Imperialism II is a turn-based strategy game.
The official strategy guide is OK, and its suggestions allow you to enjoy the game’s diverse features, but I want to share with you a much more effective method of winning games. [Updated October 16, 2013] In fact, I almost enjoy the game less now that I know how to win nearly every time at 400 level. [Updated June 23, 2015] Here’s an alternate strategy that does make use of more of the game’s features.
The quickest way to win a game is to share a continent with multiple major powers and conquer them one at a time, all the while maintaining a strong economy by connecting your conquests to your capitol via land transport.
The most important step to winning is selecting the correct empire from the initial map. Find a large continent with multiple major powers. Why is it better to attack major powers than minor powers? Because when you conquer a major power, you already have all their developed resources and transportation network. Also, when you conquer a major power’s province, there’s a chance you acquire its technology. When you conquer minor powers, you have to build the roads and farms and mines. You do get a nice cash bonus.
Don’t think about attacking the New World unless you need a specific resource, typically tin, copper or iron ore. It’s entirely useless because you have to spend resources developing it, assign ship resources to transport the products and assign military resources to defend it.
Select a major power which borders only one major power. If things work out well for you, then, when you conquer your neighbor, you’ll be immediately able to declare war on its neighbor, and so on. Have a couple of engineers to connect the transport networks and build forts at strategic choke points.
The other factor when choosing your empire is its natural resources. The most important resource is grain, since you can’t find it in the new world and, unlike fish, you can’t build improvements like harbors to gather more.
Horses are nice, but not essential. See below.
The most important geographical features are swamps, where you’ll find tin, and barren hills and mountains, where you’ll find copper and iron ore.
[Updated October 16, 2013] The first economic milestone you must strive for is having two timber and two iron ore coming to your capitol for free every turn. This allows you to build one lumber and one cast iron each turn, which allows you to complete eventually your internal transportation network with one engineer and one builder. The second economic milestone is to secure two sheep each turn and recruit your 5th and 6th peasants and have those new peasants produce one cloth each turn. You now have everything you need to increase your population up to its food limits, provided you have enough sheep, timber and iron ore coming in to keep them busy. The third economic milestone is creating a pile of bronze you can use to fund your first army of horse artillery, musketeers or calivermen. Note you will also need horses for the horse artillery. If you are fortunate, you will have both tin and copper in your nation. If you only have one, try buying the other on the open market. If you run out of funds, as soon as you have enough peasants, they should be producing enough surplus for you to sell one cloth, one lumber or one cast iron each turn to fund your market purchases. Check the market to sell the finished product with the highest price. For example, sometimes it is better to produce paper because the price of paper is higher than lumber. Right now, the only games I’m losing is when I site my capitol too far away from forests or mountains/barren hills to reach the first economic milestone quickly.
You probably need about 4-6 sheep farms from fertile hills producing for you to have the military boom necessary to implement this strategy.
[Updated 2015-05-27]: If your neighboring empire(s) develop horse artillery and/or musketeers & you are still far from having your offensive force to conquer them, you may need to recruit a bridge army.
Timber’s useful, but you can almost always buy timber on the market. If you don’t conquer New World provinces, you won’t need a lot of timber to build ships and New World infrastructure.
Site your capitol in a manner which maximizes your initial resource supply. Sometimes, the empire will be in a great location and have the correct mix of geographical features, but the absence of a good capitol location (rivers!) should force you to request a new world map.
On 400 level, you won’t have enough food to support a 3-ship navy. Destroy one ship. Send the other ship to explore the New World. This will allow you to expand sources of raw materials in the market, and, in the unfortunate circumstance where you’ll need to conquer a province, you’ll have some idea where to go. [Updated October 16, 2013: I’m now killing off my single army unit, a Peasant Levy. It is useless, and doing so makes it easier to get to that critical economic milestone mentioned above.]
You also won’t be able to afford a 2nd explorer. So just keep the 2 pieces of paper with which you start off and sell them when the demand for them in the market peaks. Or use them for spies to speed up your technological research.
[Updated October 16, 2013] I’ve changed my mind about the 2nd explorer. I think it is almost always a benefit, and I’ve begun to realize how simple it is through the market to raise whatever money you need. The most important benefit of the second explorer is helping you find the tin, copper and iron ore quickly within your initial empire so that you waste no time getting to your economic milestones mentioned above.
Buy the resources you need most. I always start with iron ore. I also buy finished materials if I really need them (cast iron to complete a road to the iron ore mine) or if the price drops below $250 and I still have money. For example, bronze is frequently at a low price at the beginning of the game.
Keep expanding your population until you’ve maxed out your farms and ranches. Assuming you’ve got shipping capacity, fill it with a harbor and its fish. You’ll want to have a fish surplus, because you may get blockaded or need to reduce your fish transport in order to sell items to finance your war efforts.
The key to this strategy is to be extremely stingy with your money, which you’ll need to conquer your neighbor. The biggest waste of money is research. The only time to spend money on research is when you cannot “mooch” research that you need for a military campaign from the other powers. When you are choosing technology to research, choose technology highlighted in green. Those are the technologies which lead to your research goal. If none is available, choose a technology which at least 2 major powers have already acquired.
If you have horses, set your research goal to Horse Artillery. If not, set it to Musketeers. Musketeers are better units, but most often you’ll need to invest money in researching it because the other powers will seek Horse Artillery first. You’ll need 8, but preferably 10 (to get a general), of either unit and about $1800 to begin your conquest. [Updated October 16, 2013] If your initial capitol site provides you with a lot of food and you decide to keep your first peasant levy unit and you have no horses, you can also set your research goal to Calivermen. They are very effective units.
[Updated October 16, 2013] I like to decide relatively early on in the game which category of military unit will be the mainstay of my army. If I don’t see myself getting access to at least 3 horse farms relatively early on, say after my first series of conquests, I don’t like mobile artillery and light/heavy cavalry as the mainstay of the army. Upgrades take an increasing number of horses, so you really need a lot of horse farms to rely on these units throughout the course of the game. If bronze is no problem, then your default choice should be heavy infantry. If bronze is a problem and your neighbors are aggressive, your first army may need to be spearmen or Cossacks (if you have horses and you have reasearched that tech) . They are good early defensive units, and you defeat Minor Power forts with a single artillery unit with a mass of spearmen/Cossacks. Use the artillery, even the despised, generally useless Heavy Artillery, to blow a hole in the wall, and then send your grunts through. Hopefully, through your conquests, you will solve your bronze problem. If not, hopefully you have coal, and then you need to race to steel production to upgrade your units to Regulars or Hussars. If your Old World conquests don’t solve your resource problems, look for New World capitols to attack. Finally, I have not tried this, but if, for some reason, you need to fight an early war, and all you have is a lot of food, lumber and cloth, then recruit a lot of bowmen. They might help you survive, and they can storm lightly defended forts. The only problem is that they cannot be upgraded, so you basically have to kill them off and rebuild your population.
When you conquer your neighbor’s capitol, you have a couple of immediate priorities to sort. Should you conquer the remainder of your neighbor’s provinces? Should you declare war and conquer the minor powers (in the Old and New Worlds) who had designated your neighbor as their favorite major power? Should you conquer its New World provinces?
In general, I like to conquer contiguous old world Major Power provinces first. I know that, if my economy is strong, I can always solve my money problems.
If I have a navy and I can get to a diamond- or emerald-producing province before the other Major Powers, I’ll do so.
If there is a geographically contiguous Minor Power without a Major Power patron, I immediately declare war and conquer it. I take its money and send the builders and engineers to incorporate it into my economy.
Problems and solutions:
Where do I get $1800 if I’m acquiring raw materials through the market and I don’t have any valuable minerals from the New World?
If your population is large enough, it will almost always produce finished goods which you can sell through the market. It only takes the sale of 7 items at $270 to give you enough to get started.
My territory does not include a valuable resource.
The best solution is to buy the resource or the finished product on the market. The next best solution is to find it in a New World province and conquer it. The least best solution is to use a merchant and develop it in a minor power.
Early on, as your are developing your farms and ranches and transportation network, your problem is typically iron ore. Later, you’ll need bronze, made from tin and copper.
My neighbor has allies.
It does not matter that much. When you have a massive army, some of the allies will break their alliance when you declare war. (Remember to declare war at least one turn after you’ve mustered your army.) If your declaration of war provokes other nations to declare war against you, it won’t hurt you unless they can open up multiple fronts and spread your forces thin. The other thing that can hurt you at this point is a naval blockade and then threats of naval invasion.
Try to capture your neighbor’s capitol quickly so that you don’t have to worry about its counterattacks. One empire’s elimination is often the first step to an alliance’s dissolution.
When a blockade occurs, end your trading and shipping so that your ships are not captured. When a naval blockade does not result in captured ships, the blockading empire is more receptive to your requests for a peace treaty.
You can also offer your neighbor a peace treaty after crippling it by capturing a province which interrupted its food supply. Your defeated neighbor will typically accept the peace treaty, thus breaking the alliance. Then make peace treaties with its former allies. Build forts along the border and connect the newly conquered provinces to your capitol’s transportation network. Then declare war again on your wounded neighbor and finish it off.
If you’ve gotten enough food, rebuild your population.
After you’ve conquered your first neighbor, you probably will have stolen enough technology for Galleons, and six Galleons will make you a naval superpower until the Frigate age.
Forts are useful when there is a fighting front, but don’t waste your wood and bronze on forts. As soon as your population permits, build a 6-Galleon navy and that will end any threat from your neighbor’s allies.
Nobody will buy my products, and I’m going to run out of money.
Conquer minor nations to loot their treasury. If a major power is a Top Trade Partner, then it will join that empire when you declare war on it, so that won’t work, in general. If that major power is fighting other major powers, then it may not choose to provoke a war with you, so you might try it out. Another trick is to declare war on the major power. Blockade its port some, and soon it will plead for peace. Accept the peace, and then declare war against the minor nation. The major power will generally not want to resume war against your empire.
How early can you REALLY build the artillery that you need to conquer an Old World province, unless someone else has destroyed its fort?
Note that you can build a Culverin as soon as you acquire 4 bronze, and you can use that and 4 Cossacks or 5 spearmen to capture a minor Old World power non-capitol province. You can also storm a Minor Power fort with bowmen, although I’ve never needed to do that. But you’d be surprised that, even without spending money on research, as long as you follow the research adviser recommendations to get to your research goal, you get Horse Artillery not too long after the other Major Powers, and, at least half the time, I’ve not had to fight a war before I’ve been able to choose to start it. If Musketeers or Culivermen is your goal, you probably will have to spend money researching since most other powers don’t follow that tech tree. But you can raise enough money for the research by selling two finished products every turn in the market. Sometimes, other powers will declare war on me before I’ve built an offensive army. In that case, I try to make do with spearmen/cossacks until I get musketeers/horse artillery.
[Updated October 20, 2013] Note: I always play the games with the setting to micromanage battles. If you know what you are doing, this will allow you to win many more battles than the AI would do on your behalf.
Some sample games
- 400 level game
- 200 level game
- 200 level game
- 400 level game Swibawys map key
- 400 level game Intes map key
- 400 level game Rhaellea map key. This game is interesting because it is the first random map I’ve generated in which every major power was on the same continent. Needless to say, just like the first hour of The Hunger Games, the action was fast and furious.
- 400 level game Taenoma map key. Interesting thing about this game. I played as Portugal, which started off with no wood. My normal target of aggression, my neighbor Holland, also had no wood. Compounding this, there was hardly any livestock.
- 400 level game Llallagh Kan map key. This game led me to add building a bridge army to the strategy guide.