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ELECTRONIC ARTS £24.99 * Mouse

For some of us, owning the world is just not enough. What we want is the whole galaxy. Fortunately for the rest of the galaxy, none of us will ever to be able to achieve our ambition for real so we have to content ourselves with computer simulations.

Imperium is one such simulation, allowing a player to take command of an imaginary galactic power based on a planet called Earth (now there's someone using their imagination) and, by skilful use of diplomacy, economics and military might, conquer and populate a small galaxy containing around 30 star systems.

Then again, if you're the more passive type and don't go in for this glory lark you can always try to win by just keeping your empire going and survive as leader for 1,000 years. How long! Yup, 1,000 years. Achieving that, though, will still require careful juggling of your empire and skilful manipulation of the other galactic inhabitants - the aliens.

Several other computer-controlled empires are also trying to expand their horizons and do much the same as you (though they're much more into conquering things rather than keeping their tentacles to themselves!).

The game is completely menu-controlled, so all your decisions are made by selecting icons at the top of the screen which cause menus to appear. Then you can make decisions on what to do from the menus. The game is played in yearly cycles (the number of years being user defined), then once you've done enough for one year you simply click on 'next turn' and the game advances.

So what keeps you playing? Why not just skip a number of years and outlast the game? For a start, no-one lives for 1,000 years without taking steady quantities of the life-preserving drug Nostrum. Nostrum can be found throughout the galaxy and can be refined from the planets on which it occurs. Taken in moderate doses it enables you and your subordinates to remain alive for a lot longer.

Of course, you first have to find the stuff, so you have to start thinking about moving beyond your own star system. And this is where you come to the crux of the game - economics. Money has to be generated through developing your planets, producing commodities (over 20 of them) which you can use to build ships or use to trade with the aliens. You can also buy things you can't produce from the aliens and to make things interesting you can set import and export taxes, put trade embargoes on certain items and all manner of other things.

Colonising other planets not only expands your empire, but also makes you popular with the electorate who go to the polls every 50 years to decide on the next leader (if it's not you, then it's game over). And as all good politicians know, money talks. A good deal of cash has to be stored as the years go past which can be called upon when you come to campaign for re-election.

There are loads of planets to discover and dealing with the aliens can be a very tricky business. Keep things ticking over, let the computer handle the economics and/or the diplomacy to start with while you concentrate on the military side of things until you become familiar with the game and gradually start taking things over yourself once you understand just how different things affect the game.

Don't be afraid to experiment, push taxes way up and see how it affects things, start censoring the press and see how it affects your popularity. Play around and after a few games you may find you have just the sort of qualities a galactic leader needs. You may even start calling yourself Emperor Ming...


There are a few sound effects, usually short bursts of music, which are fine but not special. The graphics of the game are also quite reasonable. Bear in mind that this is not meant to be a graphic stunner; it's a thinking person's game. That said, all the menus are nicely presented and are very clear.


This is the game's strong point. It takes a long while to play a single game and it also requires a lot of concentration, but the nature of the game is such that it's easy to get caught up in the action and spend many an hour at the keyboard without getting bored. It's by no means the first of its type, but it has a lot more depth than some similar games.


Imperium is very well put together and the whole game interlinks with itself intricately, which makes it great fun to play. The aliens are an intelligent bunch, which makes for good interacting opportunities, and it's a game that also rewards smart thinking and punishes rash or ill thought out actions. Definitely a game for the sole player who likes reams of statistics to ponder over and who likes to juggle limited resources making them work to their best advantage.
Andy 'Not tonight Josephine, I've got an empire to run' Smith

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Wenn die Jungs von Electronic Arts eine Simulation herausbringen, dann machen sie es gleich richtig: Strategie, Handel, Kriegsführung - beim neuesten Meisterwerk der englischen Softwareschmiede bekommt der angehende Imperator wahrlich alle Hände voll zu tun!

Von entsprechend imperialen Ausmaßen war bereits das Pressemuster: In einen chicen schwarzen Aktenkoffer verpackt und von ein paar kleinen Aufmerksamkeiten begleitet, die das Regieren des Universum erst so richtig angenehm machen. Goldmünzen beispielsweise, leider nur in der eßbaren Ausführung. Traurigerweise hat sich auch das beigefügte Päckchen "Nostrum" - im Spiel eine wertvolle Droge, die praktisch Unsterblichkeit garantiert - als plumpe Fälschung (Brausepulver!) erwiesen.

Nun, ehrbare Käufer müssen ohnehin mit der schlichten "Normalverpackung" vorlieb nehmen, konzentrieren wir uns also auf den Inhalt...

Zunächst die gute Nachricht: Du bist gerade zum Herrscher des Imperiums Erde gewählt worden, herzlichen Glückwunsch. Jetzt die schlechte: Dein neuer Thron ist ein ziemlicher Schleudersitz; die Aufgabe, mal eben die Vorherrschaft in der Galaxis zu erringen, bestimmt keine leichte! Immerhin können verschiedene Schwierigkeitsgrade angewählt werden, außerdem läßt sich die Steuerung und Überwachung der drei großen Hauptgebiete Militär, Wirtschaft und Diplomatie ganz oder teilweise an den Computer abgeben.

So kann man sich ganz auf einen bestimmten Tätigkeits-bereich konzentrieren, etwa die kriegerische Unterwerfung anderer Planeten. Dazu stehen dem Imperator zahllose Untergebene als Botschafter, Flottenkommandanten und Planetenherrscher zur Verfügung. Wer bei der Auswahl seiner Mitarbeiter aber nicht sehr viel Fingerspitzengefühl beweist wird es kaum schaffen, 1000 Jahre lang im Amt zu bleiben - zumal alle 50 Jahre Wahltag ist. Und die andere Möglichkeit, das Spiel zu gewinnen, nämlich sämtliche vorhandenen Imperien (100 Stück) zu erobern, ist schließlich auch kein Spaziergang!

Die Simulation ist ausgesprochen umfangreich, ein kompletter Spielzug (= ein Spieljahr) kann durchaus eine halbe Stunde dauern, vorausgesetzt, man kümmert sich um alles selbst. Grafisch ist (das) Imperium allerdings wenig verlockend, nur eine leere graue Fläche, gekrönt von einer Iconleiste. Per Mausklick lassen sich verschiedene Fenster öffnen, über die die einzelnen Einstellungen getroffen, bzw. Befehle erteilt werden. Den einzigen Farbtupfer bringt die Übersichtskarte mit ihren rotierenden Sonnensystemen ins Spiel.

Ebenso ungewöhnlich ist der Sound, ausschließlich klassische Musik kommt aus den Boxen. Die Handhabung ist gut, lediglich die Auswahl der Untergebenen und Planeten hätte etwas benutzerfreundlicher gestaltet werden können (durch alphabetisch sortierte Listen, Rollbalken, Markierungsmöglichkeit).

Unterm Strich bleibt ein ungeheuer komplexes Spiel, das auch verwöhnte Politstrategen langfristig vor den Monitor bannt - sofern sie keinen großen Wert auf aufwendige Grafik legen. (wh)

Die beiden "Imperialisten" Nick Wilson und Matthew Stibb präsentieren ihr Game in standesgemäßen Klamotten...

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PRICE: £24.99

Running the galaxy is a tough and thankless job. Set a couple of decades in the future when man has developed interstellar flights and made extra-terrestrial contact, Imperium deals with both the mundane and deadly challenges of managing an empire. There are foes to fight, allys to be won and home improvement loans to be given out.

The aim of Imperium is to be re-elected as leader every fifty years. As the game is set over a thousand years you're going to make even China's leaders look like spring chickens. During the course of the game, catastrophes and wars cause public unrest and unhappiness, and it's these sort of feelings that can put a dint in your popularity and ruin your chances of holding on to power. If it falls too far, you lose the election and thus the game. The key is to keep people happy.

As the leader of your empire, you have to make many complex financial decisions and keep relations with other planets and empires on the straight and narrow. Decisions range from trivialities such as whether to buy 19 or 20 thousand bars of soap up to such orders as launching a full scale attack on another solar system.

The selling point behind the game is the vast amounts of data on hand. There's a mountain of info to be read, options to be considered, and strategies to be worked out. This is not the sort of game you can pick up and start playing immediately. Understanding the manual takes a few hours. The game's slightly easier to work out, but trying to play it well needs a degree in economics and an MA in political studies.

Playing Imperium, I couldn't help but feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the game. There is just too much to do. I'm a great fan of strategy games, but this is a little heavy handed. Also, even though there's a lot of information to digest, most of which is useless, you never get to find out what you want to know. Yes, the Kroygon empire have sent out an invasion fleet, but where?

Imperium has a lot that could have put it up there with the greats (, etc.). However, as it stands now, all EA have is a very good simulation of a very dull and bureaucratic job.

Imperium logo

Electronic Arts, Amiga £24.99

After releasing probably the biggest selling strategy game ever, namely the attractive if simplistic Populous, EA have now produced a more conventional wargame. It puts you in command of the human race just as it begins expanding out of the solar system, encountering four other alien civilisations aiming for interstellar domination. The battle is on military, economic and diplomatic terms with you as absolute dictator. But there are elections every fifty years and the penalty for losing is death!

Your first priority is to colonise neutral planets, using them to produce starship fleets for the coming battles. You can also use combat troops to invade enemy planets, but as your empire grows you must watch out for any revolts. Should they spread to Earth you'll lose your head, literally! This would be especially unfortunate since as long as you keep yourself intact, the drug Nostrum can prolong your life - à la Spice in 'Dune' - for as much as a thousand years. In fact, once the initial planet-gaining period is over the fight to gain and keep Nostrum becomes critical. The battle with the alien forces is a secondary concern to that of living through to the next election.

Driven entirely by a smart, smooth flowing icon system, Imperium is an authentic looking piece. The mixing of the classic Imperial look with future world conflict - and a suitably modern control system - creates a very believable game. Building space ships is nicely done with user-definable armour, engines, weight, and weapon levels allowing for a good variety of ship classes. It's a pity space combat isn't as good, being rather limited in flexibility.

Generally though, there's a wealth of detail. With the colonisation of planets comes disasters, unrest amongst the populous and increasing demands to cure overpopulation problems. Messages accompany each event and the influx of non-essential information can weigh you down - fortunately, a series of flag markers allows you filter out messages of minor relevance.

Despite a rather shallow level of strategy when it comes to fleet combat and planet conquest, Imperium retains a strong challenge in firstly surviving beyond the first 100 years (finding Nostrum is the first essential task) and then taking on the enemy empires.

Unfortunately as your empire grows and fleets multiply, the game gets a little repetitive simply because the orders system is rather long-winded. Sending a fleet to explore a new planet can take up to half a dozen window accesses in order to enter the command. Imperium is certainly very slickly presented, but this masks the rather limited scope and flexibility of the wargame. The first fifty years can see you colonise planets, fight with fleets and then you've exhausted just about all the game has to offer. After this it's just a question of coping with the increasing number of planets in your empire and repeating the moves until victory (at least four alien empires with definable wealth, technology and size makes for a pretty long term challenge).

Nicely presented but nothing too demanding. All in all, a good game to introduce people to the world of strategy.