While I deem it too early to provide a definitive review or a solid strategy guide for Imperial Struggle, some aspects can be definitely analyzed. One of them is of course the initial set-up of the game, which is specific to each nation and provides different opportunities. What follows is analysis of major game dimensions with brief summary. More detailed article – what to do with those opportunities – will follow once I play more games of that fantastic title.

Other articles regarding Imperial Struggle:
Imperial Struggle – what’s in the box?
Imperial Struggle – initial after action report
Imperial Struggle AAR – a crushing French victory


Set-up – Europe
  • Control (Award Marker)France starts with 4-3 lead
  • Prestige – both sides are equal with 1 space controlled by each

Probably the most important theater. You cannot neglect it and plan to win, but controlling only that area will not grant you the victory. What is worth to remember – political spaces does not need adjacency, so Europe is virtually open for all possible diplomatic actions from each side. It is also full of advantages (7 of such) which can be a powerful addition.

North America

Set-up – America
  • Control (Award Marker) – equal, with 4 spaces controlled by each faction
  • Trade Goods – Furs – both sides are equal with 1 spaces controlled by each
  • Trade Goods – FishBritain starts with 1-0 lead

All French areas are in Northern Sub-Region, while all British in Southern. As this is mainly economic (Markets) region it is hard to get to some of the spaces and take control of them or build a fort. Adjacency is a key. A well-placed fleet can help, while a conflict marker can stop the expansion.


Set-up – Caribbean
  • Control (Award Marker) – equal, with 5 spaces controlled by each faction
  • Trade Goods – Tobacco Britain starts with 1-0 lead
  • Trade Goods – SugarFrance starts with 2-1 lead

A very thematic theater – all those Pirates! I tend to forget that Florida and Louisiana is also part of this, thus overlooking those spaces often. You need to build your economy empire step after step, again preferably with fleet assistance remembering about the adjacency. Here you can also use the Optional Variant with Spanish presence. The fight in the Caribbean could be very fierce.


Set-up – India
  • Control (Award Marker) – equal, with 4 spaces controlled by each faction
  • Trade Goods – CottonFrance starts with 2-1 lead
  • Trade GoodsSpiceBritish starts with 1-0 lead

A very balanced theater – and a very interesting one. There are initially two choke-points worth of interest – West Bengal (Cotton) in Norther Sub-Region and Tiruchirappali (Spice) in Southern which once taken over, provides access to broad spectrum of possibilities. While not a primary target for initial turns for any of the sides, whoever will find some resources to start investing here, will reap the fruits of this foresight.


Set-up – Fleets

Not surprisingly, British starts with advantage here. It can be strengthened by one of their early ministers. This should not be underestimated – Naval squadrons are a very mobile device, allowing for a quick takeover of the region or a prestige space (Europe). The question is always, how French will respond to that initial situation.

Advantage tiles

Set-up – advantages (left – French, right – British)

Both sides start with 1 Advantage tile (see errata for playbook, which was stipulating only Wheat for British). A curious thing – of course, planned by designers 🙂 – both tiles are in America! And can be immediately used by both sides in first turn. That makes that region a really important place, especially in face of third theater of the initial War.


Succession era French ministers
Succession era British ministers

While a separate article can be written about ministers – preferably going through all three eras – I would like to at least briefly touch on them. At least short analysis is needed to have a full picture of possibilities:

French – four out of five have something to do with Europe. That clear bias in the initial phase of the game shows relative strength of France on the Old Continent. Used in conjunction with the Wars (see below) can produce a devastating mix.

British – more versatile candidates here but I also see them as much more unequal. The investment in new squadrons (Edmond Halley) is always a good choice, increased Debt Limit (Bank of England) long term provides a great boost. East India Company can accumulate points so needed by the British to survive initial turns. Other than that, not so much immediate use, but I am still learning so this is not a definitive statement 🙂

In essence, you may say that ministers will be used by France to strengthen her assault on Europe while British need to choose one’s allowing them to survive that onslaught and make long-term investments to win.



The French starts the game with initiative. This gives them possibility to choose who will go first in the turn. And this is not an easy choice. In my initial games – just like most of the players – I deemed being the second and thus last in turn as very important. But after playing more and more I realized that this is not always the case – you might need specific Investment Tile to invoke event, there can be scarcity of Major Diplomacy Tiles (to un-flag) or Major Military Tiles (to remove the squadron). Whatever the decision of player leading France will be, that is for sure huge advantage for him/her.

Initial Conflict – War of Spanish Succession

War of the Spanish Succession
  • Theaters of War – three are in Europe, one in North America
  • Bonus War Tiles – France leads here 1-0
  • Bonus Strength – 11 European countries contribute here, probably the most Europa focused War of all.

What can be said here? If British neglect that aspect (see my first game) this is simply road to disaster and quick French victory. The things look grim for the “Empire on which the sun never sets” analyzing the set-up, and all precautions must be made to avert disaster.

Graphical comparison

French advantage Balance British Advantage
  1. Europe Control (+1)
  2. Sugar (+1)
  3. Cotton (+1)
  4. Bonus War Tiles (+1)
  5. Initiative
  1. Prestige
  2. America Control
  3. Caribbean Control
  4. India Control
  5. Furs
  1. Fish (+1)
  2. Tobacco (+1)
  3. Spice (+1)
  4. Fleets (+1)

Having all above details at hand you may start to draw conclusions – I will leave it for another article. Still, it has to be remembered that a lot of strategies will be dictated by variable set-up elements:

  • Award Tile VPs amount
  • What three Trade Goods are in demand
  • What events each side got
  • What Investment Tiles are available

I love how the game is designed and set-up and also, how unique each game start can be. That will for sure contribute to the title replayability and my interest in it.


When I was writing above, a strange feeling of familiarity was growing in me. I am not sure if this was designers’ purpose, but as USSR in Twilight Struggle, so does France in Imperial Struggle seems invincible in the beginning. The US / British goal is to survive the initial onslaught, not allow for too much enemy lead in points and then recover in subsequent eras. And to be honest – I love such asymmetry!