Published on March 6th, 2015 | by Luke Turpeinen2
Royal Strawberry Fields Forever
An Imperial Harvest Review
Strawberries are totally in right now. That’s what Broomstick Monkey Games wants you to think, anyways. They have announced a three game line-up of titles all focusing on strawberries, the first of which is Imperial Harvest. The follow up game, Royal Strawberries will launch its Kickstarter this autumn, while 8 Kingdoms does not yet have a release date. Who knew that strawberries were so cool?
Imperial Harvest is a game of action economy- you want to have more berries in your your cart, or at least in your basket, at the end of the game than the other player. That’s because these aren’t ordinary strawberries, they’re Royal Strawberries and holding them gives you extra abilities. You will have to manage your action points effectively to race your opponent.
The game actually reminds me of vintage Atari games where you had to race around and pick up the special objects on the screen while dodging obstacles. Pac Man and Donkey Kong Jr are obvious examples, but there were more. Imperial Harvest has similar game play elements, though it is more tactical in nature and it is directly competitive.
Generally speaking you’re just trying to run around and put a bunch of berries away, but life is never that easy. Eventually you’re going to want the same berry as the other player, and some characters have ways to interact. In addition, there are moats and hedges in garden that block movement and line of sight, but there are ways around that.
In Imperial Harvest you control three characters with different abilities. Each team has a character in common (the Bard) and two unique characters (the Guardsman and Monk, or the Sorceress and Barbarian). The Guardsman and the Barbarian each have attack actions, while the Monk and the Sorceress can each force other characters to move. Bards have a buff/debuff that affects action points and they can move diagonally, while other pieces only move orthogonally. The Barbarian can chop down hedges and the Monk can grow new ones.
If you are attacked and can’t defend (only the Guardsman can defend) then your character is moved back to the spawn point and all of their strawberries are removed from the game. You can be attacked by more than just the other player though- each game has two Hydras in it. If you ever get within a square of them, they immediately attack your character and nothing defends against them. Good thing you can spend an entire character’s action to move them a space, hopefully closer to your enemy!
With games that only play with two players, I find that they can either be very confrontational and require taking out the opponent to win, or are almost solitaire games where you compare scores at the end. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a middle ground, but Imperial Harvest found some for itself. Players get points for:
- Picking a strawberry (x1)
- Holding a strawberry at the end of the game (x1)
- Each stored strawberry at the end of the game (x2)
Even though you can take out other characters, and doing so makes them drop their held berries, sometimes it’s a waste of your precious time. You each only get 7 turns to do something, and you only get to activate two of your three characters on any given turn. On the other hand, if you’ve got extra action points that turn, and they’re right there then you might as well use your Sorceress to force push them into the waiting maw of a hydra.
Setup is quick and painless. The pictures in the Setup Book make everything very clear and unambiguous. I like that the designers separated the Setup Book from the Rules Book, it helps me find what I’m looking for easier and when I’m using one I don’t need the other, as a rule. It also allows one person to set up while another one reads the rules, which is great. I wish more companies did this.
We finished after about 20 minutes for the two player game. It was easy to learn, and the mechanics are very simple for a tactics game. There are Advanced and Basic versions of the character cards, though we only used the Advanced ones and they never seemed complicated. In fact the only rules issue we had was the way to use the extra action points from the Bard’s aura when you go in and out of it during a single turn. We made a judgement call from the table and went on, so it wasn’t a real issue for us.
Imperial Harvest is a small game, not quite pocket-sized, about as large as a paperback novel. The board is modular, and made of many smaller tiles which come together to form a custom map to play on. The setup guide comes with multiple different ways to configure the board, and offers suggestions for combining two copies to add on additional players. At the Broomstick Monkey website, you can download static maps to print off (so the tiles don’t slide) or just use them as guides for assembling new boards.
Imperial Harvest is a great microgame with a fun theme and colorful art. The asymmetric teams keep things interesting, and the amount of abilities per character is just right. Imperial Harvest would be amazing as a four player game, and we’ll be ordering a Kickstarter copy for ourselves to add to the prototype we currently own to do just that. At $15, Imperial Harvest is an easy buy and a great choice for a gamer with a budget or someone looking to pick up a travel-friendly game.