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This question hasn't been officially answered, so I'll post in 2 parts:
a) If I had to get only one game between Imperial 2030 and Steam Barons, based solely on the game itself, which game should I get?
b) I own Chicago Express - are these games different enough to warrant the purchase?
PLEASE IGNORE ECONOMICS RELATED TO BASE GAME STEAM
I want the merits of the two games to be independent of the following:
a) You have wooden trains and don't need $20 expansion to Steam
b) I have maps you can use now on your base game steam
c) You have more pieces you can use for steam, etc....
SIMPLY COMPARE STEAM BARONS TO IMPERIAL 2030
I'm not negating the benefits of the above. I own Steam (obviously), and I love it. I've played Imperial 2030 and my FLGS and really liked it, baring some concerns:
1) length of game
2) cluttered / "not smooth" play of using one ship per tank for movement. Get's confusing with many pieces on the board
Criteria of purchase:
1) fun, duh...
2) relatively quick
3) relatively easy to teach
4) replayability (stick to the game itself, not the benefit of replayability due to the S.B's boards doubling for Steam - I'm considering this already).
MY BACKGROUND / FAVORITE GAMES
I love economic games and some of the games I own are:
2) Le Havre
3) Chicago Express
I would go for Imperial 2030.
1 - I think its easier to explain.
2 - When you learn it it plays really fast.
The other items I think are more or less the same.
I enjoy SB but I prefer Imperial 2030. I enjoy it even more if you play it with the Imperial Taxation rule, but thats me. The game is faster if you play it with the new rule.
Welll you can go wrong with either choice you make, and in the end you will buy both
Interesting question. I got both, and Chicago Express.
Personally, out of the train investing game, Chicago Express is my favorite. So If CE is already owned, I would stick with Imperial 2030 due to less overlap with CE.
If we take CE out of the equation than I can see why it becomes a tougher question, as Barons would be my 2nd option for stock game with trains.
In the fun factor:the inherent conflict that you have on Imperial is more interesting for me, but I understand that this varies person to person.
Lengh of game: They would go in at about the same for me. Our group then to be done with Imperial in about 90 minutes, which is a little shorter than Barons, but no big deal, as we are fine playing 2H to 2 1/2 h game on our meetings. I would put a tie on them
Simple to teach learn: Personally, I think fewer games are simpler to learn the basics than the Rondell games. Move the rondell take the action you land on. Explain what they are, and how you win the game, and you are ready to go. Barons on the other hand, as most Wallace games is very procedural with several phases that are executed in order. Not really too complex side for a Wallace game, but far more complex than Rondell's simplicity in my book.
Replayability: If you added the boards expansions from steam, this would've ve been easy. But with the base board, I think this depends a lot on your play group. Personally, I'm in a quest to get the US to have a X5 multiplier on Imperial (I've managed to get all the others to do so, but The best we managed for the US was a late go into 3, and a lot of time it was stuck on 1 or even 0). That alone becomes interesting and adds replayability for me (I guess I'm a fan of Unabalanced starting positions - TI, TTA and Runewars are my favorite games).
In the end, If I was forced to keep only one, and did not have the original Imperial and/or Chicago Express, I would stick with Imperial as I like the simplicity, unbalanced posisitions and conflict better than the innate simetry on most Wallace's games.
Thanks for the tips!
Hopefully, my FLGS will have a copy of Barons to try on their open gaming night
Yeah, I really like Chicago Express so I'll have to try and buy!