I have an optional rule for use of the original Imperial card that I have playtested for the last couple of years with great results. I know the card is no one's favorite and the expansions have replaced the card, but as I just finished another great game of TI with this varient, I thought I would share it with the community. We call this the "Imperial Demand" option. Comments and feedback welcome.
Below is a "formal" statement of the rule change, suitable for summarizing the new card effects, but it is rather cumbersome to read. The optional rule is best explained in layman's terms first, followed by an example:
Think of the Imperial card as a form of cancelling interrupt. When this card is selected in the Strategy Phase, the selecting player gains a significant benefit: the player may prevent any other player from excecuting the primary ability of *their* Strategy Card when they declare they are doing so in the Action Phase. Play is interrupted while the Secondary rules of the Imperial card are executed, and then resumes with the execution of the interrupted Strategy card.
We have 6 players, P1->P6 sitting in clockwise order. Play is currently at P3, who declares for her action that she will play the Technology Strategy. Normally, this would allow her to gain a "free" technology, and players P4, P5, P6, P1 and P2 to have the option of executing the Secondary Strategy of the Tech card. However, her current nemesis, P5, Plays his Imperial Demand Card, indicating that the Primary Tech Strategy cannot be performed this round by imperial demand. Play immediately halts and a new Objective card is drawn from the Objective Deck and placed into the scoring area. Next, P3 loses any and all benefits of the primary Technology Strategy. Then play resumes with the Secondary Strategy of the Imperial card, namely that P6, P1, P2, P3, and P4 have the option to produce units at any existing space dock (we begin at P6 because P5 has played a Strategy card). Once this is complete, play resumes with the Seconday Strategy of P3's Tech card: P4, P5, P6, P1 and P2 each have the option of purching a tech improvement just as they would have had P3 played the Primary Strategy of her Strategy card.
Some Finer Points:
A player gains *no* benefits of the Primary Strategy if their Strategy is cancelled or interrupted by Imperial Demand; it is as if they had no Strategy Card during that round. Save for the interruption to the order of their normal Secondary Strategy actions in the round, all other players are not affected by the play of the Imperial Demand card Under certain special circumstances, it is possible that a player holding the Imperial Demand card is put into a position where he or she must play the Imperial Demand card as he or she has no more valid plays to make in the round. This is somewhat rare but can occur if any rule or racial ability allows other players to intermittantly skip turns during a round or execute a significant number of actions in a round. In the event that this situation arises, the player holding the Imperial Demand card *must* still play the card before passing his or her turn, but the Primary Strategy of the card has no effect. The Secondary Strategy of the card is played normally. For example, through judicious stockpiling of Command Counters, a number of "play as an action" Action Cards, and a Racial Ability to intermittantly skip turns, P3 has managed to place P4 in a position where P3 has yet to execute his Strategy card for the round while P4 has played every possible action and still holds the Imperial Demand card hoping to disrupt P3's Strategy card. Should P4 have no other play, P4 *must* play the Imperial Demand card before being allowed to pass. The Primary Strategy of the card has no effect on game play, as their is no Strategy card to be cancelled; the Secondary Strategy of the card is executed by all players left of P4 and the game resumes normally.
The victory points award is removed, extending game time Breaks the 1/8 game cycle as a player holding Initiative going into the Strategy round must now choose between stopping a Strategy of a foe or advancing his or her own situation rather than automatically claiming the 2 points. This choice comes with the penallty of acting last every turn, so it is not simply a "spoiler" card. Furthermore, Initiative does not become the mandatory first choice should it be available as it no longer effectively grants the 2 victory points in the following round. The Strategy round becomes even more interesting as bribes, negotiations and threats are exchanged over this powerful card and players attempt to influence others into choosing or avoiding the card during the Strategy Phase. This same amount of cajoling occurs during the Action Phase as well and is great for backstabbing, revenge and surprise maneuverers. During the Strategy Phase, those that choose ahead of others do not automatically have a "best choice" option. If, for example, a player would greatly benefit from Warfare in order to continue a campaign against a player choosing later in the round, he must carefully weigh the choice between selecting Warfare and facing a cancellation by Imperial Demand or choosing a less aggressive Strategy in hopes his current foe sees the reduced threat and changes his or her choice of Strategy card. Status Phases become very important as players cannot count on receiving Command Counters from the Logistics or Politics cards. Counter management becomes critical and requires additional planning throughout the game. In games with 3-4 players, there is significant strategy in carefully choosing both Strategy cards and in properly anticipating the choices of your opponents; choosing Imperial Demand guarantees successful use of the other chosen card, but at the price of not gaining two significant benefits that round. Choosing when to play Imperial Demand is not always one of "who do I wish to harm". As the other players immediately get to execute the Secondary Strategy of the card (production at a space dock), the card may provide a boon to enemy players by providing them a fleet with which to act later in the round. That is, if they can afford it and have not squandarded their resources earlier in the round. Timing is crucial to get the most out of the card. The Imperial Demand card is to the Strategy "deck" what the Sabotage card is to the Action Deck and the Council Dissolved is to the Political Deck.
Rename this card the Imperial Demand Strategy Card (2) Replace the Primary Strategy portion of the card with this text:
" (1) Interrupt and prevent the execution of the Primary Strategy of the Strategy card another player just declared.
(2) Draw the next Objective Card from the Objective Deck
(3) All other players beginning with the player to the left of the one playing this card and proceeding in normal execution order, may now execute the Secondary Strategy of this strategy card
(4) Resume play with the player that had his or her Strategy Card interrupted, allowing other players to play the Seondary Strategy of the interrupted card in normal execution order."
The Secondary Strategy of the Imperial Demand card is the same as that of the Imperial card; there are no changes