Imperial was published in 2006 by Rio Grande Games, the company that brought us Bohnanaza, Puerto Rico, and Carcassonne. The game was designed by Mac Gerdts, a German board game designer known for designing the Rondel series, which Imperial is a part of.
The illustrations were done by Matthias Catrein.
- Printed tiles:
- 1 gameboard;
- 54 bond cards of the six nations (in denominations of 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 16, 20, 25, 30 million);
- 90 flags in 6 colors (15 per nation);
- 6 nation flag cards;
- 1 investor card;
- 130 Bank notes;
- 1 instruction booklet;
- 1 quick intro;
- 1 booklet ”Historical Data on the Six Powers“;
- Wooden components:
- 48 armies in the six nation colors (10 yellow; 6 red; all others 8 each);
- 48 fleets in the six nation colors (10 red; 6 yellow; all others 8 each);
- 30 factories (15 light blue shipyards and 15 brown armament facilities);
- 6 octagonal high markers in the six nation colors (for the rondel);
- 12 octagonal low markers in the six nation colors (one for the tax chart and one for the scoring track);
- 1 turn maker (wooden pawn);
Imperial is a classic Eurogame with no elements of luck brought by dice. It is a pure strategy and a very deep one as well. It will definitely take time to understand the rules, but the gaming experience you can have with Imperial will be worth it.
Each player takes on the role of a major investor in the age of imperialism. Your job is to achieve the biggest influence in Europe. You will control the politics of the six imperial nations: Great Britain, Russia, the German Empire, Italy, Austria-Hungary, and France. You watch them build factories, collect taxes, and deploy armies. To win, you have to increase your capital and achieve influence in the most powerful imperial nations.
You can have 3 to 6 players.
Each of the six countries has five provinces, and each province can have a factory.
Investors can own bonds. There is a number of bonds for each country. Bonds rise in value from 2 million to 25 million, and as the value goes up, the percentage paid back to the investor decreases. In the beginning, there are two different ways to deal the bonds: you can either give some cheap ones to the players or give them a starting bank to allow them to buy bonds they choose.
For each country, the player who has invested the most money into it has the ability to control the government and decide what actions the nation takes.
Besides the countries, there are also neutral spaces on the board.
The nations take turns to perform actions. An action is moving the nation’s marker round the rondel. Each segment of the rondel carries a specific type of action. You can build factories, produce new units (ships and armies), move units, import units, tax, or invest.
When your unit arrives at a neutral space, you declare it your own. To conquer a space owned by somebody else, you have to become the owner of all the units on that space.
Battles work like this – if units of different owners happen on the same space, they either fight or coexist peacefully. If they choose to fight, then an equal number of units is destroyed on both sides. For example, if one player has 1 unit, and another has 2 units, then each player loses a unit, and the second player has 1 remaining unit.
When you choose investing as your action, you get interest on the bonds in the country that lands on the space.
Tax pays money to the country’s treasury, based on how many factories and tax chips it owns. When a country collects taxes, it advances on the power bar at the bottom of the board.
The game is over when some country reaches 25 on the power bar. Then you sum up all the bonds you have (a bond is worth more if the country is higher on the power bar) with your money. The player with the highest total wins.
You can download the full manual with rules PDF here.
A follow-up to Imperial, Imperial 2030 takes place in the 21st century, and this time the whole world is on the game map. As in Imperial, players do not own countries – they invest money and influence their politics.
Diplomacy is set in Europe before the World War I. Each player controls the armed forces of a European power. You aim to move your units to win influence over strategically important cities.
Antike was also designed by Marc Gerdts. It has similar mechanics to Imperial, but it is a lighter game that is easier to master for beginners. The game is set in the Mediterranean during the time of wars between Greek city-states.
Mare Nostrum is a more traditional civilization building game based on trading and negotiation.
Through the Ages is another complex analysis-heavy game for hardcore gamers. If you have enjoyed Imperial, you are likely to enjoy this one as well.
If you want to play Imperial on your iPad, there is an iOS app designed for your needs. You may download this app here.
You can also play it online via BrettspielWelt on your PC.
Q: Can Imperial be played with 2 players?
A: Yes, it can. With just 2 players, the game will have a very different feel and will become extremely competitive. If one of the players gets ahead, it will be almost impossible to bring them down, and the gameplay will not be too exciting.
Q: Imperial and Imperial 2030: which is better?
A: The two games are very similar. The main difference is that Imperial 2030 covers a bigger territory, so the game is more “global”. In the original game, there are fewer neutral spaces. Imperial 2030 has an improved taxing system.
Q: How many bonds can be purchased at once if you are carrying the investor card?
A: You can buy only one bond with the investor card even if you are not controlling the country.
Q: Ships from different countries can coexist peacefully on the same space. Can armies of different players do the same?
A: Yes, they can. The same battle rules apply for armies as for ships.
Q: How does an iOS version of Imperial feel compared to the board game?
A: The app is stable and gives you the opportunity to play your favourite game anywhere and anytime. It has a tutorial, but the app is not recommended as a way to learn the rules. The game is too complicated to be learnt that way. The app does not give you any tips on how to play the game.
Imperial is an economic strategy and it gives you what it promises – you decide where you want to invest, which countries you want to support and influence, what you want to do with your factories, with your armies and fleets.
The difficulty of the game may scare some players away, but do not worry – your time will be paid off since the replaying potential of Imperial is simply fantastic. There are so many options, so many things to do, so many roads that may lead you to your victory (or your financial crash) that you just cannot get tired of playing again and again and introducing your friends to it (though each time it will be painful because you will have to teach every newcomer how to play).
Imperial is not a wargame, so, if you approach it like one, you will probably lose. Imperial is not about leading wars. It is not about gaining control over as many spaces as possible, either. It is about investing your funds cleverly, avoiding unnecessary expenses, and influencing the major political powers in Europe in the right way.
Imperial will stand out as a real treasure it is on your shelf.
You can buy Imperial on Amazon.