Kickstarter Preview: Imperius

Designer: Grant Rodiek (Farmageddon, Cry Havoc, Five Ravens, Solstice: Fall of Empire)

Artist:Gong Studios

Publisher: Kolossal Games

Play time: 30- 45 minutes

Player Count: 2-4 Players

A prototype copy of Imperius was provided by Kolossal Games for this preview. I want to thank them for supporting Jambalaya Plays Games. Everything you see today is in prototype form and may not represent the final product.

Overview

As described by the publisher, “The Empress has died. The heir to the Crown Imperius has vanished. As the bloodline of the Atarchus dies, so does the Empire of the Dawn. Mutinies have been reported by garrisons on the frontier as the minor houses vie for control of the Known Universe and everything within it.

It is to be civil war.

Beyond the lies, the promises, the bloodshed, and the assassins’ blades there will surely be a grand future. One with an Ashnon, or Drakkai, or Quell, or Zathmir noble sitting on the Dawn Throne. Surely a new empire is to be formed. But first, blood.”

Thematic Ties

Imperius draws some of its inspiration from Dune, a book by Frank Ebert that was originally published in 1965. I’m no Dune lore expert, but I can see the influence in the all over the artwork and some similarities in theme. I only know of Dune because of a mildly interesting motion picture released in the early eighties. Grant makes no mistake in sharing his love for Dune and how it was part of the inspiration behind Solstice: Fall of Empire, which eventually evolved into Imperius. For reference, check out the trailer for film Jodorowsky’s Dune. At least you get to see how epic the movie could have been.

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There are four factions with six cards, player board, Control tokens, and injury track

Gameplay

Imperius is played over several rounds until one player reaches 20 points. You will have to work with partial knowledge, other faction’s cards, and unpredictable events to defeat your opponents. Each round has five phases. Each round begins with the Deal Phase, where players are dealt five cards except in a two-player game they receive six card.

In Draft Phase, players will take one Faction card from their five card hand and pass the rest to the left. Cards from all factions and events can show up in everyone’s hand. You could end up with none of your own Faction cards. I was a little shocked during my first experience with the Draft Phase. I wasn’t sure what these cards were supposed to do. I was worried about getting my Noble killed or assassinating everyone else’s Noble. I didn’t want to be the guy that made the mistake of boosting someone to a huge head start. After the first go around you start to understand the real purpose of each card, but you will learn the hard way. After everyone has four cards, the fifth cards are passed to the first player and placed randomly in front of each planet.

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In the Dispatch Phase, players take turns placing one Faction card face up or down card and deploying them to one of the planets. Each planet has a five-card limit and only two cards may be placed face down. You have to make some serious strategic choices and sometimes be willing to risk it all based on some sort of unreliable deduction information. Sometimes you’re locked out of a planet because someone placed a fifth Faction card before you stinks. You might have figured something out, but nope, someone closed it out for their benefit. The hidden information creates the right amount of anticipation and tension heading into the Resolution Phase.

The Resolution Phase starts with flipping over all of the Faction cards on the left most planet and organizing them in ascending order. You must pay attention to which faction has the most Favor (Blue) and Strength (Red). Both play a part in how points are awarded from specific cards and where Control tokens are placed. The round ends when all planets are resolved. Watching the resolution of each planet can be rewarding and demoralizing. So, you assume you’ve played your hand perfectly and it didn’t all play out as you intended, but you have a couple Control tokens out there. You have multiple ways to stay in the game. The Control tokens can potentially score you a decent chunk of points during the end game scoring. Card by card, planet by planet, round by round, you always have a chance to turn it all around. If you want to change it up and play the advanced variant with Advanced Elders, Advanced Planets, and more random events, you have a ton of replay value. Don’t worry, you will want to play this again like right away.

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The Reset Phase begins after all planets are resolved. You check to see if anyone has 20 points and pass the first player token. Now dig this, you shuffle all of the cards used in the current round and place them under the left-over cards in the deck. I’m honestly not sure how much you can use that to your advantage, but I’ll let you figure that one out. Maybe you have an idea what was missing?

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When one player reaches 20 points, the game is over and the final scoring begins. Victory Points for each planet are once again awarded to the player with the most Control tokens one each planet. If there are any ties, then no points are awarded. I’m not a fan of this rule, but my preference shouldn’t spoil your impression. Everyone scores one point for each Control token they have and players deduct points if they have any casualties during the game. The player with the most points wins.

Why Should I back Imperius?

  • VERY HIGH REPLAY VALUE
  • Plays well at all player counts
  • The advanced game unlocks the true potential of the design
  • The theme and art sucked me into the game
  • So much gameplay inside of a small set of cards
  • Creates tension and keeps everyone focus on game

Any Concerns?

  • New players will probably get crushed
  • The tie rule…it’s just my preference. I like friendly ties, but the theme is not pushing friendly gameplay
  • The control tokens scoring was hit and miss, but I blame that a little on sabotage players

Final Impressions

When I’m deciding on which Kickstarter games I want to throw my money at, I prioritize games that present something unique. I’m looking for a game has a little familiarity with a twist. A game that attempts to risk being different, but understands that having solid design is more important than trying to be edgy. Imperius is an innovate experience that creates tension and pushes players to unlock its true potential. You have to guess a little bit, but most of the excitement is determined by how you play a mix of cards that might not be from your faction. If you end up with a hand full of Event cards, you might feel in control of how everything plays out, but your whole “masterplan” doesn’t work out. How do you play a hand with two different faction’s Assassins to your benefit? There’s a lot of card by card strategy at play and you’re expected to make the best choice. I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to portray my appreciation of what Imperius has to offer. I’m blown away by how much gameplay is possible this small box game. I can potentially see Imperius falling flat for some game groups. You might have players who try to sabotage the experience and hap hazardly play cards. This is still light deduction, but some people will have a hard time grasping strategy beyond the basics. Overall, Imperius presents an interesting and innovative take on card drafting and card play. Your game night crew will become addicted to it and turn this filler into an all nighter. I’m happy that I had the opportunity to play Imperius. This is not the first time I’ve been impressed with Grant Rodiek’s work and I’m sure it will not be the last. Take a look at the Kickstarter page and decide if it’s the right game for you.

I hope today’s preview was informative. I honestly couldn’t hold back my positivity on this project. It’s already funded…..cause it’s damn good. If you have any questions or comments, please post them below. Thank you for your time.

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