Looking at my blog you can easily conclude that I am big fan of the Imperial Struggle. So when I saw on the boardgamegeek that there is idea to play an VASSAL tournament I immediately showed my interest.

Thanks to tremendous effort by Jason Sample, what was a great idea started to shape into a pretty concrete endeavor. A group was gathered, tools and rules defined, communication channels established. We started early in September and as first Round is coming to an end (11 out of 12 games finished) I think it is good time to write about that initiative.

Tournament Rules

As with every engagement of this type, a set of rules was created to guide the players. The detailed version can be viewed by everybody on Google Docs, but let me provide short summary of most important one’s.

  • First and foremost rule – we play for fun! Yes, this is indeed a tournament in itself, we play competitively and check results. At the same time we are building the community of like-minded fellow baordgamers, connected by common fascination by Imperial Struggle.
  • We do not cheat. We implemented some ways to objectively determine the regional awards as well as commodities – the Discord DiceParser is a great tool for this. Still, if somebody is really stubborn, he/she can always find a way around. As this is friendly community and there is zero prize for first place (except for the personal satisfaction) we find such behavior – should one occur – worth condemning.
Using a DiceParser – available for everybody who uses Discord – Jason created a very elegant script to draw awards and commodities.
  • As for the tools, the main medium is Discord, where all games have its own sub-channels to report progress of the game. The game itself is played via VASSAL module, with Spain optional rule.
Imperial Struggle VASSAL module is not only very functional and easy to learn but also beautifully designed and developed
  • We compete in 24 boardgamers group. Being conscious of time needed to play, the tournament is not a round robin (would take too much time) nor an elimination / play-off style (everybody would love to play at least couple of games, learning in process) – but a multi-round Swiss style one. That should result in about 5 rounds to play. You can check more on the system here: VT Chess Swiss pairing system.
  • To calculate players rating, we use ELO method (more here)
ELO rating and win probability
  • We assume one Round should take no more than six weeks; actually, the first one was almost finished in four which seems to be a really result!

On top of above, it is worth to mention that we have also started strategy sub-channel, where many players – among the the prominent ones like Steve or Christian – are sharing their ideas based on games played. It can get a little overwhelming sometimes or discussion can turn into a little heated one (wink, wink 😛 ) but it always calms down and great ideas come out of this. I am going to share some of those thoughts in one of the articles.

Round 1 results

I think everybody is interested how, from statistical point of view, the tournament is going on. So far we have data only from first Round (11 out of 12 games finished) but with every finished game we will get more, which will allow for more precise conclusions. Also, we all learn the game and I am sure pretty soon the factor of “I am pretty new to game” will be out of the equation.

  • Winners – in our 11 games, France won 8 games (72%) and Britain was victorious in 3 plays (28 %).
  • Game duration – the longest lasted till the final scoring (four times), the shortest finished by concession after Turn 3. As per my calculation, on average, the play would last till end of Turn 5, finishing just before American War of Independence.
  • Bidding – in some of the games the sides were decided randomly, in some via bidding. Players were willing to sacrifice from 0 to 2 Treaty Points, with average close to 1 TRP for France.

As for my game, I was paired with Ivan from Australia (I am the gull nick name). It was really fun game where I was leading the British (for the first time) and Ivan the French. Despite the Time Zone difference, we easily keep tempo with one Action Round per day.

Situation at the end of Turn 5, ending in automatic British victory over France (click to enlarge)

The asynchronous play allowed us to really well familiarize with the game, especially with the later eras ministry and even cards. We both made tons of mistakes but also some of the brilliant moves. I like also the openness when we simply commented on what we do and why – the game was not a dry exchange of log files but a real conversation.

It was really pity we finished just before AWI war – I am always thrilled when you flip the War tiles and resolve the effects. One of my favorite parts of the game!


The Round 2 is underway and progressing smoothly. We all learned already a lot about the game, strategies, tactics, openings, decisions regarding who goes first, etc. We also become much more proficient with tools – the recent example of the great script by Jason using DiceParser is good indication of this. And I think – this is my personal observation – people have a lot of fun in that group, though some discussions of course arise from time to time 🙂

Thanks for reading the article – you can count on the report from the second Round once it is finished but I will also share some of our combined group thoughts on strategy which were derived based on our plays. And thanks to Jason for fantastic initiative and time devote to run the 2020 Imperial Struggle VASSAL Tournament!.