall in the red terran base in the "Birds of War" version that makes a choke point in the base significantly smaller.

MarineGhostGoliathDropship SC1 Game1

Player receiving reinforcements after finish the mission, during the mission ending scene

The trigger that gives reinforcements to the player differs between both versions of the mission: while in "Ground Zero" version the reinforcements come after the enemy ghosts fires the first nukes in the outlying buildings, in the "Birds of War" version the reinforcements come only after the buildings in the outlying buildings are destroyed. This means that if the player manages to prevent the outlying buildings from being destroyed in the "Birds of War" version (by using the "power overwhelming" cheat, for example), the player will not receive the reinforcements. Preventing the reinforcements from coming for the entire mission will cause a glitch after the mission ends: after Mengsk's Command Center being destroyed, the game removes all units and buildings from the map (to spawn only the units of the end mission scene), including the player's outlying buildings, triggering the event that sends reinforcements to the player after the end of the mission.

Numerous oddities can be encountered in the "Ground Zero" version of the mission as part of the opening sequence where the ghosts nuke the player's base:

ZerglingsGroundZero SC-BW Strategy1

Mengsk's ghosts aren't the only intruders in the player's base.

  • Several dozen zerglings exist around the player's base, burrowed and invincible, ostensibly to prevent the player from building in the area that will be nuked, or to stop them from blocking the ghosts from getting to their base to nuke. These zerglings are removed once the nukes fall.
  • If the player moves a unit far to the east, they will find several command centers with nuclear silos, to allow the enemy ghosts to nuke properly. These command centers and nuclear silos are removed once the opening wave of nukes fall.
  • If the player lifts off a building and tries to fly it too far over their mineral field, it will begin to move back. This is because triggers are in place to keep buildings away from the cliff, where the player's reinforcements spawn.
SCScrnShot 061317 182906 - Ground Zero - Dominion and UED civilians at Augustgrad

Dominion (blue) and UED (white) civilians together in Augustgrad

If the player manages, in the "Ground Zero" version of the mission, to prevent the player's civilians from be killed by the initial nuclear launches, the player can safely leave them in the upper-left corner of the map close to Dominion civilians. The enemy AI won't send any units to destroy them, even with the blue enemy having permanent vision of the player's civilians, unless the player aggros enemy forces to there.


  1. Gerard DuGalle: "You should know, that even though Mengsk cannot reinforce his numbers, his standing forces are substantial. Augustgrad is easily the most heavily fortified city in all of Dominion space." StarCraft: Brood War. Vivendi Games. Level/area: Emperor's Fall (in English). 1998.
  2. Blizzard Entertainment. StarCraft: Brood War. Vivendi Games. Mission: Emperor's Fall (in English). 1998.
  3. Sarah Kerrigan: "I liberated this planet because it was the UED's primary staging point, not because I was under any obligation to you." StarCraft: Brood War. Vivendi Games. Level/area: True Colors (in English). 1998.