About game:

A long awaited spiritual successor (cause I will not call it a sequel) to the Twilight Struggle (TS) finally arrived. For the last couple of months I was familiarizing with the game and now I am ready to write about my impressions.

But first, what is Imperial Struggle (IS)? In short, it is a two-player game depicting the 18th-century rivalry between France and Britain. It covers almost 100 years (from 1697 till 1789), touching war, political, economical and diplomacy aspects.

Unlike most Card Driven games, here you choose from common pool of investment tiles and only sometimes supplement it with event. Once you play event, it is removed from the game permanently.

The player’s order is not fixed, and depends on VPs position. The action points come in three types – diplomacy, military and economy – and can only be used for that purposes. Last but not least, there are six Peace and four War turns,

Sounds like a fun, and completely different from Twilight Struggle? Indeed, it is. Let us now look into some more details!

Number of players:

As of now, this is purely 2-player game although talks (and suggestions from the designer) imply there might be a solitaire variant. We shall see.

Playing time: Seems a reasonably short game for its complexity – in my best times (playing tournaments) I was able to fit TS into 1.5 hours. I think that with experience, full IS can be played in less than 3 hours. But I am still not there yet 🙂
Complexity:

I think the best way to evaluate it will be to compare with TS – closest and most often brought title when talking about IS. As you might already deduct from above paragraphs, that is definitely more complex design.

Still, I think both TS and IS have pretty straightforward rules (although latter have tons of special cases which I do not like) and the real depth of the game stems from their implementation into the game. Which is great as it gives tons of possibilities.

What I like:
  • I love the game components. They are so great, detailed, thematic. And look at the map. It seems so big although has standard GMT size. Why? Because there are almost no tables there taking place of game area. Great!
  • Then, the game is very thematic – that is visible in the game mechanics, components and even in the vocabulary used.
  • Unlike some other games – and TS unfortunately has it too – there is no fixed opening. Each game is different and can start and end in completely unexpected way.
  • The more you play the more you appreciate the design – indeed, the learning curve is not the shortest, but the process of learning and experiencing the game is great.
  • There are so many variable components – Award Tiles, Global Demand, chosen Ministry Cards, Events – that each game is different and the title is very replayable.
  • Last but not least – the fantastic, almost online support from the designer – Ananda Gupta. Should you have any questions or uncertainties, head to BGG. But please! Do not post immediately a new thread, but search through the existing ones.
What I do not like:
  • There are some errors in the rules and components which can be very annoying but do not otherwise influence the gameplay.
  • I have a feeling there are too many exceptions to generally straightforward rules. Maybe experience and time will change it.
  • I would love the game to finish in War turn – and epic, climatic ending to wonderful 100-years struggle…
  • I feel lack of hand-management. In TS you were fighting with yourselves when to play the opponent event. It is none-existent in IS.
For whom?

For all people who love history and like to play good, medium-complex political / war games. Most of fans of TS should also be thrilled.

More about the game:

And now let us have a look at the components – all pictures from my articles and session reports. Enjoy!

VERDICT:

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I still do not think I played enough of this game for final and decisive evaluation. With each session I am learning new things and the game is more and more interesting for me. This is definitely one of the advantages. On the other hand there are multiple minor things which irritate me – like map errors or pretty many rules clarifications and exceptions; individually they usually do not have too much adverse influence on the experience, but combined sometimes do.

I am saying this because I simply wanted this game to be as perfect as possible – I had great memories connected to Twilight Struggle and my expectations for Imperial Struggle were enormous.

Did we get better game than TS? Well, that is hard question to tackle and probably there will never by one answer to this. Did we get new, innovative, engrossing and multi-layer simulation of 18th century global conflict between France and England – well, for this I can definitely answer yes!

And to sum-up – so there is no misunderstanding regarding my intentions – this game is great and strongly recommended by me! I hope you would like it as much as I do. Probably second edition – with errata and rules clarifications – will get even higher mark from me.

See you in another game review!