My dad and I concluded our campaign game of Imperium prematurely at the end of our second session. We began by playing the final turn of the first war, adjudicated the 1 turn interwar peace then played the subsequent war before putting the brakes on things.
While I went with the strategy of buying as many Fighters, Scouts and Destroyers as I could afford, my dad made the mistake of purchasing several Terran Dreadnoughts. The main problem with his strategy was that the Dreadnoughts’ maintenance cost ate his entire budget for several turns, leaving him unable to buy any replacements. So, while I could maintain a huge fleet at almost no expense by leaving my Destroyers and Scouts on the Frontiers, only making sure that my Cruisers were stationed where they could be paid for and properly maintained, the Terrans could never mount any effective counter strikes.
I backed into the win in the first war, which concluded with the Terran Dreadnought fleet smashing some of my smaller craft. When the Terrans could match me ship for ship, I would be unable to concentrate enough fire power on the capital ships to do any damage. However, once I’d managed to pick off a few of the escorts, I could regularly bring maximum firepower against capital ships by assigning several small ships to the bigger Terran warships.
What may have sealed the Terrans’ defeat was my dad’s aversion to buying smaller craft; he hated them – they’re weenies. Unfortunately, he may have missed the important lesson that…
Though I knew I would be unable to hold it, a few cruiser with jump troops bypassed the outpost on Barnard’s Star took a chance an seized Alpha Centauri B. This bought me some extra time to grovel for imperial favors. Though the fleet abandoned the troops for a few years, the subsequent rescue cost several Glory points, I’d had plenty of time to pick apart the Terran fleet and outposts using hit and run.
If I’m going to see how the game works out as the Terran player with the small ships strategy, I’m on my own. My dad doesn’t want to play this one again, and I can’t really blame him. It really is not a very good game. Though the idea is really great and the art impressive, Imperium just isn’t that fun. Combat is always going to focus on the Barnard’s Star / Agidda link and around Procyon. If the Imperium takes Procyon, the Terran’s can’t protect their flank, and the Imperium merely needs to hold the Dushaam / Nusku system with both Ross and Barnard’s Star liable to change hands a few times. Most of the game was spent with giant stacks of imperial warships on these junctions and the Terrans running back and forth trying to keep them from advancing.
With movement split between “go anywhere that’s connected for free” vs. “move one hex per turn”, there are just no real viable alternatives in the strategic game. An expeditionary force could cross the jump-path donut hole in five or six turns and do what? Capture or destroy an Imperium outpost that would immediately be scrapped because it would be considered “untenable” during the peace interval? No thanks.
I can see why there have been so many attempts to “fix” Imperium. It looks really cool, it’s an epic outer space war game and, hey, 1977, classic, right? But it’s just really bad. The campaign game is supposed to go until one side is completely crushed, but you will have almost certainly stopped having a good time long before that. It takes 50 turns to terraform a world. It took 15 turns to decide we’d rather play something else.
If you’re a hardcore Traveller fan and are curious about the game from whence it derives its default setting, this might be worth checking out. There are a few ideas for game designers worth borrowing that might be exciting elsewhere, such as the Imperial Intervention table and the concept of the different ranges of weaponry alternating back and forth over the course of a battle. For anyone else, my vote is strongly avoid. Imperium is a real stinker.