Played with review copy provided by Heidelbaer / Asmodee USA
This shiny boxed game came out in advance of SPIEL 2020, but due to the pandemic, the fair didn’t happen, and this was one of the games that only later made its way to me… However, I was interested in playing it as a number of other Opinionated Gamers had raved about it – i.e. Chris Wray back in May 2020.
Opinionated Gamers have chosen some of their favorite recent games. As we all know, readers often skim the article to get to the ‘answer key’. To offer a bit more than a list, we have written haiku for each game. Some games are represented by more than one haiku. For an extra twist, we have included two famous haiku not written by us. Feel free to try to identify them in the comment section. For pedants, for today, the plural of haiku is haiku. You may debate the acceptability of haikus as a word in the comment section. We will repost these in a few days with the answer key.
Review copy provided by Buffalo Games, 3 plays so far
Phil Walker Harding is one of my favorite modern game designers – I have been impressed with both the quantity, quality and variety of his designs in recent years. I’ll admit that my summer research has been a little less that usual this year (thanks Coronavirus!) – so I actually hadn’t heard of this game until the shipping notice showed up in my inbox. I quickly found the game online, and I was immediately interested in the game which is briefly described as a competitive deckbuilding game.
If you’ve ever heard the terms Illuminati, New World Order, or the Power behind the Power and thought to yourself, “I don’t want to be a politician…I want to be the person controlling the politician,” welcome to Gray Eminence. In Gray Eminence, you ARE the power behind the power, controlling world affairs, sending countries into chaos or bringing them back from the brink of war. Do you do it out of the good of humanity? Or for your own nefarious purposes?
In the game, players become “Gray Eminences” You make decisions on world affairs each turn to either help the common goal of the current event, or to help further your own ambitions and goals. Sometimes and often you do both. There are several different Gray Eminence characters with asymmetrical starting resources, goals and powers that are based on people from the past couple of decades from now back to the Cold War.
It isn’t exactly writer’s block – I mean, I can still write emails, witty Tweets, and even work on other board game reviews. But whatever it was… well, is… I’m finding it darn near impossible to write coherently about Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends. (I have, no kidding, had a nearly blank Google Doc open on my laptop for two days – taunting me with its white expanse of nothingness.)
It’s not the game(s), either – I’d count myself as a big fan of both boxes of this wonderful game system. I’ve certainly played it enough – two times with 3 players and nine times using the well-thought-out solo system.
I think the problem – ok, MY problem – is that the game system is a tasty amalgam of game design ideas. It’s not New Shimmer (“New Shimmer is both a floor wax and a dessert topping!”) but it packs in the game mechanics: deckbuilding, resource management, tableau building, asymmetric factions, multiple game timers, keywords to differentiate similar actions… whew, I’m exhausted just typing all of that into the review.
Let me try a different way to describe the game – using theme as the anchor. Each player is leading an ancient civilization from barbarian nation to sophisticated empire, working to achieve the most Progress (victory points) in a variety of ways, often dependent on the unique structure of their civilization’s multiple card decks as well as the cards they have drafted from the market.