Gamers: Allen (blownfreaks), Heng (ayheng), Ken (wolfx), Jorge (Patomas), and CK Au (jack208)
Games: Imperial 2030
Location: Old Town Kopitiam Cheras Google Map
Date/Time: 22 January 2010 (Fri) 8.00 PM – 5.30 AM
Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report Part 2 @ Old Town Kopitiam Cheras 22/1/2010
This is the 2nd part of the 22/1 BGC Meetup report. If you have not yet read the first part where we did Funny Friends, RA the Dice Game, Long Shot, Acquire, Monopoly Deal and Perudo, click here for the 1st Part.
IMPERIAL – the best of Mac Gerdts’ Rondel games – has been a firm favorite of a few OTK regulars ie. ayheng, aanemesis and jack208. So when news came out last year that Mac will release an expansion to this game, we quickly arrange to secure our own copy from Essen (with many thanks to CE).
Imperial is played on a map of Continental Europe and each player is an imperial power who aims to invest and take control of the European countries in return for getting the opportunity to milk their tax money for personal gain.
Imperial succeeds because it mixed elements of aggression (countries can send armies & fleets to attack and suppress each other) and investment (via bonds issued by the country ala 18xx-style). Imperial looks like a war-game but it’s not. The countries are simply vessels you used to progress your own ambitions.
The new Imperial 2030 is set in the near future (year 2030) and presents the whole world as its playing area with emerging southern nations Brazil, and India joining the traditional northern powers like USA, Europe, China and Russia.
Imperial 2030 also introduced a few tweaks (more of these later) that are aimed at addressing some perceived weaknesses in the original game. Imperial 2030 is available as a full game purchase (and therefore does not need Imperial to play) but in Essen ’09, it was also available as an expansion map plus new tokens/cards which requires the base Imperial game.
There is no news yet that the publisher will release Imperial 2030 as an expansion in the foreseeable future, but as a full set it is now available from Rio Grande Games.
For eg, in order to move more than the standard 3 spaces on the Rondel, each additional space will now cost the country a factor based on it’s current Power points as opposed to a standard $1m per space as in original Imperial. Countries who are far ahead in the game say at x4 point will be paying like 1+4 = $5m to move one additional space on the Rondel (still subject to the max 6 space per turn).
This is meant to slow down countries who are ahead in the game from double-tapping Taxation & Investor in succession to end the game. Does it work? Read on….
There have already been a few write-ups on our Imperial sessions here so do read them if you wish to see how the Imperial game flows. This report will talk about the new Imperial 2030.
- 2/1/09 Imperial using Investor-Card (standard) (click here)
- 9/1/09 Imperial using No-Investor-Card variant (click here)
INVESTOR CARD vs NO-INVESTOR CARD
The standard Imperial plays with an Investor card that floats around the players… each player getting $2m cash when they receive this card, and an opportunity to invest in any nation. Otherwise there’s limited opportunity to add your investment to a nation even though you may be flushed with money.
The biggest drawback with using the Investor card is the “Newspaper Reading” syndrome which was first experienced in Games Circle many years back, and resulted in aanemesis downgrading his rating of Imperial to a -20 before subsequent plays on BSW allowed him to appreciate the game more and he now rates this a 10+
Read more about the Investor and Non-investor variant in our forum.
Playing without the Investor card provides more flow-and-ebb to the game; allowing players to take over another country if it’s present government is not careful. Makes for a more tense game overall.
NEWBIE, PROFIT or PRO START?
There are three ways you can start Imperial; the Newbie Start is where your starting investment is randomly assigned and every player gets to be a majority stakeholder in one country and a minority stakeholder in another. The choice of country is random but the investment ratio is evenly distributed among the players.
This only works if we are playing with 3 or 6 players. We found that if there are 4 or 5 players, then some players end up with controlling stakes in two countries while the rest have one. However the Newbie Start is recommended if all players are new as it prevents analysis paralysis at start.
The Profit and Pro Starts are similar except the former is with the Investor Card variant and the latter is played without Investor Card. In this start, player are given equal amount of cash (for eg $13m each for 6-player game) and they have the choice as to which country they wish to invest in. Players with the most investment in each country will govern it.
In a 4 or 5 player game, it can still transpired that some players will control more than one country but in this case, it’s not a random assignment but rather a conscious choice made by all players.
For our games at OTK, we default to the Pro Starts and No-Investor-Card variant. In this variant, all players are given equal amount of starting capital which they can feely invest in any country’s bond. At the end of each country’s turn, all players with sufficient capital can add or upgrade bonds of the said country.
In our 5-player session last Fri, using the Pro Start and $13m war chest to each player… the initial investment were distributed as follows (in player turn order):
- jack208 – controlled China and Russia with $6m and $4m investment respectively, and minority stakes in Europe and Brazil with $2m/ea
- patomas – controlled Europa with $9m, with minority in Russia $2m and China $4m
- ayheng – governed Brazil for $9m, with minority spread over China, India and USA of $2m/ea
- blownfreaks – controlled India with $4m and strong minority in Brazil with $6m. Has $4m minority in USA as well
- wolfx – ran USA for $6m and a good spread of $4m each in Europa and Brazil
Imperial will always have 6 nations in play regardless of number of players… and if there are only 5 players, one of them will control two nations. With the Pro Start, every player is aware of the remaining cash of other players and can therefore decide whether they want to control one or two nations.
ANALYSIS OF STARTING POSITION
I suppose a few of us quickly surmised Brazil as a good option as you can see Brazil was the highest invested nation with almost 1/3 our total starting capital being invested in it. The trinity of Brazil / USA / Europa has 64% or 2/3 starting capital making these three the richest nations to start the game.
Russia / China / India collectively garnered only 32% of the startup cash. To put things in perspective, the three poorest nations has a total of 24m invested while Brazil alone has 21m.
IMHO this provides balance to the game. One player will definitely control two nations (eg jack208) but he’ll likely do so with the downside of these two nations being poorly capitalized at start. My Russia & China attracted investment in total of 18m only which is lower than what Brazil alone managed.
This means from the financial perspective, Russia & China will lag Brazil (and even USA and Europa) and it’s owners will hope that board positioning will compensate for this setback.
INITIAL BOARD POSITIONS
Imperial 2030 starts with only two factories for each nation even though there are now more neutral territories for us to ransack and take over! There are now 38 neutral sea and land areas vs the standard Imperial’s 24 areas.
With only two factories, initial territorial conquest can be slow.
India (black) chose to expand southwards given that it has the Russian Chinese combo above her. Russia (purple) & China (yellow) have sent their fleets to quickly control the western Pacific Ocean.
India was the first to do Taxation…
Europa (blue) were restrictive in her expansion policy.. preferring to keep within the walls of Europe.
True to its nature, USA (red) concentrated on building up its military might…
Brazil (green) meanwhile expanded rapidly given that it has easiest and fastest access to many neutral areas (which is one of the reasons why Brazil is a good nation to invest in); landing its forces quickly into Africa.
At this juncture, Europa/USA/Brazil were slow to get started on Taxation (see pic above where these three were still at the Taxation starting point) while the other three nations had swiftly implemented taxation to generate revenue.
Brazil understandably need not tap on Taxation as it’s flushed with capital (that’s the benefit of being able to attract good investment upfront). Russian & China while weak in capital are strong militarily as an alliance at the start of the game. Well, if you can’t bring loads of money to the meeting table then make sure you carry a bigger stick! 😛
SWISS BANK Option
Imperial 2030 comes with a Swiss Bank option where any player who does not control any country will be given the Swiss Bank marker and become a member of the Swiss Bank. The power of being a Swiss Banker is that you can force any country not to pass the Investor space (rondel) and instead has to land on it.
The Investor space is when a country pays out dividends to its bond holders. The decision to land on it (ie pay out dividends) or pass it (ie skip paying dividends) is usually solely in the hands of its controlling player. The Swiss Bank moves this control to the Swiss Bankers instead.
Also, the Swiss Banker may invest in a bond of ANY country instead of the active country during the Bond Purchase step at the end of a country’s turn. This provides him with the flexibility to concentrate his capital to regain control of a country if he so desires.
In our game, there was a turn early in the game where wolfx bought an Europa bond to trigger a take-over of Europa from patomas. Patomas was then left without any country and he was invited to join the Swiss Bank.
Using the powers of the Swiss Bank, patomas was able to regain control of Europa even before wolfx had a chance to run it! Wolfx’s government was in and out of Europa faster than you can say Hose Me.
With it’s flushed treasury, Brazil was able to quickly build to the max 4 factories and were soon churning out massive amount of troops…
… while elsewhere in the world, expansions in Asia were progressing on more or less equitable terms between India, China & Russia.
With Brazil’s wide and quick expansion, it was able to leverage a high Taxation revenue from it’s conquered territories and together with USA, they led the Power chart during mid-game.
China (yellow) with the help of its Russian comrades guarding it’s backline in the North, proceeded to sweep across southern Asia and into Australia and kept pace with Brazil & USA in the Power chart.
Since Russia & China were undercapitalized at the start, jack208 has to continue re-investing profits back into these two countries to help with future expansions.
It was not until late mid-game when the first real conflict was fought over North Pacific. wolfx has ordered a massive USA fleet to gather at the North Pacific. According to Ken Bush Jr, President of USA that fleet was defensive and to prevent Sino-Russian forces from spilling over. Yeah, sure….
The Sino-Russian alliance was aware the huge number of ships in that strike-force can hit westward swiftly and controlled the Sea of Japan, thereby choking the Sino-Russian navies at their ports! With Ken Bush Sr’s warmongering tendency, the Sino-Russian alliance decided a pre-emptive strike was in their best interest. 🙂
After the decimation of the North Pacific fleet, USA with her superior naval forces can easily rebuild and this time, with a weakened and almost non-existing Sino-Russian naval forces, the USA (red) were able to move westward and land in the South China Sea.
Once USA (red) has secured the South China Sea, her true war-mongering tendency is revealed and she started sending troops over to conquer the south Asian countries…. yeah, the same “defensive” forces that Ken Bush quoted (hehe).
Seen above, USA (red) forces “liberating” Philippines, Indonesia and soon Japan of Chinese rules…and with them securing both the Sea of Japan and China Sea looked like they are here for long-term!
TURNING POINT 1 – THE TAKEOVER OF INDIA
The first turning point in the game happened when India was lost! In the mid-game, both Brazil and India controlled huge swath of territories in the southern hemisphere. China controlled part of the Philippines & Australasia areas but those were soon taken by the USA (when they breached the China Sea above).
India then were governed by blownfreaks who has been doing a great job keeping the PEACE in Asia while expanding across the Southern Ocean into Africa. That peace will soon be disturbed as Luiz Lula da Hengy of Brazil decided it’s better to use India as a blunt instrument to stop Russia & China.
With Brazil’s wealth and growing military presence, Luiz Hengy swiftly ousted the government of BlownFreaks (they did keep Allen (ex-Prez) as their Economic Advisor though, but without any military control) and quickly mobilize the Indian troops to head back towards the Asian continent to attack China.
At this stage, China and Brazil were leading the Power chart (see below) with India and Russia not far behind. This new Brazil-Indian alliance now seriously threatened not only to derail the Sino-Russian grow but were installed as the new global power given it’s solid control of the southern hemisphere (and Sino-Russian’s recent trouble with the marauding USA forces).
TURNING POINT 2 – THE REVERSE TAKE-OVER
Luiz Ayheng were now basking in the newfound power of the Brazil-Indian alliance and perhaps the harem of Delhi were too distracting for him…. that he did not see jack208 being able to milk all the money from China and Russian (let’s just say the poor Chinese and Russians suffered for a greater cause, hehe) and re-channel as investment to Brazil.
The Brazilians, seduced by the tremendous wealth offered by this new incumbent Hu CK and with promises of FREE land in China were quick to oust their long-serving president Luiz Ayheng and installed Hu CK as their new president!
With Hu CK now controlling three countries – China, Russia and Brazil – it was time to bring peace to the world.. and the other countries sensing peace is near, followed the cue and focus on dividend payout. Brazil topped the Power chart at x5 while both India and China did well at x4. USA was the lowest at x2.
Some USA troops were still stranded in the islands of Iwo Jima and thereabout and still actively fighting the war on all fronts…. unknown that their President Ken Bush Jr has signed a peace accord with the other 5 superpowers.
Returns of investment on USA bonds were the lowest rated of the 6 superpowers due to the annihilist nature of its president. This seeks to underline the theme that Imperial is at its core an economic game, and military might is only a means to an end, and not an end by itself.
|MY THOUGHTS ON IMPERIAL 2030|
The things I like about Imperial 2030
- The Swiss Bank option – I think this is a good variant for players with control of no-country. With the Swiss Bank, they need not passively wait for benevolent presidents to stop at Investor to hand them cash. They can “force” the presidents to do so now.In our pass sessreps, one can win playing as pure Investor ie without controlling any country. I think with the Swiss Bank, the pure Investor strategy can be more viable.
- World Map. Provides you with heightened sense of megalomania (whereas in Imperial, you are fighting on this small Europe map) and the ability to move from one edge of the map to the other (the Pacific Ocean) means there’s no country with “protected” backline.
- Choose your partner wisely. Here the choice of partner in an alliance can be massive. For eg Russia and China are good as they can each protect each other’s back while expanding on the fronts. I think Brazil and USA is also good. China is also good with India. Spotting these alliance combo and also preventing them from allying are crucial.
- Increased Rondel cost. Neutral on this yet. In our game above, we often forced the rondel to move above the 3 spaces but it did not appear the extra cost was prohibitive. But then again, in past Imperial sessions, I do remember there were times when I barely have enough in the Treasury to move the rondel forward at $1m per extra space. So this might have a balancing impact yet.
Two things I think Imperial are better:
- Taxation Bonus. Imperial pays out performance bonus to the owner only when the current Taxation revenue is more than the previous. Imperial 2030 pays out a performance bonus to the owner whenever Taxation is done.
This has the effect of making Taxation an attractive option since owner will always get bonus regardless of whether the situation has improved or otherwise. This can means the game may end sooner (given that each Taxation will accelerate the game toward it’s ending)
- Neutral areas. With Imperial, each country only has 10 control markers. With Imperial 2030, you get 15 markers. While more markers are good for expansion, it also means the game is “loose” at the beginning and only gets tense towards mid-game when countries start to step on each other’s toes. In Imperial, it’s almost “tense” from the word-go!
Overall, I still think IMPERIAL is a heavier and more tense game (that’s assuming we play with the Pro Start and No-Investor-Card variant). IMPERIAL 2030 seems lighter, less tense, and plays quicker. This is not necessarily bad. It simply means Imperial 2030 may in fact be better suited as the introductory map to the Imperial game system, with Imperial Europe being the pro version; much like how Benelux is a very good introductory map to the Powergrid series.
I think with the increase neutral areas, more open territories… Imperial 2030 gives beginners the breathing space at the start of the game to learn the ropes before they are sucked in to the swift finale. With Imperial Europe, it feels RUSHED as you are thrown into the thick of the action immediately….
Hope you enjoyed this report. Till next week…
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