Twilight Struggle, designed by Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews, has long been held as a the pinnacle of two player strategy games. Taking players through the Cold War as either the United States or the Soviet Union, Twilight Struggle employs a card-driven system where each card can be used for command points to expand your reach or to trigger events, sometimes benefiting your opponent as much as they do your side. Perhaps the greatest strength of this game is the detail put into the event cards – all of the events are pulled straight from the headlines of the Cold War, and the ramifications each has on the game will often mirror actual events. Only the meteoric rise of Pandemic: Legacy was able to dethrone Twilight Struggle as the top rated board game on BGG.
Eleven years later Gupta and Matthews are back at it again, this time with Imperial Struggle: The Second Hundred Years’ War, 1697-1789. Representing the battle for supremacy between Britain and France, Imperial Struggle is easier to play than its predecessor, yet still maintains the thematic immersion which made Twilight Struggle such a huge success:
In 1697 the Sun King, Louis XIV, emerged from a decade of war with his Continental ambitions still unsatisfied. Meanwhile, King William III of England sat easier on his new throne than he ever had before. With the Spanish succession crisis unresolved and looming, there were no illusions that the new century would be a quiet one. But neither France nor England could have anticipated the tumult of the years to come: a Second Hundred Years’ War, during which these two tenacious adversaries would compete fiercely and proudly along every axis of human achievement. On battlefields from India to Canada to the Caribbean Sea their armies and fleets would clash; in the salons of Paris and the coffee-houses of London the modern world’s politics and economics would be born; and finally a revolution would rock the foundations of society – a revolution that could have ended not in blood and terror but in a triumph of democracy and liberty that might have transformed the world beyond imagining.
Imperial Struggle is a two-player game depicting the 18th-century rivalry between France and Britain. It begins in 1697, as the two realms wait warily for the King of Spain to name an heir, and ends in 1789, when a new order brought down the Bastille. The game is not merely about war: both France and Britain must build the foundations of colonial wealth, deal with the other nations of Europe, and compete for glory across the span of human endeavor.
Imperial Struggle covers almost 100 years of history and four major wars. Yet it remains a quick-playing, low-complexity game. It aims to honor its spiritual ancestor, Twilight Struggle, by pushing further in the direction of simple rules and playable systems, while maintaining global scope and historical sweep in the scope of a single evening. In peace turns, players build their economic interests and alliances, and take advantage of historical events represented by Event cards. They must choose their investments wisely, but also with an eye to denying these opportunities to their opponent. In war turns, each theater can bring great rewards of conquest and prestige… but territorial gains can disappear at the treaty table. At the end of the century, will the British rule an empire on which the sun never sets? Or will France light the way for the world, as the superpower of the Sun King’s dreams or the republic of Lafayette’s?
You can read more about Imperial Struggle over at the GMT Games site – and pre-order it using their P500 program. Who knows? Maybe this one will wind up as the new number one!