Imperium: Horizons

Imperium: Horizons

RRP: £60.00
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Formidable adversaries are arrayed against you. Your people stand ready. History beckons. In your hands lies the destiny of one of most storied peoples of history. Under constant threat of attack, you must conquer new lands, oversee dramatic scientific and cultural advances, and lead your people into the era of empire. Expand too rapidly and unrest will bring your civilization to it…
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Category Tags , SKU ZBG-OSP58368 Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Each civilisation has different paths to success
  • Abstract mechanics that still make sense in terms of historical events
  • Each turn is an efficiency puzzle, but also with long-term goals

Might Not Like

  • Low player interaction
  • Long games, especially with four
  • Rules not always as clear as they could be, lots of icons
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Description

Prepare for an epic journey into the annals of history with Imperium: Horizons, a game that places the fate of a storied civilization squarely in your hands. The stage is set, formidable adversaries standing as the ultimate test against your ambitions. Your people are poised for greatness, and the call of history echoes in the air.

In this riveting standalone game, you command one of fourteen radically asymmetric civilizations, each with its unique challenges and advantages. The world is on the brink of seismic change, and as the leader of your people, you must navigate the treacherous waters of conquest, scientific breakthroughs, and cultural ascension to propel your civilization into the era of empire.

The stakes are high; your civilization constantly under the threat of attack. Every decision you make is crucial. Expand too hastily, and the flames of unrest may engulf your empire, reducing it to rubble. Build up too cautiously, and you risk becoming a mere footnote in the grand tapestry of history.

Imperium: Horizons introduces a mesmerizing array of civilizations, each vying for dominance in the race for supremacy. With a solo mode that pits you against cunning opponents, the challenge is immense and the thrill, unparalleled. But the adventure doesn't end there – fully compatible with Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends, you can expand your gameplay experience and further shape the destiny of your chosen people.

Immerse yourself in the dynamic world of Imperium: Horizons, where trade becomes a strategic cornerstone, bringing to life the intrigue, wealth generation, and political machinations of a thriving economy. The battle for dominance begins now – can you lead your civilization to glory and etch its name as the most dominant empire the world has ever seen? History awaits your command.

Player Count: 1-4

Play Time: 40–160 Min

Age: 14+

This third standalone but compatible box in the Imperium series, by Nigel Buckle and Dávid Turczi, brings in 14 new civilisations and several new mechanics. Like the others, Imperium: Horizons is a deck-and tableau-builder with the theme of developing the highest-scoring civilisation.

How To Play

If you want to use factions from either of the earlier boxes, you’ll need to replace some cards: some of these are balance fixes while others introduce new rule hooks, both for integration with Horizons and for smoother gameplay in general. Some rules are tweaked from Classics and Legends, for example exhausting the Development deck when your Accession card is played so that you can’t do both at once.

This box contains a set of common cards, not tied to any faction: for a first game you’re encouraged to keep the “sword” cards from each deck and remove the “trade route” ones, to leave a card distribution like that of the other boxes. (The trade route cards rely on the Trade Routes expansion being in play; it’s included in the box but not ideal for a first game.)

To the existing resources of Materials, Population and Progress is added Goods, which can pay for one Population or two Materials, and of course is scored directly if you have the right cards.

This is very much a game in which there’s a generic “core” set of civilisation rules, but individual civilisations’ cards and special rules make substantial changes. In each turn, which might represent a generation or several, you’ll typically take three actions; this most often means playing a card from your hand. Many of the rules of this game are on those cards, or implicit in your civilisation’s starting deck: some emphasise conquest, others a developing civilisation, and others still may have stranger objectives. (Alternative turns involve innovating to take specific new cards from the market, or doing large-scale removal of junk “Unrest” cards, but each of those happens at the cost of doing anything else.) Cleaning up mostly involves re-filling your hand, but if you exhaust your draw deck, in the first half of the game you’ll be able to bring in one of your Nation cards. Once those are all in your system, your state of Barbarism becomes an Empire (different cards become available for play), and in future you’ll have the option of paying for a Development card.

At the end of the round there’s a Solstice phase, during which everyone does any end-of-round actions; this can be done simultaneously, because these actions should never affect other players, and it should be, to keep the game moving.

The game ends when the Unrest pile is empty (all civilisations have collapsed), the main deck of things to acquire is empty, all the Fame cards have been claimed, all of a player’s Developments have been built, or some other card effect kicks in. Finish the round, play one final round, and score.

Some cards are very easy to score: they just have a number of victory points. Others score only if they’re in a particular place, or per card of another type; these can get quite involved, so be prepared for scoring to take a few silent minutes. (Or wait for the automated scoring app to be updated for this new content.)

The game’s best with two or three players; four can be fun but runs quite long, and there’s not quite enough interaction to justify the duration.

Components

All the card art continues to be by Mihajlo “the Mico” Dimitrievski, who’s something of a divisive artist: some people love his work, others don’t get on with it at all. The good news is that the look of the game is consistent with the previous boxes; personally I find some of his figures much less convincing than others, but nothing is ever distractingly strange.

The game relies very heavily on icons, and sometimes these are printed quite small; it doesn’t help that there’s no reference page that includes all of them. (Also, this makes it difficult to read the rules aloud when teaching the game.) This can’t be for ease of internationalisation, since all the cards have significant English text too; I assume it’s simply to fit all the needed material onto the cards.

Apart from the cards, all that’s on the table is the tokens for various resources, which are straightforward icons.

The box inlay is a clear vacuum-formed plastic tray with labels to keep the decks sorted. This is fine if you’re only playing Horizons, but if you want to store other Imperium content in the same box you’ll need deck boxes or a custom inlay. Two wells can hold counters, but no bags are supplied. The box itself is shrink-wrapped, but the individual decks are now held in recyclable paper bands.

Solo play

This is no mere afterthought; in an update from the earlier boxes, each civilisation now has a large bot card to use when one’s opposing it as a single player (cards for the earlier civilisations are provided). Depending on difficulty level, the bot will play 3-5 random cards each turn; most of the card text is ignored, but the first matching card type (whether that’s a specific card name, a specific symbol, or a suit like “Tributary” or “Region”) will determine the bot’s action. Inevitably, this means that some flavour is lost (“Triumvirate” has specific effects when a human’s playing the Romans, but to the bot it’s just another Barbarian card), but it does mean that bot turns flow quickly, and both the mix of cards by civilisation and the specific bot moves they trigger lead to a game against the Romans, for example, feeling quite different from one against the Guptas. There are a few guiding rules, such as that when the bot exiles a card it always picks the highest-value one that it can, but overall this is an effective automated opponent.

Thoughts

As deck-builders go, this is one of the more complex ones; two-player games can easily take 90-120 minutes, sometimes significantly longer, and I recommend against playing a full game of four with any new players or people prone to take a long time over their turns. There’s also relatively little interaction; some cards will tell other players to discard a Region or take an extra Unrest, but there’s no scope for alliances. Trade Routes help a bit with this (you want to see what an opponent has out and may contribute Goods to it to get its power), but this is still primarily a head-down race rather than a conflict.

What’s more, it’s a sprawling game: each player needs to keep six card piles organised, as well as their hand, three or four types of resource token, and their “play area”-which may run to ten or more cards, some with others stacked underneath them. The common area, which needs to be in sight and reach of all players, has another five decks and six card piles, and more tokens.

The most complex factions this time are the Cultists, who want to foment chaos and summon an eldritch horror to end the world; the Inuit, who flip between Summer and Winter play modes each round and have no History (because of their lack of writing); the Martians, who have powerful technology but gradually become assimilated on Earth; the Mayans, who work via masks and cities; the Polynesians, who have to use both Isle-bound and Voyaging modes to solidify and then expand their civilisation; and the Sassanids, very aggressive but reliant on keeping the fires of Zoroastrianism burning.

Ideally, don’t start your Imperium journey here. Of the civilisations in this box, six can only be played with the trade route rules, and of the eight remaining only three are below four-star difficulty (the Japanese, Magyar, and Taino). By comparison, Classics has nothing over three-star and Legends only three (Arthurians, Olmecs and Utopians).

However, this is an excellent expansion if you already know the basics, or if you don’t mind limited options during your learning games. The Trade Route rules give everyone new options, and once you’re using them the available civilisations are an interesting mix of military expansionists, peaceful traders, and strangenesses; Trade is an extra set of choices to make each turn, though, and I’d agree with the rules that it’s worth being familiar with the core game before adding it.

The rulebook still isn’t great, though it does have a useful new introduction to explain how actions like garrisoning cards or abandoning regions could represent specific historical events. The description of actions in the turn is useful, but then you have to skip over six pages of an example turn to find the section where technical words are defined; then you have to skip over the solo rules to get to the listing of civilisations. Some points are repeated in multiple places; others are only mentioned once in mid-paragraph.

Even so, this box has revived my enthusiasm for the whole Imperium system as a satisfyingly brain-burning optimisation game.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Each civilisation has different paths to success
  • Abstract mechanics that still make sense in terms of historical events
  • Each turn is an efficiency puzzle, but also with long-term goals

Might not like

  • Low player interaction
  • Long games, especially with four
  • Rules not always as clear as they could be, lots of icons