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Subject: Imperial - Session Report rss

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Greg Schloesser
United States
Jefferson City
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In 2005, Eggertspiele released Antike, a conquest game designed by Mac Gerdts. While the game utilized a familiar “attack and conquer” modus operandi, what truly characterized the game was the inclusion of a novel new mechanism – the “rondel”. This circular track contained the various actions players could perform on a turn, but players could only progress around the track a few spaces per turn without cost. Thus, players had to carefully plan their actions in advance, and generally could not perform the same action multiple times in a row. It was a groundbreaking mechanism, and many figured it would become a trademark of the designer’s creations.

Sure enough, Gerdt’s most recent design, released at the Spiel in 2006, also utilized the rondel. While Imperial appeared to also be another conquest game, in reality it was a stock game, wherein players act as power brokers of various world powers in the early 20th century. Players purchase bonds in the great powers – Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy, France, Great Britain and Russia – and control a nation’s actions if they are the major bondholder.

Choosing the action to perform on a turn is a critical decision that must be made throughout the game, and is heavily influenced by the space occupied on the rondel. Players can build new factories, produce or import new military units, move their armies and fleets, receive interest for bonds held, or tax their population. Income is earned from interest on bonds, and from taxing one’s population. Income from taxation is based on the factories and territories a country controls. Thus, players must expand their military and use them to conquer neutral territories. They can also be used to neutralize factories in their opponents’ home countries, thereby reducing their income. So, while the game’s main focus in financial, the military aspect is key to achieving financial success.

While some aspects of the game are familiar, the financial aspects appear quite original, especially when combined with the military facet. One has to combine good financial decisions with shrewd military strikes, taking advantage of opportunities when they arise. While being the major bondholder in a country allows the player to determine its actions, it is possible to do quite well – and even win – without controlling any country. This does require investing in countries that are powerful and end the game with significant influence. Proper timing and manipulation can prove lucrative. Ultimately, the player with the greatest value of bonds and cash is victorious.

Imperial is a deep “gamers” game, and not for the casual gamer. There are so many options and paths to pursue, and the combination of financial and military considerations is both intriguing and challenging. I much prefer it to the designer’s first effort, and look forward to exploring it further.

I’m actually surprised I enjoyed the game as much as I did, as I was on the short-end of the stick from the get-go. I went last in turn order, and by the time my turn arrived, control of the one country I initially commanded had been wrested from me by Mark. I had no money to acquire new bonds, and every other player had already surpassed the “Investor” space on the rondel. It would be three long turns before I acquired enough cash to purchase bonds and re-gain control of Russia. Sadly, Russia quickly went into decline, as the powerful Austria-Hungarians scooped neighboring neutral territory and boxed its forces in their home territory. I never did get back into contention.

Bo appeared to be the leader, as he had major holdings in the powerful Austria-Hungary empire, and secondary holdings in the German empire. Byron was pursuing a different strategy, deliberately avoiding control of any country, but holding large amounts of bonds in the major powers. Rich made a strong move mid-game by bringing France back from the brink of poverty, and also grabbing control of Italy. I managed to grab control of Italy from him, only to see Italy beset upon by France and have their value reduced.

In the end, it was Austria-Hungary that reached the top of the influence chart, ending the game. Byron’s strategy proved to be effective, as he edged Bo for the victory.

Finals: Byron 106, Bo 101, Rich 85, Mark 70, Greg 34

Ratings: Bo 9, Rich 9, Byron 8.5, Mark 8, Greg 7.5

After getting our game going, Jim McDanold taught a second group to play. No details of the games were given, and the group inadvertently used the face value of the bonds as a multiplier when calculating the final scores. It didn’t change the standings, but did affect the actual scores.

Finals: Jim 286, Bill 183, Greg 172, Russell 125, Alison 109

Ratings: Russell 10, Greg 9, Bill 8.5, Jim 7, Alison 7
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