This week, we tried out Imperial, the sister-game to Antike, by Mac Gerdts and published by eggertspiele. The game is similar in that it uses the innovative rondel mechanism from Antike to determine what actions are to be carried out. However, unlike the earlier game, there is more of an economic emphasis rather than conquest. Also, the players in Imperial are investors in nations rather than being the nations themselves and control of the nations can change as the game develops.
Anyway, the purpose of the game is gain the best return on your investments by issuing bonds in the six major powers of the time, earning interest as the game progresses and increasing the value of the bonds as the powers expand their influence in Europe. This is done by building factories, armies and fleets and expanding into neutral territories / seas. Once a particular nation has progressed to a certain level, the game ends and the value of bonds and cash is evaluated to see who was the most successful investor.
Imperial is quite a rich game with a fair amount of strategy. Our game started with most people opting to build a factory, producing armies/fleets and then moving into new territories. One downside appears to be if you lose control of a nation, it can be difficult to get it back and, in the meantime, you are just a spectator waiting for others to take their turn. Nige and Phil spent a fair bit of the early game playing ping pong with Italy. I controlled France for quite a while and made some reasonable progress but also looked to invest in Austria-Hungary and Great Britain. When I eventually lost control of France, I was also lacking cash which wasn’t looking good. However, after a fairly extended negotiation with Mark G (O.K very extended, as Mark wasn’t sure who was screwing him the most with their helpful advice – Me or Nige/Mark K), he made the right choice and opted to invest, bringing me some cash and the ability to issue another bond. Austria-Hungary looked for much of the game as though it was going to end up being the most powerful nation and Mark K was a heavy investor there. However, Mark G managed to promote Great Britain sufficiently to end the game in their favour and my spread of investments in the leading four powers gave me the win.
I enjoyed Imperial quite a bit but some of the others were less enamoured with it. It did take us about 3 hours and the potential problem with players having nothing to do and no cash to recover is an issue. The advanced set up is supposed to help in this regard and, with fewer than six players, the possibility of it happening is reduced. Still, it worked for me and I’d like to try it again particularly if there were only four of us.