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Published several years ago (2009) by PD verlag IMPERIAL 2030 is a reimplemented/revised edition and stand-alone game based on the rules, ideas and mechanics of the popular IMPERIAL (2006). 

This game is designed by Mac Gerdts, a competent, excellent, game designer since 2005. If you are a regular Euro-style board games player it isn't likely that you haven't heard of him before. Mac Gerdts is very clever at balancing his game mechanics with the required length of game time required, so if it says 45 minutes on the box that's how long it should last. IMPERIAL 2030 has a time of 2-3 hours, thus it isn't a fluffy Euro-family-strategy-game, it is a full blown strategy game. 

Set in the near future, Imperial 2030 (from the title you can guess what year in the future it is) is suggestive of how so many citizens view their Governments; wealthy individuals using their money to get what they want; buying favours, making decisions for the Country (through their 'pet' Parliamentarians), having rules for them that are opposite of the rules the majority of the populace are forced to live by, paying for questions (in Parliament) etc. Of course none of these things happen in the real world, or so the politicians (and their advisors) would have us believe. Anyone fancy a trip to Barnard Castle?

In IMPERIAL the players are International Investors whose main aim is to gain cash and influence in the world of European finance. In IMPERIAL 2030 the players are (dodgy) Investors for shady companies who support the World's major powers by purchasing their stock. I never played IMPERIAL but apparently IMPERIAL 2030 began life as an extensive expansion, and developed into this stand-alone edition. Also apparently, Imperial 2030 is a much better game - obviously not from my experience - according to information found online.

I have to admit that it took us longer than usual to actually get into the swing of Imperial 2030. Our best rules reader and regulator found that the 16 pages of rules to be quite complicated, and although they are much shorter, in word count and page count, they compare more to the heavy rules of tabletop wargames than the generally accepted and expected rules of a Euro game. As I say, I never played Imperial, but these rules read as if I should already have knowledge of it.

The game-board/map is printed in English on one side and German (according to Google translator - I thought it was Dutch) on the other.

Players begin the (base) game with three markers in their colour. One of these is placed on the Rondel, one on the score track and one reminds the other players what colour every other player is. The players also have (4-6 players) $13 million (if I had that much I think I'd automatically retire, no way would I risk it on any stock market), plus each player is randomly dealt a Nation flag - with certain numbers of players (the game is for 2-6) specific Nations must be chosen. It is important for the balance of play that you adhere to distribution rules.  With 3 players the starting cash is $24 million and $35 million when there are only 2 players - there are also specific rules changes dependent on the number of players there are. 

Each different Rondel space offers a different Action. For example Nations on 'Import' may buy up to 3 Military/Fleet Units which can then be deployed in home provinces free from Hostile armies. Fleets can battle opposition ships if they move into an occupied sea area, and they can be used in convoys to convey military units, one military unit per fleet per turn. Fleets entering occupied areas do not have to fight. They can instigate a fight or they can ask other Nations in that area if they want to fight. This is different from any other game I have played and takes some getting used to. In following turns these markers are moved clockwise round the Rondel, up to 3 spaces for free or with a cost (to the Bank) for spaces after 3.

Mac Gerdts uses the Rondel similarly to how he has used it before. At the setup each player places their marker on one of the Rondel spaces (with less than 6 players all unselected Nations are in play), There is too much text for me to give full definitions for each Action, plus I would only be copying from the Rules book, so here is a brief nod to each:

Factory; the Nation can build one new factory in a brown city for $5m  - Shipyards may only be built in light blue cities.
Taxation; 4 steps - Revenue, Soldier's Pay, Success Bonus and Adding Power Points.
Import; The Nation may buy military units for $1m each - units may not be placed in areas with hostile armies.
Investor; 3 steps - Pay out Interest, Activating the Investor (the player with the Investor card gets $2m from the bank to invest), Investing in a Swiss Bank - players with a Swiss Bank Account and without the Investor card may invest in their account.

Maneuver x 2; Fleets move to adjacent sea regions, Armies move to adjacent land regions.
Production x 2; The Nation can produce one appropriate unit per factory for free - no production in foreign occupied cities

The rules are not always particularly clear, in fact some are quite difficult to take in without them having examples. I found that we learned more from reading the examples and then referring to the rules than the other way round. In many cases, without the examples, some of the rules are somewhat confusing. This is one of the few games where more (text per rule) would be better.

War games rules are often long, verbose, and filled with appendices and can be daunting until they are understood, and then the game flows. War games rules are also off-putting for many players who enjoy Euro-style board games, and I think that because IMPERIAL 2030 is a convergence of a heavy board war game and a Euro-style economic strategy game it takes a little more effort by the players to discover just how good it can be. 

This isn't a game that you can open the box and just begin playing. There is a lot to know and understand, especially about investing in Nations, owning Countries, Taxes, and the responsibility and ramifications of each. Once you have this understanding and knowledge the possibilities for varying your game strategies are enormous, and it is unlikely you will quickly (or even at all) find a winning formula. There is also a possibility that an inexperienced player amongst a group of experienced may find themselves floundering for their first few games, so it is important that any obvious mistakes they are about to make (or have just made) be pointed out (in a nice way so as not to make them feel silly).

You should also realise that not owning a Country can be a very empowering position because there are certain advantages/actions to not having one, which, if strategised properly, can swing games. Having the Investor card can also be either an advantage or a disadvantage because of what it offers. Throughout the game you will find things that seem too powerful, not powerful enough, or simply not powerful, or not significant or insignificant. Each player should be able to find more than enough different ways to make their mark in the economic climate for their chosen Nation/s. Players that do not own a country have a Swiss Bank Account, where smaller Bonds give better interest.

When we introduce new players to a game (any game, but this one in particular) we often make suggestions to them when it is their turn. We don't tell them how to play or what move/action they must do, but we do try to show them alternatives and perhaps the significance each possibility will have on their game, especially if it will be of a huge (or simply any) advantage to one or more other players without actually being a good move for themselves.

Page 14 and half of page 15 are taken up by an interesting FAQ (by interesting I mean that the questions asked and answered aren't the usual banal/stupid made-up queries, the answers to which are blatantly clear in the rules) and some sensible strategy tipswhich help lesser experienced players gain confidence.

The object of the game is being successful at granting Bonds to the six Great Nations and thereby scoring them power points for economic powers and military strengths. Players need to be careful but also adventurous in their investments and shouldn't put all their eggs in one basket; the total value of each player's Bonds plus 1VP per each million in cash determines the winner. The starting point of the endgame valuation is when one Nation reaches 25 power points.

Games played to their conclusion will almost certainly last 2-2½ hours, but even though you may be ready for this amount of time you should keep an eye on the Power Point situation because the end might come quicker than you expect.

The components are created using high quality card and shaped pieces in polished wood. They needed to be this good because of the amount of playability and replayability IMPERIAL 2030 has to offer.

Mac Gerdts is a popular designer who has an impressive list of popular games: 

Mac Gerdts' Games

Antike (2005)

Imperial (2006)

Hamburgum (2007)

The Princes of Machu Picchu (2008)

Imperial 2030 (2009)

Navegador (2010)

Antike Duellum (2012)

Concordia (2013)

Antike II (2014)

Imperial 2030 (2016)

Transatlantic (2017)


© Chris Baylis 2011-2021