Imperial 2030 was the first game of my relatively modest game collection and to this day it is the buy that I am probably most satisfied with. There are probably a couple reasons for this. The first is that I got it at a really good price. It was carryover stock at my local game shop which the owner bought from the PREVIOUS owners of the game shop in one bulk buy. He got a good price so I got a good price. Also there's the simple fact that it is my first game. It's as they say, "You'll forgive a first love any flaws." But enough of my substituting board games for women. The third reason that I am satisfied with my purchase is that this is a game that my gaming friends call a "Joe game" (Joe being my name of course). I enjoy resource management games and this game is essentially the management of resources used to get more resources to manage! It's like a resource management alley-oop. I'll explain.
Those of you who played the classic Imperial will know the basic concept of Imperial 2030. Each player is an investor buying the bonds of various world powers. When you have plurality control of the bonds of that nation, you gain control of its actions. Instead of England, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, and (Russia?), the nations are U.S.A., E.U. (any European nationalist would blush at the idea), Russia, China, Brazil, and India. Predictably, Rio Grande has given us another Rondel game (hey, it's their thing!) and that mechanic works well for this setting.
I want to give a very brief overview of the Rondel.
Essentially, each space on the Rondel lets you do one thing and each pawn on the Rondel represents a controlled NATION, not a player. One space lets you tax the nation's territory which gives the NATION (not the player) money and builds up the nation's power. This is key because, at the end of the game, a large victory contributor is having bonds in countries with a lot of "power".
The next Rondel space is Factory. This lets the nation that lands on it build one factory of either type (infantry or naval).
Then there is Produce (there are two of these, opposite each other, on the Rondel). Produce makes each factory pump out one unit of its type. Shipyards produce one fleet while barracks produce one army.
Maneuver (also two spaces) has the most visible impact on the game. Each army and fleet can move one space into any space on the board that has black text. Nations conquer land in this way (thus generating more revenue in the Taxes section). Combat is a one-for-one elimination scheme and armies are convoyed almost identically to how they are convoyed in Diplomacy.
Investor is how the player gets their payout. That's where you get interest and where the real Rondel-manipulation strategy comes into play. Countries only pay out when they LAND on investor, but whoever has the investor card has to buy their bond whenever the investor square is crossed OVER. You want to manipulate it so that you have as much money as possible when you have the investor card while trying to make it so that your opponents have very little.
Import: Very straightforward. The nation (not the player) can buy up to three military units of any kind and place them anywhere in the nation (fleets cannot be placed in a land-locked province obviously). Most people choose this for their first move.
What I like about Imperial 2030:
Play tends to be pretty fast-paced, even with six players.
There's not much down-time.
The game is pretty loyal to the amount of time it says it'll take to play.
Some things that could have been improved on:
The rules were cumbersome and put me to SLEEP. I had to read them a couple of times in a couple of sittings and there was a lot of area for confusion and, before they released a supplement, some areas that were open to outright debate as to their meaning! Thankfully they fixed these.
An enemy can lose you the game. Don't play with someone you don't get along with. The game mechanics are VERY conducive to being screwed over by spiteful player action.
The investor card holder should get paid a little bit more money. No matter what, the investor is paid 2m dollars when someone crosses over Investor. I could stand to see that raised to 5m so that, in a six player game, when you get righteously backhanded by the other players' rondel manipulation, you aren't totally out of it.
The last area for improvement may be unable to be fixed entirely. The game has a very cyclical feel. In the beginning of the game, moves typically go Produce Maneuver Investor Maneuver Taxation repeat. Near the end they almost universally go something like Investor Taxation repeat with maybe a couple maneuvers or productions in between. This is understandable. In the beginning you are trying to build an infrastructure and near the end you are trying to rack up as much money and power points in as short a time as possible. It's just kind of "ehh..."
Differences between Imperial and Imperial 2030:
The main difference is the addition of the Swiss Bank. Essentially when an investor has no nation that they have plurality control in (happens frequently in 6p games) they gain a Swiss Bank. This allows them to do two things. First, they can invest whenever an investor card-holder could. Second, they can FORCE nations to stop on investor and pay out interest. This guarantees that a player who loses a nation won't be out of the game. In fact, one player even held onto his Swiss bank so that he could buy more bonds. He didn't win, but it was an interesting strategy.
Another difference is that nations are not punished as horribly for building a factory on the first turn. If you did that in Imperial it was like a death sentence. In 2030 it is a legitimate gambit.
All in all, I love Imperial 2030 and I always bring it with me on Saturday Game Nights