Imperiums: Greek Wars is beyond a mere 4X grand strategy title. Sure, it has armies, wars and resources that all absolutely have to be kept track of… but it’s so much more. Just in the diplomacy alone, there are friends, foes, enemies that used to be friends, trades, backstabbing, treaty-breaking, honor-breaking, deal-breaking, corruption, lies, threats, demands… and that’s just the tip of this massive iceberg. There’s prosperity, disaster and a multitude of other surprises along the way. It’s like a monstrous, war-driven, European divorce… using armies, navies and intimidation instead of attorneys and referendums.
Since Alpha stage, I’ve been honored to be playing Kube Games’ Imperiums: Greek Wars. This is their follow up game to Aggressors: Ancient Rome which I previously reviewed. I’ll spew out the clichés early to get them out of the way: “Easy to learn, hard to master.” and, “Just one more turn…” are only a couple. Until just a few days ago, there wasn’t even a manual available yet. So, if a pinhead like me can figure out what’s going on, anybody can.
Obviously, learning the basic mechanics is the easiest part. If you’ve ever played a turn-based strategy game before then you’ll instantly know what to do. If not, there’s: 1) a very good, in-depth tutorial. 2) helpful and useful information, constantly accessible, throughout the game and 3) Tooltips about everything, and even prompts, in case you need to make an important decision and forget before the end of the turn.
Information at Will
Now, you can make Imperiums as easy or complex as you’d like. Having said that, the deeper you get into your reign, the more you’ll probably [Tip: you do] want to know information about what’s going on. It’s all a button-click or two away. Easy Peloponnese-y. Remember, I played this for sixty-eight years without a manual. F1 gives you all (I mean “all”) the game info… anything you might want to look up or into. F2 tells you all of the information you need for your specific empire. There are other “F” commands I’ll get to later. If you don’t dive deeper into the horse-meat of the game though, then you’ll probably lose rather quickly. As each turn passes, various things happen… exponentially… as well as unpredictably. Example: if you play as Macedonia ten times in a row, they’ll be ten completely different experiences. This is how you build a game… especially for longevity. You could easily play Imperiums forever.
Choosing a Faction
When you start, you can pick an empire from the Greek campaign, the Peloponnese campaign, or you can create a highly customizable game which includes a multitude of variables. More on that later.
I. Ancient Greece (28 Players)
If you choose the Ancient Greek campaign, your choices are Macedonia, Athens, Achaemenid or Sparta. Imperiums tells you, upfront, not to play the last three until you’ve completed the tutorial. If you’re brave, you can simply click to unlock them —all of the rest will unlock later as you play through the game. Tutorial or not, all four say “suitable for beginners”, however, I would strongly advise Macedonia with the tute.
You might be tempted to choose Athens, as they are easily the strongest in the beginning. But, there’s a huge trade-off: Athens is divided over nine, unconnected territories. Sparta is spread over two. So, if you’re Super-Pro-Man and think you already have your shit together… go ahead, choose Athens. Just don’t come crying to me after you’re quickly slaughtered. Otherwise, pick Macedonia or Achaemenid (which is a little harder, without the tutorial, but at least it’s still just the one mass of land to control and watch over.)
This is the main campaign of the game, on a 91 x 62 map. If you know me at all, you’ll know I love, and live for, campaigns *insert Homer drooling meme*.
II. The Peloponnese Campaign (8 Players)
Obviously, by being smaller (22 x 22 map), the heuristics and play are the same, but the empires and, especially the strategic approaches are different… you don’t have as much room to maneuver around. Nonetheless, it’s still great fun. All of the countries are open and selectable from the beginning.
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This time, though, instead of listing the factions in the game’s order, I’m going to roll them out in (my opinion only) what I believe to be the easiest to the most difficult:
Sparta. If you’re new, then hands down, without question, you want to start the Peloponnese Campaign as Sparta. Period. The rest are based solely upon my experiences: Achaia, Elis, Messenia, Argolis, Korinth, Arkadia, and finally, the bad boy — Boeotia.
Tip: Remember, in the Peloponnese Campaign, you’re now in tighter spaces so adjust your strat accordingly.
Before the Map
After you’ve chosen who you want to lead, then there are a few decisions to make, dependent upon the difficulty you chose. (They can all be easily changed to your liking, regardless).
Army Morale means whether or not you want to take into account the type of unit you are combating — different units have various advantages and/or disadvantages depending on who they are fighting against.
Do you want the Research Tree hidden and/or randomized?
Do you want to have Random Events in the game?
Do you want to deal with Supply Management?
If you control an entire territory, does it give you benefits? — obviously, it’s a detriment if you don’t.
Do your cities produce their own Garrisons or do you have to build your own units for protection?
Is there corruption? Like any great grand strategy, you’re trying to paint the world with your country’s color. The corruption caveat: yes, it’s fun and something else to deal with, however, the larger your color ‘blob’, the more corruption.
Will you allow Generals to come into play? It seems like an easy “yes”, but if you piss them off or if they’re pressured enough, they’ll defect and turn on you.
Are there Heroic Quests?
Finally, there’s a new wrinkle I wasn’t going to mention, but it’s in the screenshot… plus, it’s right there the first time you fire up the game: Are you going to allow Mythical Creatures? Yeah, that’s right (<—said like Puddy).
A general, General Path:
Depending upon who you chose to lead, your controlled land, number of soldiers, ships and settlers will vary. On the very first turn, I like to check (by using all the “F” keys):
My status in the world. Who I’m trading with. My resource supply (I’ll find out the resource income for each item, next turn). Most importantly — who I’m already at war with. Additionally, I want to know every country’s (that’s been revealed) attitudes towards me. What’s the make-up of my army/armies? How many Settlers, Nomads, ships, do I have, etc.
Remember, I said there are going to be lots of decisions… those start right now before you even move your first Imperiums’ unit.
I had to mention Settlers this early. First turn, what are they going to do? Build a road? A route? A field? Maybe a bridge? Chop some wood? Or, find a good location to establish a new city? No pressure. I also brought up Nomads right away. They too can found cities. However, (and it’s a big butt), they, unlike settlers, have attack and defense ratings — meaning they’re also an early army. They can’t build or do all the other things, but they can build cities. Use them for a new city or use them, at least for the moment, (maybe even later as well?) as troops? Choices, choices galore.
Then, of course, you have the rest of your units to consider moving… or not. (Tip: press the Space Bar to cycle through all of your units). Right now, just an idea here, is to hit F3 which is the Political Map in Imperiums. There is a plethora of information on here, but mostly friends, trade routes, foes, etc. The last one, your enemies, is the biggest thing to look at now. Who all are you at war with? The most imperative thing to look for is: Do your opponents border your lands? Are you going to have to fight a multi-front war? Ask Hitler how that went. Plus, see my “F3” above. Crap!
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When you think about when and where to move your armies, are you going to move towards the bad guys on the first turn? Or, are you going to wait and see what they do first — possibly taking over your land while you just sat there? How risky is it for you to, indeed, move toward them in the first place? Maybe you want to see what they do first? This is your reign, your empire, your citizens. Whatcha gonna do? You can’t call “Ghostbusters” for help. You can try something diplomatic, but most of the time… since you’re just starting, there’s not a lot of trust built — in any direction. Have fun with all that! *snapping a “Z” in the air*. (I’m older… and not too hep or groovy either).
So, you’ve moved all your guys, maybe lined up more to be built, maybe lined up an improvement to be built, etc. — the last two obviously dependent upon your money supply. Hit the “End Turn” button and watch, whatever action you have access to viewing, what happens around different parts of the world… especially near You. (Tip: When the AI is playing, you can hit the Esc button to skip it all. Pro tip: I wouldn’t do that. I don’t do that, no matter how deep I’m into a command/game.)
Turn Two: Well, you’re on your own now, kid. (I can say “kid” to almost anyone… being 287 years old and all). Best advice? Follow. The. Tutorial. Sure, it’s not going to go over every, teeny, tiny, minute detail, (that’s what F1 is for) but, it’ll save you a ton of grief later on down the road.
No spoilers, but some very exciting/strange/unexpected things can happen to you and your empire at any time… obviously without warning. I had some screenies, but decided against using them — too spoilery — even the smaller acts that happened to me. But… but… I was going to… I had this perfect stratagem… I had this great plan to… Well, crap. Time to re-think, re-organize, re-strategize, re-pee…
III. Customized World Start
Oh. My. God. (<— said like Janice) As much of a campaign-head as I’ve always been, customizing a new world in Imperiums is beyond comparison, beyond words. You can set virtually any of the parameters to your liking. I’ve played a lot of games, but have never seen customization as in depth as it is in Imperiums. There are tons of options here.
Map Size: from Tiny to Huge (Of course, I always want yuuuuuuge)
This will determine how many players, length of the game, player relations, variety of terrain and how long it’ll take to uncover the map.
Map Type: from Pangaea to Archipelago
Obviously, this is the amount of land versus water.
Map Climate: from Fertile to Inhospitable
This is basically food availability. The less food, the more aggressive and earlier the conflicts occur.
Opponents’ Distribution: from Handful to Crowded
From the factions starting distant from each other, delaying conflict to converse — if everyone’s close, there will quickly be conflict over resources and land.
Difficulty: from Beginner to Heroic
This mostly determines the AI’s knowledge of war strategy and their aggressiveness.
Development: from Undeveloped to Advanced
How many units do you start with? How advanced is your infrastructure?
Reader, “Wow, that’s a lot! Surely that’s it?” Me, “Oh, no, no no…and don’t call me “Shirley”.
Even More Control
The rest are sliders that determine other aspects of how you want to play your Imperiums. They are all rather self-explanatory and incremental, unlike toggles you’ll find later.
Starting Turn: from 1000 BCE to AD 500.
Turn Duration: from One to Twenty years per turn.
Game Speed: Mostly, this is the rate of expansion and technological development.
Game Balance: This is how fair the game starts, you versus everyone else.
Player Advantage: Actually more fine-tuning of “game balance”. Do you want to be over powerful or at a disadvantage? How hard or easy do you want your journey?
Resource Abundance: Affects all countries. Once again, the fewer there are, the quicker the encounters and vice versa.
Player’s Resource Abundance: More fine-tuning, from being OP or weaker at game start.
Diplomatic Relations: How friendly your direct, bordering neighbors are… and their attitude towards you.
Independent Cities: Cities/factions that don’t belong to the major players.
Even More, More Fine Tuning
(These are the Bottom, Right toggles, either on or off)
Set Government: On means, everyone starts with the same government. Off means, their government is based upon their technological development.
Overall Victory: This is always on and can’t be changed. If this is the lone way to win, then the triumph is by the total annihilation of everyone else.
However, there are three additional paths to victory if you toggle them on, that are more of a comparison of your country to everyone else’s — Military Superiority (the level of your military), Technological Dominance (research, innovations and discoveries), and Country Development (culture, scholars, prestige and city improvements).
Once again, a plethora of decisions to be made at the outset of Imperiums. Nevertheless, these allow you to set up your game exactly how you want it to start. All of these factors will affect your experience — some immediately, others further down the (initial) dirt road.
In case you can’t tell, I was extremely (beyond) impressed with Imperiums: Greek Wars. The sheer magnitude and depth of trying to take over the world is awe-inspiring. The (undisclosed) surprises along the way keep you both on your toes and your head on a swivel. Even in a single battle, you only have an idea of how it will turn out: from “Absolute Supremacy” to “Dicey Situation” to “Uncertain Outcome”… to, also, “No Information Available” — which is purely ‘pay your money, take your chances’.
There are hundreds of things I didn’t even mention! Birth rate settings, map overlays, repair, healing, terrain modifiers, city improvements, unit improvements, pillaging, piracy, on and on and on. This was all to, basically, get you and your chariot rolling along.
It was really hard to even write this as I just wanted to keep playing it. Again, you could play Imperiums literally forever… I plan to. It’s very deep, but also all of the information is easily and readily accessible. Now, I need to get back to my game… which I absolutely have to keep calling, “This is Sparta!”.
Imperiums: Greek Wars is available now for PC.