It’s not often that I sit stumped wondering how to write a preview for a game. Most modern board games tend to be a combination of mechanisms and one super interesting novel mechanic or a cool blend of many mechanics. Imperius by Kolossal Games can be described superficially as a card drafting game where you play to different battlefields to score VP and outmaneuver your opponents. I thought I knew what I was getting into going in.. a cool theme, a fun card game that works as a sort of superfiller. I thought I was getting Coup. But I couldn’t be more surprised by how baffling this game is.
They key conceit that turns this game from a straightforward filler to something else entirely is that you can draft both your own cards and all your opponent’s cards. That means you will receive a hand of cards that include your best card, your opponent’s best card, and even the card you need to best combo together with the current planets in play. You have to decide whether grabbing your own cards is better or worse than grabbing their cards. As you can imagine, this complexity is amped up even further when you play a 3-player or a 4-player game.
Once all the cards are drafted, you begin playing cards to the planets. Each planet has the same limit, and once all cards are played, they will be placed in initiative order and executed. However, each planet can have two cards that are face-down. This means that even though you know that your opponent drafted your cool Assassin, you don’t know where he put it. And he’s probably trying to trick you into thinking that it’s somewhere when it’s really somewhere else.
I’ve played about 5 games now, and I’d definitely call this a 2+ player game, as opposed to one that is best played with 4, but I imagine with more experience the chaos will be easier to manage. With more players, you have even less knowledge about where your cards are.
The art and theme are awesome, and there is a ton of replayability in the box. I can’t stress enough how this game is more than the sum of it’s parts. You will read the description, think you understand what you are getting into, and then sit perplexed by all the possible options on your first turn of the game.
This isn’t what I expected from a card game at all. Usually you can play a small card game and “grasp” it within the first game. Five games in and you feel like you’ve seen most of what the game has to offer. With Imperius from Kolossal Games, I’m still not even sure I know how to score victory points. But my opponents do, and that has me scratching my head and hoping for another play.