Its 1977, Marc Miller has just released the Sci Fi RPG Traveller, which will set the standard for all Sci Fi games to follow, and GDW, the company Marc works for release Imperium. A board war game in the Traveller universe. I picked this up of a guy in the next city from mine for 5 wigwams. Deal since this sucker normally goes for at least four times that on ebay.
Its a pretty mint game too. This is a space opera board game, and its very asymmetrical. One side is the Terrans, the earthlings, the future us. The other is the Imperium, a massive conglomerate of alien races. The Terrans are the upstarts rebelling against the Imperium, and the much embattled Imperial regional governor has to put down this insurrection. This is one thing you get from older games that seem less common in the new, genuine imagination. I like Twilight Imperium as much as the next nerd but the back story for that game is very old hat compared with Chadwick and Millers design here.
The game is fairly simple. Both players spend resources to build units and then move them down the space lanes to fight each other. Theres a fair amount of nuance in how to spend and how to work your logistics but the game play quickly gravitates toward each side having a largish fleet and each trying to decide whether its worth pulling the trigger yet. The terrans make seek to find another route to attack the soft imperial worlds, the Imperium will try to hold all the choke points.
I said in my last post that wargames are about manoeuvre and the synergies between different units, but theres some thing else they are about, pulling the trigger and story. The best war games put you on a knife edge. Do you risk your entire fleet and go for the KO, or do you wait one more turn, maybe they will make an error, maybe you can get that one more ship into your fleet but times running out. The best war games (Hannibal Rome Vs Carthage does this excellently) ratchet up the tension and leave you hanging. Hanging until you pull the trigger and everything starts to explode. In Imperium, when a battle starts both sides line up their expensive irreplaceable ships and watch them get blown away.
Damn right its a trap, I had two extra cruisers in that fleet you weren't aware of.
Tension is the child of consequence. In Imperium, you don't play one game. You play many as part of a campaign. Each game only lasts until the imperial glory track either drops too low, or rises too high, resulting in either a victory or a defeat. The campaign only ends however when one side has been eradicated and lost all of its worlds. Waste that fleet, you might not just regret in this game, but the game next week.
Its a shame that this game is so long out of print. If it was brought back, i doubt it would sell well though. Whilst its not that complex, games like this are confined to niche blogs like this these days (not that i was around back in the day).