Carry a galaxy in conflict around in your cargo shorts with Pocket Imperium

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Pocket Imperium is a surprisingly big game in a very small box. The "Pocket" in its name refers to its microgame stature, while "Imperium" offers a clue to its galaxy-spanning scale and 4X game mechanic (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate), popular among galactic empire games. The first thing you notice about Pocket Imperium is the quality of its components. The box and art are lovely, as are the command cards and seven main "sector tiles" (the game board). The game also comes with 52 brightly colored wooden spaceship markers in four designs. There's a lot stuffed into this box, and with everything placed on the table, it really makes for a satisfying game spread. But at $40, you do pay for all this.

The rules for Pocket Imperium are deceptively simple. Each player plays three cards (six if it's two players) that contain movement commands (Expand, Explore, Exterminate). These moves are "pre-programmed" before each turn with the cards turned over simultaneously and executed in the sequence of Expand, Explore, Exterminate. So, one player may want to expand first, another explore, and maybe another exterminate. If you're the only player commanding an expansion that turn, you get two bonus ships; if two players execute the same order, they each get one extra ship; if all of the players execute the same turn command, no one gets extra vessels to field. The turn sequence and bonuses are indicated on quick reference cards you can keep on the table.

The game is played on a 7-tile galaxy of planetary systems that can be configured into different galactic shapes. The tiles are also two-sided and the flip sides contain more difficult star systems to conquer and new obstacles like a black hole.

 Playing the game basically consists of moving your ships from system to system, trying to exploit its resources and take over its planets. Each planet has point values and there are various bonuses (and limitations). This game may seem simple and not tremendously exciting on the surface, but it has some real depth and replayability to it. The command cards being locked in before the round begins, and then executed in a set order, creates a great psychological dimension to the game as you try and get inside the heads of your opponents to figure out what turn sequence they might program. And with the dual-sided tiles, and different galaxy configurations, there's a lot you can do to change up the game.

For a 2-3 player game, the game ends in six rounds; eight rounds if four people are playing. A movement tracker printed on the back of the box keeps tabs of your turns. Players add up all of their victory point tiles at the end and there are some final-round bonuses. In the end, the galactic overlord with the most points wins. Praise Xenu!

Pocket Imperium Card Game

by Passport Game Studios

Ages 12 and up, 2-4 players

$40 Buy a copy on Amazon