Last night I got together with two friends, and we played Imperial. Now this is my third game. I'm familiar with the way it works, and I've really liked it so far. But last night just blasted the game into the stratosphere.
There were a couple of things at work here:
- We played with the investor card, and with 4-5 players, it can be several turns before you actually get the card. But with three, you really needed to pay attention to what other people buy and where that card is. There's also never a long wait before you get it back.
- We used the "advanced" setup in the rules, where each player picks bonds to buy rather than distributing them randomly. This was so much better, it's not even funny. We each had stock in at least 3 countries at the beginning of the game, and there was much more cashflow for everyone. Higher bonds were purchased earlier, meaning there was a lot more interest flowing in and out of everything.
It was by far the most dynamic, exciting game I have played in a long time. There was a lot of military build-up, and a lot of occupation of factories. Inversely, there was less angling for tax chips and neutral territory. I'm starting to see the role of the board in the game. It can be very difficult to shake someone who is in control of two adjacent countries, and at one point last night, someone had the entire southeastern half of the map sewn up. However, you have much more recourse than I initially thought. You can try to take control of a country, or knock them militarily, and we really saw both at play last night.
The most impressive thing to me is how the game is able to take a zero-luck situation and keep it from being boring. It really embraces the player as the decider of the games course, and that's really cool. Even cooler is that the game does so with very little fragility. An inexperienced player will probably not win, but neither will they sink the whole experience for the rest of the group.
After a game like that, I would have to rate the game a solid 10. It's probably the best heavy Euro I own, and it's edged out Mare Nostrum as one of my all-time favorites in the genre.
It's one of my top 5. I've been telling everyone for years how fantastic this game is: when I started discovering Eurogames, this is what I was expecting not all the dry, tedious, repetitive crap that clogs the market. Just get out and play it.
Oftentimes defeat is splendid, victory may still be shame;
Luck is good, the prize is pleasant but the glory's in the game!
This is one I definitely need to play again. I have one play under my belt and loved it. Unfortunately, that has been a while. If I could get a couple plays in and feel comfortable with the rules, this would be one I would love to play on BSW. Having the online availability really steps this one up a notch.
Yep, this is one of the best games of all time. The final nail in the coffin of Diplomacy. A brilliant combination of economic speculation/investment and DoaM gameplay.
I like 2030 better. The map is more open, leading to more interesting long-term movement. I like that the Swiss Bank is built-in, and I like the larger naval component. It tends to be more volatile, I think.
I played the first one a couple of times and 2030 I don't know how many times. It is an incredible game.
The biggest surprise for me was the Swiss Bank mechanic. I can't believe there is a way to play the game that is immensely satisfying and doesn't give you a turn. Everyone here has probably watched their buddies play a game but not be involved and that's what the Swiss Bank sounded like to me. Instead it was one of the best experiences I've ever had in a game of that style. I was fascinated with what everyone was doing and the level I was thinking on was different from how my brain normally works when playing a game. I felt like some kind of god like outside observer. I couldn't believe it worked. First time I ended as Swiss Bank I won then I tried it again and got my ass handed to me. Both were a riot.
You don't even need the swiss bank to do well without a country. Being landless in the mid-game is usually so huge of an advantage that players will go out of their way to prevent it from happening, or play in a way to screw with the free-investing hobo player.
The problem is that screwing that player over requires not landing on the investor space, and the one player who breaks trust and hits it will get a huge relative payoff while the conspirators get screwed. Those few extra dollars can tip the balance of a key country at the right time.
In terms of gameplay, I agree that being without a country makes for a fun experience. Knowing which countries are on the rise and fall is difficult and fun. And the influence a hobo has is subtle but definitely there until the last turns of the game. Tossing a country a few bucks before they come to taxation can suddenly give Austria a new factory to screw with Russia, for instance.
I still prefer the claustrophobic original map, but I love both. Naval play is admittedly weaker than in 2030, but the close quarters make the alliances shift so fast you can get a seizure watching. The clumped up neutrals in Yugoslavia create really tight phase binding between Russia and Austria, to the point that spending a few dollars to bump one or the other further along the action wheel can create or destroy an alliance. Same with Germany and France, or France and Italy. The more open 2030 I find can be a bit too stable. Of course, stable in Imperial is still complete fucking chaos by the standards of most other games, so take that as you will.