Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

A world of pure imagination:- Imaginarium

Game: Imaginarium

Publisher: Bombyx

Designer: Bruno Cathala, Florian Sirieix

Year: 2018

Imaginarium is a 2-5 player engine building game in which you compete with the other players to become the best dream maker in a steam-punk dream factory. In order to be the best you will have to take the many broken machines from the shop floor and fix them up, then use the resources generated by those machines to recruit allies, complete objectives, or simply to fix more machines. It isn't easy to be number one though, there are strict sets of rules that you must adhere to and only a very limited amount of space in your workshop.


Each turn players will select one broken machine from the conveyor belt to buy, the newest machines will cost more charcoal(ium) than the later ones, but will also giver you an earlier placing in the turn order. If you don't want any machines then you can earn a few charcoal by doing dirty work around the factory instead. On a players turn the first thing that happens is all of their machines will activate, these typically produce a few resources, or convert resources from one kind to another. You only have room for 4 machines in your workshop, but you can combine some machines to save space. After your machines produce you get to choose 2 of the 6 actions, however you don't have free reign, your must select 2 adjacent abilities, and cannot select the same 2 as the previous turns.

Imaginarium set up ready to play, fortunately the giant pair of teeth soon get covered up by the discarded cards. The resource container in the center is extremely useful and makes set-up a breeze!

Most of the abilities are simple, you can do some mining for charcoal if you are low on funds, you can spend charcoal to recruit a helper (all helpers allow you to bend or break a core game rule in the future). You could choose to repair a machine, spending resources to get it functioning, not only will it produce for you in future turns but it also will produce immediately. Alternatively you can dismantle a machine, gaining a number of resources required to build it or, if the machine was repaired, some victory points. You can also trade on the market, spending charcoal to gain resources/victory points or selling spare resources for charcoal. Finally you can merge machines, if you merge multiple of the same type you can increase their relative efficacy as well as save space.

In Imaginarium you will be racing to get to 20 victory points, the first player to reach 20 announces that they have done so. At the end of that round all players will reveal their quantities of the 4 resources (wood, copper, crystal and charcoal), with a bonus 2 victory points awarded for each majority. Victory points are earned in 3 main ways: you can use the trade action to buy them with charcoal (the game's main currency), you can dismantle repaired machinery into victory points, with better machines being worth more, or you can complete objectives, with a small bonus for being the first player to meet each objective.

It's impossible to talk about Imaginarium without mentioning the art, and to preface my comments I do want to say that the art is of very high quality. The problem I have is it's high quality images of things that I really dislike, the overall art style seems to have been inspired from big-head mode from Goldeneye on the N64. While it's meant to have this dream-like steampunk aesthetic, in reality it's more nightmare inducing. The helpers are animal hybrids that seem to hang out in the uncanny valley. And to top it all off someone, for gods only know what reason, decided that the discard pile should be marked by having a massive photo of the inside of someone's mouth in the centre of the board! Long story short, I do not like the art much, but I really can appreciate the time and effort put into making this game look... like a quality product. The player pieces are lovingly molded busts of your character and the storage solution for the resources is simply perfect. I only hope that the art is like marmite, and that there are people out there who are drooling over it.


The player shields help hide your resources, and also contain handy reminders on all of the possible machine combinations and actions.

Gameplay was another let down if I'm honest, the thing I love about engine building games is being able to look at how far you have come since the start of the game. In the final turn you are able to do so much more than you ever dreamed on turn one. In Imaginarium there are simply too many restrictions and all too few of these shackles can be broken. Each turn you can choose 2 actions:- fair enough, and they can't be the same as you did last turn, a reasonable rule, but the fact that they have to be the 2 adjacent things on the arbitrary list of actions really confuses me. The limit of 4 working machines on your shop floor often means that you engine building comes to an artificial ceiling half way through the game and from then on you are left awkwardly dismantling and merging to try and make space for that next machine you need to dismantle/merge. Imaginarium is far too restrictive on what you can do on a turn by turn basis which serves only to slow the game down.

There are some genuinely good points, the game seems to be quite balanced, all our games were close. Also the two-player mode is very well integrated, giving you a worker each that exists only to trash machines you think your opponent wants, in turn this makes the turnover on the conveyor belt flow at a suitable rate for fresh cards come in. If you can stomach the art style then the game is of fantastic quality, it's clear that a lot of love has gone into the design phase. For me the game was too long for what it was, held me back from doing what I wanted to do and put me off with symbology that resulted in frequent manual use mid-game.

4/10


Imaginairum was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £44.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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