Mechanics: Area Control, Stock Market Simulation
Players: 2 - 6
If I am going to spend over an hour on a game, I would like there to be no luck involved. I hate the feeling of losing due to a bad hand or the roll of the dice after I've invested a great deal of time into an otherwise good game. (*cough* Twilight Struggle *cough*)
Imperial is a war and diplomacy game involving no luck. It is also the second Mac Gerdts game on this list. The period just before WWI and Europe was a mess with alliances and the spread of imperialism. Players assume the role of investors buying national bonds from the six works powers, Austria, Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany and Russia. The investor with the highest value bond controls that country and influences its political actions. By spreading influence, the country can earn more in taxes, a part of which comes back to the player for future investing.
Imperial is really a game within a game. On one level, the investors are pitting the counties against each other, acting on the interest of each individual country, but on a much higher level, the investors' ultimate goal is to make themselves the richest. This can lead to some devilish manipulation.
The only downside to the game is that - while it plays up to six players - the more you have, the greater the chance that a player might lose control of any country at all. Being "benched" in this manner is a bit of a drag, but the game does provide an opportunity to get back in the game through investing using the "Swiss Bank".
The table talk and under-the-counter deal making involved in Imperial really enrich the experience. It also has one of the strongest themes of any game on my top ten list, second only to Food Chain Magnate. I love the historic undertone of the game. Overall, it's wonderful game for a get together with some close friends with whom you can actually expect to talk to.