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What was Imperialism historically? It was the period in 19th century where major powers (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, USA, Belgium, Holland...) decided to devide the "undeveloped" countries of the world under their rule. It was a time of industrialization that brought great changes to society and the world.
Imperialism by SSI attempts to recreate this period. Starting in 1820 you find yourself as ruler of a country starting to industrialize. Along with you are 6 other nations, played by computer or humans, that compete with you for world domination. You have to make sure that your ressources are connected to your railroad system or can be sent by ship to your capital. In your capital you hire workers, build industries and manufacture ships, weapons, goods. You can sell your goods and ressources on world markets, but make sure your trading fleet is big enough! And you have to balance transportation of ressources and what they will be used for.
You can lure minor countries to accept your investors that buy land with ressources that will give you additional income. Maybe the country will even become a colony and will be economically tied to you? After all, you would have a market for your goods and a source for ressources.
And you shouldn't forget to buy the latest scientific marvels that enhance your industry, ressource production, or your army. You don't want to fall behind in the arms race, do you?
When battle occurs, the game switches to tactical mode and offers a mediocre way of playing the battle. It seems like a very stripped down version of the General series. Sea battles are handled abstractly buy giving the losses.
Overall, the game is pretty mediocre. On easy level you can just conquer the world, on higher levels the AI will gang up on you and beat you down. Plus, the gameplay neglects many factors of the time - local uprisings, social issues (the game only lets your wrokers strike, even if they starve), and occurences like civil wars are absolutely missing. Too bad, as this game had a lot of potential. Rather play Colonization or Risk instead.
One of the best strategy games ever made, Imperialism is the rare turn-based game that strikes a near-perfect balance between economics, diplomacy, and military action set in a fictitious 19th century world. As in the real world, success depends on the ability to manage the economics -- you can't drive a war machine for long without a robust economy under the hood. Different natural resources -- foodstuffs, iron, coal, timber and cotton -- are essential for fueling the empire, for creating the trade goods, and cannons necessary for survival. Extracting these resources and maximizing your production is as involving and as challenging as anything this side of Capitalism; and while that may not be everyone's cup of tea (and the learning curve can be steep), Imperialism treats its subject with such care and detail that hard-core strategy gamers can't help but be delighted.
Your role is as one of the world's Great Powers eager for world domination. Your goal is to build the Empire through conquest, diplomacy, and trade (which is all-important in the game, since your country does not have the resources to be self-sufficient). The world market, of course, runs on a supply and demand system: you can only buy what other countries are willing to sell you. This makes diplomacy important--you can use treaties, trade subsidies, and outright bribery to become the favored trade partner of suppliers of important resources. Building a strong economy, with a steady supply of resources and a steady output of finished goods and troops, is the key to world domination.
Although it looks similar to Civilization, Imperialism is a very different game that relies much more on a (very elegant) system of interdependencies of the various elements. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is by means of an example. Similar to the Settler unit in Civilization, you need non-combat units to improve productivity of your nation. These include Miner, Forester, Prospector, and so on. In order to create one of these units, you need a highly trained worker as well as a supply of paper. But trained and expert workers are at a premium, i.e. you must first educate them, which costs money and paper. To get paper you need wood, which only comes from forests. And you need a certain number of basic necessities, e.g. grain and livestock, before you can even recruit and untrained worker who can be further educated to "trained" and "expert" levels. Military units, logically, require more advanced products such as steel and armanents. This intricate interdependencies of the various components in your industrial development machine mean that an important key to success in the game is to develop a constant flow of natural resources -- timber, coal, cotton and iron -- with which to grow your economy and build your defenses. But inevitably your productivity will outstrip the resources of your own homeland, at which point you will be in danger of invasions from aggressive rivals. The scarcity of resources is thus a powerful impetus for aggressive expansion, trade, and diplomacy, which is what the middle and end game sessions of Imperialism is all about.
The diplomacy model is elegant and well-implemented. You can subsidize trade with other nations or enact boycotts against your rivals. Monetary economic aid, subsidies, embassies, and pacts enhance your diplomatic clout with other nations, who may voluntarily join your empire once they are sufficiently impressed. The international economy is also nicely handled. You can buy and sell all the natural resources, refined products, and finished goods available, including armaments. The amount of trade you can conduct is determined by the size of your merchant fleet, and to expand your merchant fleet, you must produce sailcloth and timber. To produce adequate amounts of cotton and timber, you must have a growing economy. As mentioned above, everything in the game neatly ties into everything else.
Although it sounds complex, micromanagement is kept at a minimum in the game by an elegant system: only a few finished products (clothes, tools, and furniture) represent all commerce. All production is handled on one central screen which represents your capital. So instead of city-by-city clicking every turn, an empire-wide transport network of rails and ports moves the goods into your capital, allowing you to allocate production in one fell swoop. It's a great system, but the drawback is that newly-created military units must all originate in your capital city and march arduously to the front lines.
If there is any weakness in the game, it probably lies in combat, although arguably that is never the game's focus. Naval combat is woefully inadequate and simplistic, especially considering that ground combat utilizes an elegant (although optional) tactical combat engine that require chess-like tactics similar to Conquest of the New World. It is turn based with each turn equaling a season so do the math. Another weakness in the game is the simplistic technology tree-- nothing like the elaborate system of Civilization. But then again, this is not so much a weakness when taking into account the fact that the game focuses on a specific period in history, and in a fictional 19th century world at that. My biggest gripe is that the game can be over all too abruptly. Imperialism is won by the vote of a council that meets every ten years and votes on the world leader. This means that you could win the game just as your empire starts to get interesting and you are plotting a devious plan to eliminate other nations. This could happen long before the 400-turn limit is reached, and the game wont' let you continue after this winning event. This is a minor nitpick, but it is worth noting that you should alienate at least a few nations for as long as possible if you want to play a longer game ;)
Overall, Imperialism is a wonderful turn-based strategy game that is unique in its elegant system of interdependent, interlocking elements. Although Imperialism II expands the concept and adds many new elements, this original game is arguably a more elegant and playable masterpiece. Never will a historical strategy game be this good until Europa Universalis. A must-have, without a doubt.
Imperialism is a managerial strategy game that relies heavily on the management aspect.
Basically, you are the leader of one of seven great powers in a randomly generated world. In addition to these great powers, there are numerous minor powers that play important roles in the game as well.
When you first start the game, you'll probably have two excavators that look for minerals (coal, iron, etc.) in mountains and hills, one farmer to increase the output of fields (and other things) that lie strewn about the countryside, a miner who will turn mineral deposits into mines, and an engineer that is literally the basis of your economy!
Let's start with the economy. You have things like cotton farms, orchards, cattle herds, and farms to produce resources that will in turn be used to create canned food to keep your workers happy. There are forests that provide wood for your nation, which can be used to create boards for making things like weapons, ships, furniture, etc.
You also have minerals (such as coal) that can be used in steel mills and other buildings to create... well, steel and stuff. However, don't think it's easy to get these precious resources! You need to build rail depots and railways to connect them, and that's where the engineer comes in.
In the "Transport" options tab, you can select the number of resources to transport. Transportation units usually start at around eighteen, so you don't have a lot of room. One of the first things you should look at doing is increasing this via the handy-dandy industry screen.
The first thing you'll notice is that there are tons of buildings on the industry screen! Choices range from your Capitol to a furniture factory, and all of these buildings help the economy. The best thing you can do is get everything running smoothly, but that will take a long time (for the most part). You have things like the Capitol to recruit basic workers that can be turned into soldiers or better civilians (to be used for other things like Engineers). Play around a bit. You can also upgrade many of your factories to increase exports, which you can then sell via the "Trade" tab.
Notice how this is going in a stepping-stone fashion? Now, in the "Trade" tab, we have all the mercantile resources and direct exports created by your colony. While you can't choose the selling price, you can choose the number of things you want to sell, as well as items you want to bid for that come from other nations. You can only bid for items from nations that you have "Trade Consultants/Relations" with, which brings us to the final tab, Diplomacy.
In the "Diplomacy" tab, you'll have things such as information about your nation and a world map, as well as ballot boxes for the "League of Governors" (which in turn decides how well your nation is doing on foreign policy). You can also have policies geared towards other nations (as indicated by the little scrolls tab) and can do things like build embassies, create alliances or trade consultants, declare war or peace, and perhaps even get minor nations to join your empire without war (if they like you)!
To entice nations to like you, you can go into the "Grants" tab, and give them $1,000 grants this turn, or every turn, and so on for $3,000, $5,000 and $10,000. Sadly, lots of times at the start of a game you don't have the money to do these things, and it'll usually take a couple of years to get there...
Every year has four turns: spring, summer, fall, and winter. I'm not sure if turns actually affect your industry (e.g. slows down crops in winter), or if it's just to add more realism to the game rather than going from 1815-1816 in one turn.
Occasionally, new technology will be available that'll let you build railways in new areas, or upgrade your terrain to higher levels for increased output. One of the first technologies you'll want, when it becomes available, is the "Iron Railroads" technology. This lets you build over hills, swamps, and other stuff that usually gets in the way of everything.
One thing I forgot to mention was ports. Ports do the same thing as depots, but they don't need railroad connections, and can really come in handy to quickly transport resources that you need.
Now that it's taken me forever to discuss the economic side of the game, its time to discuss the military side! You can build lots of units in this game; from skirmishers and grenadiers, to cavalry and "man of the lines" (that's a ship). Each unit will help kill your enemies ruthlessly without thought, and especially artillery when attacking enemy cities!
Wars with a minor nation are usually very easy, as they never really take offensive action. Wars with a great power are different. You'll want to fortify every one of your provinces and build fortresses in them for extra measure, but build up an offensive force as well.
One neat thing about this game, is that unlike other games where you need to load your men onto ships to transport them across bodies of water, you can just place a ship where you want to invade and tell your troops to go there (which is extremely handy, because less turns = more conquest)! One weak point about the war part of the game is that you can't invade a nation on the same turn you declare war on them.
Other than that though, Imperialism is a wonderful game and worth a try for anyone who likes the managerial genre. All in all, I rate it a 4. It does have flaws, but it's still fun.
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