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Having just purchased Winter Fury from Avalanche on something of an impulse, I almost didn't buy Imperium: The 3rd Millennium. I was simply amazed that Avalanche could make a game (Winter Fury) with what appears to be a standard-sized map and a standard-sized box and somehow fold the map so that it doesn't fit in the box. Never mind the two crucial tables you can't play without that are missing from the game. But, I liked the original Imperium a lot, so common sense was overridden.

Anyway, I just got my copy. It does look cool but it is an almost-total overhaul of the GDW classic; virtually nothing is unscathed. Crucially, gone is the great, elegantly simple battle system from the original, replaced with a somewhat unimaginative battle sub-game. Production and maintenance have been overhauled. The Imperial replacement system has been scrapped. The impulses are played completely differently - reaction movement is gone; the number of impulses each player gets is now variable, based on a die roll - although two passes also end the turn. (An obviously interesting variant, in which your die roll is kept hidden from your opponent until the end of the turn, is not explored unfortunately). Peace is no longer resolved as a one-shot, but you've got to play out each turn (potentially a time sink). As with most Avalanche games, the appearance is superficially beautiful but sadly it's a poster child for dysfunctional presentation (the hexgrid on the star map is something of an abomination, given that nobody has ever used the sublight movement rules in any of the many games of the original I played).

Anyway, I say all this because, as I said, I liked the original GDW Imperium quite a lot, and being Traveller fans it got a lot of play; this game bears only a superficial resemblance to the original. While the rules are actually shorter and probably clearer (!), it is also decidedly less elegant. Although I like the new impulse sequence of play, otherwise I must admit I was a bit surprised at the magnitude of the overhaul, given how relatively well the original worked. The battle subgame they've introduced gives me chills, just in terms of how long it's going to take to play out (in the original, even the most massive space battles could be resolved in a few minutes tops, and it doesn't seem like the new system actually adds a huge amount of tactical detail). However, the variable impulses, hidden fleets, and movement limits may in fact be a significant improvement which will prevent the game from becoming a slugging match around Aggida and Sirius, as the original could be. So, the game definitely merits some play, and may be the first Avalanche game that I've played that doesn't totally suck (although I do look forward to giving their new Winter Fury a try also, I hold out somewhat less hope for that one).

And on a final note, one of the nice touches I thought with the original is that two of the Terran jump units were the 82nd and the 101st. They're gone now too, replaced with rather generic names (1st Mars, etc.). Not a serious problem, admittedly, but nonetheless something of a sigh of regret :)
 
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