“But now, finally, I’ve got myself a new goal…World Domination!” – Darwin Mayflower
I like big games, whether in scope, or size, or depth. I want to feel like I accomplished something. I want to alter history, or conquer a world, or burn down London. The difficult part is finding a balance between size and complication. Axis and Allies and Risk are too simple to truly hold my interest, while Sands of War and Panzer Leader lack engagement with their carboard chits and endless tables. Is it possible to create an elegant large game that is also engaging while also being different enough to create its own niche?
Short answer: Yes.
Imperial 2030 is a capitalism game. They who have the most money when the game ends, wins. It looks like a war game, and it has that, but unlike other games of that type, your motivation is not necessarily to dominate the world through military force.
At the beginning of the game each player will have Bonds from certain countries, of which there are six: Russia, China, India, Brazil, USA, and Europe. In the base game, each player gets some starting cash, and a random country card. That card lists two bonds, a nine million and a one million, for two separate countries. The player with the largest total investment in a country plays the turn of that country. This is an important piece, separating the player from the country. As the game progresses, control of a particular country will pass around the board, as players invest in the bonds and try to position the country to maximize return on investment.
Another way in which this game stands out is in how countries act. At the bottom of the board, which is a world map divided into regions, is the Treasury for each country which also determines the order in which they act (This order is the same as listed above). What they can do is determined by the location on the Rondel. On the first turn, the player of Russia, for instance, will select any place on the Rondel, and execute the action listed on that space. On future turns, the player can advance clockwise around one to three spaces for free, or additional spaces at a cost to the player. This cost is variable, increasing as the country becomes more successful.
What’s on the Rondel? Import, allowing countries to purchase up to three units (units are either a ship or a tank), Production, allowing building of units for free at all available land and sea factories, Maneuver, allowing the movement of units from region to region and battling (Battles are optional. A unit entering an occupied region can decline battle, and if no other unit in the region demands battle, they are all laid on their sides. If a country demands battle, units are removed on a 1:1 basis), Taxation, allowing each country to gain funds from the bank to their Treasury (after which they must pay for all units, then possibly a bonus to the player), Factory, allowing the country to purchase one new Factory (each country starts with two and has a maximum of four), another Production, another Maneuver, and, finally, Investor.
At the start of the game, the player to the left of the player who controls Russia receives the Investor card. When a country’s token lands on or passes over the Investor space on the Rondel, the holder of that card receives two million from the bank, and may then purchase a bond, or increase the value of a held bond, from any country’s Treasury. They then pass the card to their left.
Some details about this space: If a country’s token lands on the Investor space, that country first pays out the interest on its held bonds. Should it lack sufficient funds, the player who controls the country pays the difference from their own funds.
If the holder of the Investor card purchases controlling interest in the country, they receive that control before the end of the turn.
Finally, if a player has no control over a country, they receive a Swiss Bank token, which allows the player to also make an investment after the holder of the Investor card.
I know it sounds complicated, but it all becomes intuitive after the first few rounds.
Along with Investor, Taxation is a prime mover of your economic goals. After taxing, paying for the country’s units, and paying any bonus to the player, the country gains Power Points. The first country to hit twenty-five points ends the game, and depending on where a country is on the points tracker, there is a multiplier increasing the value of that country’s bonds at end of game scoring.
The game is self balancing and has numerous catchup mechanics. In order to gain more revenue from Taxation, you need the country to conquer more regions, but this requires more units which need to be paid for when taxing. As a country moves up the points tracker, it becomes more expensive to advance additional spaces for the country on the Rondel. As the combat is streamlined, your grand army can become nonexistent should you attempt to take too many regions, or another player could take control from you.
Because of that country/player separation, I felt like I was watching the rise and fall of empires, as each in turn jockeyed for the best position. While all that is occurring, I was trying to position my bonds for the best return, like a good capitalist, which at times meant acquiring the bonds just below the current controller, so they had to do all the heavy lifting. The units and tokens are wood, the bonds are the good thick cardboard, and the cash is attractive and slightly futuristic.
That same separation that, in my opinion, makes this such a good game can turn some people off. Because you are not necessarily controlling one country throughout the game, the experience is different from a pure war game.
There are also many moving parts, and a lot of math in determining how you are doing. It’s not complex, but there’s a lot going on.
The rules could provide more pictures and examples. We had a false start because we misinterpreted the bond value.
There is also a great player aid, however there are only four included. I would expect at least five, with one player using the rules as a reference.
All in all, this is a Buy. Turns are fast, players are constantly interacting, and it’s unique. There is an original version, involving a map of Europe and a bit of North Africa, but I think I prefer the world spanning version. There are also a few variants contained in the rules.
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