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Europe in the age of imperialism. Internationally operating investors aim for the highest political influence in Europe. By giving credits they gain influence over the six imperial nations Great Britain, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy and France. These nations desperately need money to build up their economy and to buy troops and fleets. With their growing power in Europe, they collect more taxes and pay their rising interests to their investors. Because the six imperial nations are under changing influence of different investors, strategic alliances and conflicts arise between them. Sometimes this even leads to war!
The players represent internationally operating investors who stay in the background. The turns in the game are executed by the six imperial nations, not by the investors themselves, who only impose their financial influence on various nations. Only the investor who gets the best return on his investments, who gains influence over the most powerful imperial nations, and who can influence the European diplomacy to his benefit, will win the game.
Imperial is a challenging strategy game without any luck of cards or dice.
I recently got Imperial as a Christmas present, and found it to be a little bit of a mix between the sometimes overly complicated and dragging Axis & Allies, and the game of Acquire. For anyone interested in subverting your opponent's plans, this is a game you should take a look at. Although it may seem complicated, it took my group only about 20 minutes to catch on.
Having just received our copy of Imperial we are just beginning to work through it - therefore this review must be considered preliminary. However, in the absence of another review I though I would add to the body of knowledge.
The element of Imperial that most appealed to me was the abstraction of being an investor in nations rather than playing one of the nations. The player that has currently invested the most in a particular nation gets to decide its move but this control can change if someone invests more in that nation. The range of moves available is simple and easy to learn but understanding what is the best move and why will take us some time to learn.
The game comes with a large number of wooden pieces that look nice but are perhaps a little large for the amount of space of the board. There is some paper money and heavy cardboard "bonds" to represent your investments. There are no dice and no random cards - this game will be determined by strategy and interaction between the players.
Imperial may look like a high-level wargame but it is not really. The rules for movement and conflict are very simple (units simple destroy each other one for one) the real game is around investing wisely and striking deals with your fellow players.