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Imperium: Classics and Legends

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23 Jun 2021 14:36 #324184 by Gary Sax
Mezike brought this game up in the board games thread, and I've been hearing good things about it from a bunch of critics, so I thought it was a worth a thread.

Reading through the rules right now, it's such a deck-building game with variable powers that it can be difficult to put together what goes on without someone actually playing---most of the relevant rules are on the cards, and it looks like each civ is sort of a little unique engine. There's a tabletop simulator mod that's official, it has 4 of the civs in it, so that's a place you can give it a try if you want too.

I'll report back if I try it, fun card combos are kind of my jam but I'd be concerned that each deck has a concrete "best play" gimmick that you could squeeze out of it after a few plays. Which doesn't mean it's bad, to be clear, most games have this quality.
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23 Jun 2021 16:24 #324185 by Msample
This has popped up my radar as well recently. However Noble Knight ( where I still have a shit ton of credit ) doesn't seem to carry any Osprey stuff so I am sort of a holding pattern. Am attending a small gathering this weekend and am hoping someone there has it to take a look, Its cheap enough to eventually take a flyer on if NK doesn't get it I suppose.

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23 Jun 2021 17:54 #324189 by n815e
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24 Jun 2021 06:49 #324205 by mezike
I have been playing two or three times a day over the past week, and have seen eight out of the sixteen civs in action in a mix of two-player, two-handed solo and v. the bot (which is really well done - it's super quick and each civ has it's own AI that changes the feel of the opposition you are up against, it's like the gold standard for this sort of thing). So not enough experience yet to make any solid declarations on strategy but there are certainly a few dozen plays in the box just to cover the content let alone start digging deep.

One thing that I have started to see are multiple strategic routes with some of the civs. I cannot comment on GarySax's musing that there may be a single dominant strategy for some civs, which may well bear out to be true, but what I have started to see already is that there is dynamic interference coming from several sources; your opponent, the opportunities in the market deck, and which end trigger the game is accelerating toward. This forces enough interference on any assumed plans to push you into opening up your options, particularly if it looks like the game end is going to run away from you, and which gives me some confidence in the integrity of the design.

Another worthy diversion is breaking down an opponents engine. I had a cracking game yesterday where I was able to stop a push for a collapse (unrest runs out). My opponent found a way to accelerate this by sending unrest to me to both deplete the pool and put me in the losing position, but I stymied his plans by setting up a deck manipulation combo that would allow me to immediately return all that unrest back to the pool. This turned his combo into wasted actions which were therefore just wasted cards filling his deck It took a couple of rounds and a lot of investment and was off on a tangent to my main plan, but it was crucial in shutting down a strong play that would have otherwise made my plans irrelevant.

The market deck and the acquisition of cards is certainly deeper than it first appears because you have very limited options on how and when you can get new cards, plus it isn't necessarily a good move to do so even when you can as you may need to keep your deck thin. In some games I have created a very lean engine focused on gaining 'glory' (super-duper cards that also have an endgame trigger) and have dumped my acquisition cards out of the game or pinned beneath other cards in my tableau, in others I have pinned or binned as much as I can to cycle my deck quickly and dig into my empire developments. Having different goals to reach for creates different approaches beyond each civs core engine. Even the value of market cards to you can change depending on the state of play for a whole variety of reasons which also bodes well for longevity - this isn't at all as simple as typical deckbuilders where you grow your engine to buy VPs.
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24 Jun 2021 10:20 #324206 by Gary Sax
Psyched to try it, hope we get a chance on TTS. Not a great fit for me in person since it's confrontational, but I'd get it if I played it enough on TTS to support the designers.

Very interested to see how their 4x works this fall on KS.

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26 Jun 2021 04:28 - 26 Jun 2021 04:30 #324248 by mezike
Tried this with three players yesterday and it worked just fine, Maurans v Celts v Rome. The Celt thought he had a lock on the game but both Rome and myself easily found ways to handle his interference (Rome v Celts seems to be particularly well matched).

I think that three player benefits from having a disruptive faction in play like the Celts or Vikings otherwise I can foresee downtime starting to grind. One thing that we learnt was that the order of operation at the end of your turn is super important - first place a progress, then do your other shit - as it means that the next player can start to do their turn without hanging around for you to sort out your discard pile. I'd also say that it's better for the most experienced or quickest player to be last before the solstice as it will allow the others to get into the solstice while they run the end of their turn and continue to keep things moving.

It's not a particularly long game by any means but can easily stretch by half an hour of thumb-twiddling if people are waiting for the previous player to complete all the turn-end admin.
Last edit: 26 Jun 2021 04:30 by mezike.
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26 Jun 2021 17:46 - 26 Jun 2021 18:28 #324255 by Gary Sax
Mezike taught today, there was some critical stuff I missed so I was very grateful for his teach.

Really impressed with this game for a shortish deckbuilder/engine builder. Particularly, it is way more flavorful than I thought. The pulls from the main deck for the tableau are diverse enough in their powers that it seemed like even though each side has a gimmick, the individual game felt pretty unique.

In retrospect, me grabbing agriculture was probably the turning point of the game, I created a truly dumb materials engine with it and kept cranking.

I'll be curious if the sides ever feel solvable as opposed to strongly focused on one aspect of the game... on first blush the buying from the tableau element would really shake up a meta and make it interactive, mezike could have bought ag out from under me and changed the direction of the game. It feels like the designers played a Pax game and understood how that system sabotages deterministic solutions... so there's a little bit of what if dominion but more complicated and with a pretty ruthless tableau that centers the player conflict.

I know that there are a cadre of us on this board that play weird often heavy games slightly divorced from everyone else but I seriously think this is one everyone on the boards should take a look at. This does not have my usual niche appeal caveats.
Last edit: 26 Jun 2021 18:28 by Gary Sax.
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28 Jun 2021 15:55 #324292 by mezike
I've started digging into some of the more convoluted and weirder civs.

Greeks - you would love this one GarySax as they are a deck-maxing faction. They have plenty of tools to buy buy buy, driven constantly forward by scoring VP for each card you have at the end. They also have some powers that stop your deck from exploding by archiving cards into history. It's a difficult one to play because you have to keep the consumption line going so are often making very situational purchases from the market where you buy something, play it once (or not at all), then history it. They also jump into empire quite quickly so there is a rush to find ways to gain materials and population; because their prosperity card is in amongst the advancements it makes your choices from the market even more important as you find yourself growing too fast and not wanting to spend too much progress in order to avoid an empty reshuffle.

Olmecs are super weird to play. Their shtick is that they have a lot of 'stone mask' cards in their deck which allow you to 'draw 3 if able' - the last two words there are key because they won't advance your deck if it runs out. So you can very quickly pull your deck up to hand, however the masks are also needed as fuel for most of your actions so you have to balance hoarding them to discard or archive to get other things done. I found myself often holding cards at the end of a round, and sometimes nine or ten from all the bonus draws, which is completely counter to the standard approach. Just playing masks will burn up your actions which is all well and good for advancing your deck but doesn't achieve anything tangible. Despite having all these draw powers they play slowly because they are hungry for actions, and because such a large part of your deck are masks they can kind of get in the way at times and you find yourself needing to use two or three actions to accomplish what other civs can do with just one. There is no innate scoring either so you have to work hard to find points, this is not an easy one to work with at all. What I do love about it though is that it is so weirdly unique and different to anything else in the box so far.

Vikings never develop into an Empire, instead they eventually hit their final card that ends the game. There are some cool combos in their nation cards however you will need to use some powers to manipulate that deck in order to get complimentary cards out at the right time. I found that their deck gets weighty pretty quickly because they cannot stop acquiring cards but struggle to do anything synergistic with them because they cannot archive to history. So instead you need to grab lands so that you can garrison cards and using Glory is then a really tough choice because you are unlikely to have empty lands to churn and which therefore fattens your deck by seven cards each time you play it. Of course you also have some abilities you can draw up to help you with that as well so once again manipulating your nation cards is vital as is picking a clear direction you want to take them in.

Think I might be ready to take a punt on the Arthurians soon!
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29 Jun 2021 00:09 #324298 by Gary Sax
Fat deck strategies sound like fun.

Both of these were briefly available for preordering this weekend on miniature market, and I hemmed and hawed long enough to miss them. Probably not a bad thing, all told, I had all the AH: LCG investigator packs in my cart as well so it would have been a big, dumb shipment.

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29 Jun 2021 17:58 #324311 by Gary Sax
Mezike put a cruel hiding on my Carthagians today.

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30 Jun 2021 07:13 - 30 Jun 2021 12:16 #324318 by mezike

Gary Sax wrote: Mezike put a cruel hiding on my Carthagians today.


My Celts were a little bit naughty. Cattle Rustling + Invaders + Notorious meant that I was stealing materials and progress whilst seeding unrest, and along with my base power (give an unrest when buying a new green card) it was an assertive put-down. The game ran long which I believe was to my benefit as I had a fairly fat deck and used Glory four times which slowed it down further; despite this I still managed to flip to Empire and only had two advancements left in the pot. A lot of lands going in and out of play meant that the main deck ran down through exiles but we were only one step away from King of Kings and one or two steps from ending through our empires so there were a lot of cards in play.

Carthage strikes me as quite one-note, it does well if you push for acquisition of materials but seems to fizzle otherwise; either that or it's far more complex than it looks as I'm only drawing from a handful of games with that civ. In any case, the higher difficulty civs are definitely the most rewarding for me so far which is a shame that none of them are in TTS.
Last edit: 30 Jun 2021 12:16 by mezike.
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30 Jun 2021 21:50 - 30 Jun 2021 21:50 #324344 by Gary Sax
I still think I enjoy the subtle differences in approach even when it's simple civs. I played like shit but my engine this time was driven by boats and shoreline locations, which was a different way to make the engine work.
Last edit: 30 Jun 2021 21:50 by Gary Sax.

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01 Jul 2021 11:36 #324360 by mezike
Played Atlantis last night, wow wow wow, such a mind bender. You don't have a history, instead everything goes back to discard, and in its place the keyword is replaced with a 'sink' action that is functionally the same but makes the regular 'history' ineffective. This causes some problems for Atlantis with Glory cards that you would normally want to archive but cannot; pinning in a garrison is the only option, however the powers in your deck require you to sink lands in order to acquire new cards and then later on your version of Glory likewise sinks land to draw from the purple deck. This disturbs the typical use of Garrison to temporarily thin a deck and stops you from achieving multiple plays of the same land via Glory, so you have to consider the land powers as one-shots as well as being very careful not to fill your deck with useless cards that you have nowhere to store. You end up with this hungry ouroboros cycle which destroys the things you acquire along with the cards that help you acquire them in the first place. Even so they are super quick to cycle through the deck because so many cards end up being sunk and there is then a real challenge to collect enough resource to afford development. I squeezed a win against the bot but my score was not super-high so some way to go to figure out optimal play. Anyone thinking about getting just one box I would definitely go against the grain and recommend Legends over Classics, it might be a little more complex but the factions are much more wild and creative.
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03 Jul 2021 04:31 #324393 by mezike
Tried out Utopians and I agree wholeheartedly with the published wisdom that they should not be attempted until you have a good understanding and several plays of the game; it took me until midway through the game to click on how to make them work (and which wasn't helped by misreading the power on one of their pivotal cards) and they require so much fine manipulation of pretty much everything there is to learn in the game that it would be a hard crash to pick them up without first exploring the emergent systems in the design.

Instead of the normal ascension to Empire you have a four-stage journey to Shangri-la to complete; advancing through each stage requires you to ditch all accumulated progress (min 5) and what I've learnt is that it is very much a journey and not a race. It is also a faction that is hungry for cards to archive into history, so rather appropriately your saffron monks are on a voyage of discovery where they learn and archive that knowledge rather than allowing new things to shape their nature like other factions. This means that you pick up a lot of unrest along the way but you have tools at your disposal for garrisoning the unrest under quiet meditation and then dumping it wholesale back into the draw pile. I shudder to think how the unruly Celts would disturb their peaceful contemplation!

The fuel for all of this are a set of scroll cards that need to be garrisoned in order to activate cards, however thinning your deck then leads to more unrest every time your deck is empty so there is another very fine balance to tread on when to acquire, when to garrison, when to abandon. There is a high probability of hitting a reshuffle without only two or three cards in the discard and having to take multiple unrest as a result. On top of this you only have three exhaust actions and mostly everything you do requires you to use them, which further tightens the pressure on carefully plotting your turn. I had a few turns where I just couldn't use all of my actions, which was largely poor strategy on my part for not running the acquire + archive engine well enough. I lost by a fair margin to my friend's Egyptians which he ran reallywell, however I am absolutely itching to get some more plays with Utopia as they present a really interesting and thoughtful challenge.

Then we followed up with my Vikings v. his Minoans where I smashed up all of his pottery and he lost faith in chasing a large land empire and exploiting prosperity to fuel his kilns, instead leaning too heavily on Glory. We talked about it quite a bit at the end because rushing to the end was a good strategy for him given that my Vikings were outpacing him the longer the game went on for, however he should probably have focussed on a thin deck and pushing for developments because although he ended up as King of Kings it was too slow and the return on the glory cards wasn't as good as if he had focussed on his own empire. I hadn't really thought much about the opportunity cost here, that if you want to push for glory then you need to think about how you can manage ditching between five and eight cards into your discard in order to grab one card that will either be a useful power and a couple of VP or ~ten VP. The act of taking glory means you are effectively committing one or two rounds of card draws and actions to recoup what you have burned to gain it and clearly some factions are more tuned to doing this than others.
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03 Jul 2021 08:16 #324395 by southernman
OK, how heavy is this and would you play it with three or four players ? We have a quite bad analysis-paralysis guy in my euro group that I'm scared will drive the others not to play this again, and I only would be playing it (95% of time) with three or four player counts.
Does sound interesting and obviously a decent price here in the UK.

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