(BGG image by BGG user Sinister Dexter)
Imperial came out in 2006, designed by Mac Gerdts with art by Matthias Catrein. It's a game for 2-6 players that is published in the US by Rio Grande. The setting is Europe in the age of imperialism. You are an investor that is trying to gain the highest amount of political influence on the continent through the control of European Empires - Great Britain, the German Reich, the Russian Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Kingdom of Italy, or the Republic of France. One of the hallmarks of games designed by Gerdts is the use of a rondel for action selection. The mechanic eliminates luck from the game while still providing a variation in possible plays. Imperial was his second game, following Antike (one of the first games I covered on this blog).
(BGG image by user Zopper-Alf)
in the game, you get a board that shows Europe, a tax chart, a counting chart to track national power, treasury spaces, and the rondel. There are 48 army pieces in the shape of cannons, and 48 ship pieces. These are in the six colors - green, yellow, red, blue, black, and purple. There's not an even number in all of the colors - red has 6 armies and 10 ships, while yellow has 10 armies and 6 ships. All other colors are split 8/8. Other colored pieces include 60 tax chips; 18 cylinders to mark rondel, tax chart, and counting chart; 48 bond cards; and 6 flags. There are 15 brown factories (armaments) and 15 light blue factories (shipyards). There's also a turn marker, an investor card, and paper money (sigh) in denominations of 1 million, 2 million, 5 million, and 10 million (to be referred to with dollar signs and without the million from here on).
(BGG image by user newrev)
The cylinders for each nation get placed on the board - one in the center of the rondel (upper left corner), one on the tax chart (upper right side), and one on the counting chart (bottom of the board). Each nation starts with two factories on cities marked with a square. The type of factory is indicated by the color of the square. The bonds are organized by nation, sorted in ascending order (with the lowest valued bond on top), and placed in a pile next to the corresponding treasury spaces.
Each player now gets money, flag(s), and bonds. This distribution will depend on the number of players:
- With 4-6 players, each player starts with $13. The flags are shuffled, and one is dealt to each player. With 4-5 players, this means that not every flag will initially be distributed. In those cases, the flags will be kept in the bank until someone acquires the $4 bond for that nation.
- With 3 players, each player starts with $26. Austria-Hungary, Italy, and France are distributed randomly to each player, with Great Britain also going to the Austria-Hungary player, Russia to Italy, and Germany to France (which seems backwards...but never mind).
- With 2 players, each player starts with $39. Austria-Hungary and Italy are randomly distributed to each player, with Great Britain and Russia going to Italy, and Germany and France to Austria-Hungary.
It is important to note that each player has a personal supply of cash, but that each nation will have its own treasury. National treasuries are public information, white private cash supplies can be kept secret. National treasuries can be beefed up at any time by any player paying out of their own pocket.
The investor card goes to the player seated to the left of Austria-Hungary (or Italy if there's no Austria-Hungary).
(BGG image by user olaha)
Play works like this: beginning with Austria-Hungary and working clockwise around the treasury spaces (Austria-Hungary, then Italy, then France, then Great Britain, then the German Empire, then the Russian Empire), each nation will choose an action on the rondel. The player who has the highest credit for the nation (the sum of all held bonds, or, at the start of the game, the player who controls the flag for that country) chooses the action. There are six available actions, and you can initially place a piece on any space of the rondel. In subsequent turns, a piece may move up to three spaces clockwise for free. You can also pay an additional $2 per space to move up to three more spaces. So, if you're on Import, you could move up to taxation for free. If you want to move to factory, you'd need to pay $2. Let's look at what each action means:
(BGG image by user jack208)
FACTORY: With this, you can build one new factory. By paying $5 to the bank (from the national treasury), you can build a factory in the appropriate nation's city. Armament factories can only be built in cities marked with brown, while shipyard factories can only be built in cities marked with light blue. Only one factory can go in a city, and you can't build a factory in a city that contains a foreign army.
PRODUCTION: The nation produces armies at armaments factories and fleets from their shipyards. Only one unit can be produced at a factory. The factory must be in a home city of the nation, and no hostile armies can be present for production to occur. Foreign armies cannot use factories in other national areas to produce units. When ships are produced, they remain in the harbor - they have to be moved into the sea spaces.
IMPORT: The nation can buy up to three units at $1 apiece. Armies may be placed in any home province that contains no hostile armies. Ships can only be placed in provinces that contain light blue seaports.
(BGG image by user Legomancer)
MANEUVER: There are three steps to this phase - move fleets, move armies, place tax chips. These steps are done in order. First, you move fleets. Each ship may move one adjacent space, and spaces are separated by blue lines on the board. Ships in the harbor after production move into the sea space adjacent to the harbor. If a fleet moves into a sea region where foreign ships are present, a battle occurs if at least one side wants it. Battles are resolved 1:1 - one ship from each side gets removed from the board. The invading player can decide which units are matched.
After moving ships, you can move land units. Each army may move to an adjacent land region (except Switzerland, which is completely neutral). You can also move armies by sea, moving them across ships to a land region. You can actually jump from ship to ship in sea spaces and cross several spaces at once, as long as you end on a land space. The big restriction is that each ship can only be used once during a turn for this move. Armies can also move via rail. What this means is that you can move freely within your nation before or after taking your maneuver action. However, if there is a hostile army within your borders, you can't use the rail. Battles are resolved just like with fleets. Armies and fleets can only battle each other if the ships are in their harbor. Factories can be destroyed by 3 hostile armies if no defending armies are in the province (factories and armies get removed from the board). You can't destroy a factory if it's the only factory they have left that has not been occupied by hostile armies.
I mentioned this concept of a hostile army. When you enter someone else's nation, you have to decide whether you're hostile or friendly. If you're hostile, you will block production, imports, building factories, and taxation for that region. If you're friendly, there's no constraints. Friendly armies are laid on their sides; hostile armies remain standing.
The last step is to place a tax chip in newly occupied land or sea regions that don't contain foreign units. Home provinces don't get tax chips. This chip remains until the region is occupied exclusively by another nation, at which point it is replaced. If you're out of tax chips, you can't get any more tax regions; you still remove other tax chips.
INVESTOR: The investor phase happens every single time the investor space is PASSED on the rondel. So, if you move from Maneuver to Import, you'll still perform this phase. However, of the three steps involved, only the second and third steps will be performed in that instance. The first step is only for people who land directly on the space.
So, that first step is paying out interest. Each player get interest based on their bonds, paid out from the nation's treasury. If the treasury does not have enough money, you have to forfeit some or all of your share and pay other players out of your personal cash.
Step two is activating the investor. The player who holds the investor card receives $2 and may invest in any nation. They do this by paying to the nation's treasury and taking a bond. You can either buy a new bond, or increase a current bond by paying the difference, returning your old bond, and taking a new one.
Step three is investing without a flag. If a player finds themselves not in control of a government, they may invest in one nation. The only difference between this and step two is that you don't get $2. You also can't do a double investment if you hold the investor card and control no governments.
After these three steps, check to see if any governments have changed hands. If you now have the highest sum of bonds in a nation, you may take the nation's flag. This means that it is possible that you will find yourself controlling no nations and just watching for a while, waiting to swoop in and steal someone else's country. At the end of the phase, the investor card passes to the left.
TAXATION: Three steps in this phase. First, tax revenue and success bonus. Unoccupied factories are worth $2, each tax chip is worth $1. Add them up for your nation, and adjust the tax chart. If the total increases, you get $1 per space. If it stays constant or decreases, you get no money, but also don't have to pay.
Next, collect money. Subtract one million from the tax revenue for each army or fleet the nation has. The bank then pays the remainder to the national treasury. Finally, gain power points according to the taxation chart.
(BGG image by user Gonzaga)
The game continues until one nation has reached 25 power points. These points are scored when a nation builds a factory, places a tax chip, or ends a turn with taxation. You'll calculate your final score by multiplying the interest on each bond by the number based on the final position of that nation on the the counting bar. You'll then add your cash on hand, getting one point per dollar. The player with the most points wins the game.
And that's Imperial. Read more at BGG, and expect to pay $60 in an FLGS. This ends our economic series, and I'll be starting the next one soon. Happy gaming!