Hello everyone, my name is Juan, and I'm the designer of Imperios Milenarios.
I'm writing this “interactive” guide/thread for mainly three reasons: so beginner players get a glimpse of what the core strategies in the game are about, to widen the horizon of possibilities you may like to try on your plays, and to share and sparkle the discussion about different ways everyone approaches their game strategy.
SPOILER ALERT: This guide is full of strategy spoilers. If you would like to explore and discover those on your own, you may like to try the game a few times before continuing reading.
Disclaimer: English is not my native language, so please bear with me. I'll try to make myself as clear as possible.
Acknowledgements: To the many people that have contacted me over the years to discuss (usually extensively) the reason behind particular rules and the ways they can exploit certain combos or outmaneuver their opponent's first order optimal strategies. Not mentioning any names because I didn't ask each of them if I could, but you know who you are. Thank you for your devotion to the game and for inspiring me to start writing this.
OVERVIEW OF THE GAME
If you played Civilization, or Advanced Civilization, you know where Imperios comes from. It is a civilization style game, in which all players will grow and spread from a tiny place on a huge empty map, upgrading their economies and eventually making contact with other players, with whom they will interact in a race to become the most powerful. This means primarily two things: first, this is not a 4X game, you won't be conquering other civilizations until there's only one last standing; second, this is not an eurogame, be ready to interact a lot, more and more as the game progresses.
The focus of the game is in negotiating the challenges and opportunities your position in the map and other players present to you. You'll need to build an efficient euro engine to do so, but also, you'll need to find common grounds of mutual benefit with other players, to get them to help you or at least so they stay out of your way.
To achieve those objectives, you'll need flexibility. Don't go all or nothing. Don't rely on an unidimensional power strategy. Keep your engine balanced and spread wide across the map. Key opportunities may arise, as well as treacherous backstabbing, and you always want to be ready for any of those.
Finally, the game shines with a full map and compliment of players. It is meant to be a fast-paced large-group civ-game, playable in a relatively short amount of time (3-4 hours). The 4 players game is a good introduction to get a grasp of the mechanisms, but you may want to jump to the full experience if you can. Due to the number of territories per player, the 5 and 7 players setups are more tight and confrontational, while the 4 and 6 players setups are more loose and focused on engine efficiency. If you have proxy pieces, it can easily support 8 players (it was cut out due to production constraints).
BASIC STRATEGIES (single-color)
Basic Red Strategy: It is always tempting to add another Red action to your deck, especially if you come from 4X dudes-on-a-map games, but civilizations seldom fight each other for more than a particular territory or trade route. You may even be fighting a civ in the red phase and trading in the blue phase with that same civ just afterwards. This is because Red actions are not especially efficient points-wise. To use Red, you need a civilization surrounded by neutral cities to get many goods, and effectively “corner” another civilization so they can only trade with others through you (they sell it to you and you sell it to others). Probably good for India, Persia or Greece. You'll need Red-2 tech but not Red-3 (or Pyramids) since you'll always have enough to defend yourself, and Gardens to make the most of your (abundant) trade goods. If you have enough goods, raid the leader to catch up with the scoring or to end the game.
Basic Yellow Strategy: Yellow actions are the easiest to convert to points, because they don't require a presence on the map and cannot be blocked. They are usually your first order optimal strategy (best skill to power ratio) or what is commonly called “noob strategy”. It works best with civs in the center of the map, where everyone gathers around to trade with you (Assyria, Babylon, Egypt). Research Yellow techs and get goods from trading, then max out the Census track, and in late game, go for the Market tech and the Colossus wonder. Bear in mind that you will need inexperienced players to “give you the game” for this simple strategy to work. Usually, you'll be the “lonely guy” nobody wants to cooperate with.
Basic Blue Strategy: Blue actions are the most versatile (and thus powerful) actions if, and only if, you know how to play them well. So this is the less “basic” of all basic strategies. It's more evident with seaside civs (Dravidia, Saba, Carthage) but works all around. In the right circumstances, you can use blue actions as any other color: to expand as black actions, to get techs and census (trough trade) as yellow actions, and to get goods (through trade) and defend from incoming attacks (through blocking) as red actions. In most games, if you don't know what chit to take at the start of your turn, take blue, it is most likely you'll find a use for a blue chit further on, even if your situation changes radically. Normally, no single-color strategy stands a chance to win the game, but blue is the one that comes closer to.
Basic Black Strategy: Black actions are the least efficient points-wise, unless you are an outlying civilization surrounded by Marginal Areas to occupy unopposed (Iberia, Germania, Parthia). In early game, you'll spread rapidly to reach all other players and seed cheap trading outpost near their capitals. By mid game, you'll be in a position to block most land trading routes, extorting other players into trading with you first if they want to trade with anyone else. You want to get basic or advanced Black techs to build your Wonder as soon as posible. Pyramids will help your outpost survive (more useful with 5 players), the Gardens will make your trading more profitable (more useful with 7) and the Colossus will earn you some extra points to catch up, at the same time blocking the “scientist” civ from getting it. Basic Black is a bully strategy, so be warned you'll get attacked a lot, but your black chits will allow you to defend and regenerate countless times. You are the plague. Expand like it.
Basic Diplomacy: If you take a look at the trade goods table, you'll notice in each tier there are goods more valuable than others. Initially you'll be inclined to produce the most valuable, but “who produces what” is a key aspect on the game's diplomacy. If you produce something I don't produce, I can trade with you for mutual benefit, I need to reach you and you need to reach me. You are my trading partner, and thus, my ally. On the contrary, if you produce what I produce, I cannot trade with you. Moreover, I need to reach other civilizations before you do, so they get it from me before they get it from you. You are my trading competitor, and thus, my enemy. This is roughly the same for techs. If you need friends, get things nobody has, and people will try to get to you and help you get to them.
ADVANCED STRATEGIES (dual-color)
Deck Efficiency: The long term strategy in most your games will involve focusing on two colors for your deck. Usually you will need to add from the other two colors to seize opportunities, but in broader terms, you want to keep your deck from recycling the colors you are not focused on, hence, stash those secondary colors in the reserve when the deck recycles to prevent them from showing up again.
Starting Capitals: Your starting civilization will make some strategies more feasible than others. So take special care where you setup your first Capital. Also, during setup keep in mind some strategies need other civs close, and some favor some room to move around.
These strategies I won't go into much detail, since I assume you have a few games under your belt and you already know what I'm talking about.
Yellow+Blue (Saba, Carthage) I would think for outlying seafaring civs with no cheap cities around. Since you have no cities, you base your trade in techs and expect to travel far with your fleets and caravans. Cross the sea/desert and establish a trading outpost in the middle of the action. Have armies in reserve so your trade routes are not cut out. You may want to get Engineering (Red-3) so you are not wiped out of reach again.
Yellow+Black (Partia, Germania) again, no cheap cities around, and no seas around, but Marginal Areas. Walk around the Black Sea and take trade goods of intermediate value ($5-$8) from one hemisphere to the other, bypassing the central powers in the Near East. Reach out for cornered civilizations. Once you are settled, tech up to Black-2 for a wonder, and in late game, all the way to the top to flood the seas with pirates. Extortion will get you the remaining trade goods you need to end the game.
Yellow+Red (Assyria, Babylon, Hattusas, Egypt) when you are in the middle and surrounded by cities, so there's nowhere else you need to expand to. You'll have access to everything and thus, people will come to trade with you. Make sure competing trade routes don't bypass you. Remain competitive. Don't go for the most expensive intermediate trade good. A $5 good is enough to get you level-1 techs and nobody will pay you 2 census spaces for your $8 good. Gold ($12), on the other hand, you will need to buy top-tier techs. Take it, no matter who has it.
Black+Red (Kushan, Mauria) no seas around, but plenty of cities. You'll likely arrive late into the action, so you'll need blacks to force your way in. I call this "The Golden Horde" strategy. Use black before you tech up red to rush a pyramid and surprise everyone with an ever-expanding empire that cannot be pushed back. Bonus points if you raid a neighbor's single capital and end the game prematurely!
Blue+Red (Dravida, Iberia) when you need to expand by congested seas, and build trading outposts closer to others to make you more attractive, otherwise, you'll be cast aside or taken hostage by another civ in your way into the action. If you are last in round, clear every fleet you can to cut sea lines and prevent pirates blocking you. They'll be spending precious blue chits to recover instead of using them to trade.
Blue+Black (Rome, Greece, Saba, India) not in the middle of the action, but have sea and land to expand. Can take an outlying civ hostage, by only letting them trade with you. Remember central powers are competing for your attention, so make them grant you concessions: at least you should choose trade terms and they should be responsible for keeping trade routes secured. Delay outlying civs as much as you can, and be on alert, since they are coming for you.
Remember to be mean: Even if you will be seldom attacking each other, that doesn't mean you need to be friendly. Take advantage of emerging opportunities. If the other player has maxed out on Census, it is the time to buy that expensive tech from them. You'll be paying but they won't be collecting. You choose the terms of trading, so don't be generous, give them what they have. If they use a yellow strategy, don't give them goods, give them techs. If they go heavy on red, give them trade goods, not techs. Always block, at least preventively (sp?). Blocking is meant to sparkle negotiation, so use it. Even if in the end you allow them to pass, be clear of their intentions. Remember players cannot lie to each other in this game (turns are centuries) if they say they'll do something, they must do it.
Cornered Hostages: Be in the way of trade routes trying to bypass you. Force others to trade through you. Outlying civs can collect a lot of points from Marginal Areas, so even it out by making them hard to reach the center. Don't make it too explicit so opponents are taken by surprise. By mid game (once everyone has basic goods) trading of (intermediate) eastern and western goods are key to advance in Age. This sparkles an era of long range expansion and only then is when you reveal yourself.
Ambassadors: The more crowded the map gets, the more valuable this top tier blue tech becomes. It is essential for the 5 players setup and for bypassing the toll of blocking civilizations. The first time players see this tech in action is mind blowing. Sailing by an Eastern Mediterranean Sea or right into the Persian Gulf full of navies of five different flags is epic. Normally it is a late game strategy. It's easier for central powers, since everyone is close to you. You get your final Capital. You seed crowded chocking points and at some point you close all trade routes. Then you choose the 2 or 3 goods/techs you are missing and end the game.
Navigation: The top tier black strategy is often forgotten but it greatly rises the usefulness of those extra black chits in your deck after you've built a wonder. Now your black chits treat every territory as a land territory, and they can still not be blocked. Picture D-Day in your mind and you'll see what this tech is good for. There ain't no more “mare nostrum” and every coastal capital is within reach.
Rushing Wonders: I can only see outlying civs rushing for wonders, since they have a purpose for black chits from early on and throughout the game. Note that black chits are not efficient point-wise, so they may clutter your deck if you have 5 of them by turn 4. Rushing a wonder, initially requires 5 black chits and Black-1 tech. Still, probably the deck won't let you do it in the first Age. Later, only 4 chits and Black-2. Going beyond 5 Black chits in your deck is dangerous. It is certainly doable if you are committed to it, and 12 points is a huge bonus, but novice players tend to neglect wonders. I guess it is hard to plan some centuries ahead!!
Adjacent Outposts: If you hate being blocked by other players, negotiate a trading outpost right next to another player's Capital. Actions cannot be blocked at the point of origin or destination, so a player can always trade with a settlement on a territory adjacent to his Capital. Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Nubia and India all have cheap cities around their Capitals. In late game, you can position yourself next to the second Capital a player is going for, even before he gets there. Be aware that having another civ so close to home can allow them to encircle the Capital and block any caravans from leaving. A Capital held hostage is a powerful bargaining chip.
Fortified Outposts: The top Red tech gives a +1 defense to your cities. This may not seem like much but raiding doesn't happen often and is barely worth the trouble. The +1 usually will leave you safely out of the equation for a potential aggressor. Remember that attacks have no range limit, so you can expand around to circumvent blockades and land an outpost right on the other side of the map. Northern civs love to do this. Once you set it up, you've become “the empire on which the Sun never sets”. Even if your outpost is cut out of the Metropolis, it still can receive incoming trade. Your far off outpost will only likely survive if you get Red-3 (and/or Pyramids).
Choosing your second Capital: If you are taking your second Capital closer to the enemy, you are probably in the leading group. If you are taking it as far as possible from the action, you are probably lagging behind. One more reason to keep your deck flexible. Your second Capital will likely need its own (probably different) pair of colors to prosper. When taking your second capital is when your civ is most vulnerable. You just spent all your armies and they won't be back for a while. This is when your first allies back-stab you, and if your new neighbor jumps in, your new Capital won't last for long either and the game will be over (it also works vice-versa, depending on turn order), and you (the “leader”) will have no chance of wining.
The Final Treachery: Raiding an opponent's Capital usually happens in the last turn of the game. In late game, a sudden surge of Red in your hand (or anyone's) can open up many posibilites. If you see someone stashing 4 reds, be certain the game will end next turn. People tend to leave getting their last Capital for the very end. Don't. It's easier to get the missing trade good or tech than a new Capital in the last turn, especially if all the most desirable ones are already taken. The second (or third) Capital tends to be a highly disputed place, probably one or two players reach it almost at the same time. It shouldn't be that crowded, and in the previous black phase you might have set a route circumventing any blockades. A Capital not surrounded for defense before being taken is calling for anyone to raid it. Only 4 red chits are required and that is totally doable at that stage of the game. It means +10 points for the raider and -5 for the raided, a Wonder-level move, so it may very well flip the final scoring.
So? What do you think? What are your strategies?