2-5 players, Competitive, Action Selection Steam-Punk Builder
Designer: Bruno Cathala, Florian Sirieix
Artwork: Felideus Bubastis
Overview of Gameplay
Imaginarium is a pretty interesting and unique take on action selection and variable turn order. In the game, players will first take turns placing their decently large plastic player tokens on a specific spot down this track on the board. Placement dictates what each player will do in the next phase whether it is buying a new contraption to build or just collecting more charcoalium (the currency of the game). Also, placement will dictate the turn order of the next round as well, the closer you place up the track, the higher you will be on the next rounds turn order. BUT the machines are also more expensive the closer you get so there is that bit of a trade-off.
After phase one is complete you will track at the beginning of the placement track and, in order, players will take turns completing the rest of their turns. So, for example the person that is placed highest up on the track will pay for the contraption they place next to. This will cost a combination of the printed cost on the board plus the printed cost on whatever contraption card is in the spot. So some times you might get a pretty good deal and other times it might be mighty expensive. Once you have purchased your contraption card and placed it down next to your player board you will then take a couple actions on your board. This is an interesting action selection mechanic where you have a kinda, “clock” with the two hands locked in place. You move these hands around to point at two different actions and then take one or both of them. These actions will be different things such as building those contraptions you bought (if you have enough resources to spend that is), buying up helper cards that give unique abilities, trading resources for other resources, combining contraption cards to gain better rates of return or even destroying contraptions to gain resources back.
You then check to see if you completed a particular project card which is the primary way to gain victory points. These usually consist of completing a certain number of contraptions like all four slots filled with resource producing contraptions or one attack and one defense contraption, stuff like that. The first player that completes one of these projects collects the maximum amount of victory points like 3 or 4 and every other person to complete that particular project gets one less VP for completing it.
After everyone has completed all this you reset the board state. This consists of replacing any helper cards and contraption cards that were bought. All the contraption cards will move to the very right of the conveyor belt and the cruncher (the big mouth), will gobble up the rightmost card and it will be discarded. You then draw from the deck and replenish the row. This will cause cards that were not bought in the previous round to be cheaper but also move then further down the track so when characters place on them, they might not get that illustrious first turn order.
The game will continue like this until one player had reached 20 victory points and will announce this to everyone which will signal the end of game. At this point players will do a few more things to calculate points to try and collect as many vp’s as they can. Whoever ends up with the most victory points wins!
Overall the components are really nice and their presentation is incredible. The player markers are each unique and large and super easy to distinguish as they are completely different colors and sculpts. The cards have a slick feel to them but they don’t feel thin or anything. The card board tokens all have a nice “clink” to them with a slight glossiness which is nice. The resource tokens though are the real standouts here. Each one actually giving you the look and feel of the resource they represent. The wood pieces are not only wood but they have that wood grain look to them, the charcoalium looks like little pieces of charcoal. The uhh orange and blue tokens look nice as well even though I just forgot what they represent, a fantasy material of some sort. Either way they look really nice AND they are stored in a cool bin on the board which brings out the presentation even more.
The board itself is also super unique with the whole thing representing the factory where you are building these contraptions. And it’s not all that large either so it’s not a table hog although you will need a decent amount of space for your player board and your contraption cards you acquire. All said and one I am overall impressed with the game board and components of this one.
The box is pretty standard however I will say the resource component storage is impeccable. The game comes with a little box with separate compartments to store all the resources which is just transitioned to the game board itself during play. This is all part of the presentation and it works wonderfully. One the game is complete just toss all the resource tokens back into this storage container and slide it back in the box, easy peasy. There is also an insert to hold each of the plastic player markers so the only thing you really need to bag up are the cards. Another easy game for setup and takedown!
Visual Appeal /Theme
I mean if you are a fan of steampunk then this game will call to you. The artwork is a crazy mishmash of animals and machines and yet another thing that is unique about the game, actually probably the MOST unique thing about the game. The artwork is very well done and the sculpts on the player markers look great as well. There is quite a bit of iconography used in the game however and this would be one downside. All the helper cards have individual iconography for what they do, the project cards have iconography, the player board actions have iconography, heck the attack and defense cards have iconography. It’s everywhere.
The rules were pretty decent in explaining the game and there are even sections in the back of the book that lays out explanations of all the iconography BUT personally all this iconography needs to be put on a double-sided player aid for each player. Multiple times during our games I had to keep referencing the manual to find what certain actions or helper cards or projects meant for every player. I’ve seen numerous games over the years just kill the fun of the game because of this as this referencing effectively pulls you out of the game. Now they do try and alleviate some of this buy incorporating the explanations of each action on the back of the player screens which is super nice but it isn’t quite enough.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
The main source of player interaction comes from snatching certain contraption cards first which leads to beating players to completing projects first which then leads to collecting VP’s first……This lends to the game a kind of “race” aspect. You see you NEED to be the first to place on the conveyor belt so you have the first pick of the juiciest of contraptions but to do that you need to have enough charcoalium to spend. BUT that is all dependent on if there is even something up the conveyor belt that you really need.
You see this game is all about building up those contraptions but all they mostly do is produce certain resources that you end up using to build more contraptions that……build more resources. Yes there are some contraptions that “attack“ other players by stealing their resources or preventing them from using some of their machines but these really feel forced in this game. The same goes for the defensive machines, why spend quite a bit of resources building an attack or defensive machine when you can use those resources to build machines that actually GIVE you something. There are also machines that transform resources into other resources. These are yet another thing that seems useless since you always seem to have access to other resource contraptions on the conveyor belt. I guess the feeling I got from playing the game was that the production machines were THE WAY to go and all the others were basically useless chaff that filled out the deck.
But then the game just felt so bland, building production machines to produce resources to build…more production machines. And honestly this, for me, was the biggest let down of the game. The gameplay just felt so bland and by the end of each game I was just kinda bored with the whole thing.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
There can be a decent amount of downtime at higher player counts as each player will be taking a couple actions and manipulating their own player boards and cards so be prepared for that. However, at lower player counts the game runs much smoother…and yet, there isn’t as much strategy involved since less cards will be gobbled up and player action order won’t matter as much. The race aspect of the game felt lessened at lower player counts as well.
Replayability is pretty low as well. Each player board is slightly different at the onset of the game. Basically, starting player order differs in the starting resources and contraptions creating a nice balance since player order is such a big part of the game. But I wouldn’t really attribute that to replayability much. The contraptions seen during the game might have had an effect but there isn’t THAT much of a difference and you do end up seeing the same stuff over and over again. Bottom line, the replayability is very low here.
Positive Final Thoughts
The components are excellent and presentation is out of this world. The game board looks awesome when combined with all the components and the artwork is excellent. The mechanisms to the game are fun with creating machines and trying to figure out the most efficient way to produce the resources.
Negative Final Thoughts
But the gameplay overall is pretty bland. You end up creating contraptions to produce resources so you can build more contraptions to produce more resources. It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t lend itself to any fun. The iconography is a killer of fun in this game as well. Always having to reference the back few pages of the manual to find out what everything does and needing to remember what things mean so you can try and plot out a decent strategy.