Imperial Harvest Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.


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The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and above (publisher suggests 10+)
  • For 2 players
  • Approximately 20 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Protect or grab the magical strawberries!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

The Royal Strawberry is believed by many to be the most perfect thing in existence. Nations have gone to war for just a taste of this magical fruit. When the Emperor came to power, he constructed a giant wall around the last known place the Royal Strawberries grew and tasked heroes to protect the garden. But outside the garden walls, the Northern Raiders plotted to enter the garden and steal the Royal Strawberries for their own! The garden is about to get “berry” competitive.

Imperial Harvest, designed by Justin CallJarom Chung, and to be published by Broomstick Monkey Games, will reportedly be comprised of 6 Character cards (3 Norther Raiders and 3 Imperial Servants), 6 Character tokens (one per Character card), 2 “Blank” Character tokens, 1 Hydra card, 2 Hydra tokens, 4 Moat tiles, 1 “Strawberry Camp” Norther Raider tile, 1 “Character Camp” Norther Raider tile, 1 “Strawberry Camp” Imperial Servant tile, 1 “Character Camp” Imperial Servant tile, 8 rectangular Garden tiles, 4 square Garden tiles, 4 Chopped Hedge tiles, 4 Hedge tiles, 4 Bridge tiles, 18 Victory Point tokens, 18 Strawberry tokens, and 1 Turn Order card. As this is a review of a prepublished game, I will not comment on the game component quality. The character illustrations and proposed artwork by Audrey Fry and Nick Hayes is colorful and clean.

Note: The game has been published and looks similar to the visual examples below with a few noted exceptions. The wording has changed on most cards, making the effects and actions easier to understand, additional characters have been added, and a general clean up before release was completed. The quality of the cards is excellent and the illustrations are outstanding.

Game Set Up

Note: Imperial Harvest can be played up to 6-players and has several alternate ways to play the game. Explained here is the standard 2-player game and game play. See “Game Variants” for a summary of the different ways this game can be played with family and friend.

To set up the standard game, first take 4 “square” Garden tiles and place them in the middle of the game playing area. Make sure that each of the square Garden tiles are adjacent to each other. Then take the 4 Moat tiles and frame the 4 Garden tiles so they are surrounded by water. Finally, take the 8 “rectangle” Garden tiles and  place them around the Moat tiles. When done, the completed area will look similar to the following image.

Note: When setting up the garden, the Garden tiles can be placed randomly or strategically. It’s up the players to determine how the garden should be arranged, but the initial set up should match the tile formation as shown here.

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Second, place 1 Strawberry token on each of the Garden tiles, for a total of 12 Strawberry tokens.

Third, take the Bridge tokens and give an equal number to both players. The player who will be playing as the Imperial Servants places 1 Bridge tile. The player who is playing as the Northern Raiders places both of their Bridge tiles. Then the Imperial Servant player places their last Bridge tile. Only 1 Bridge tile may occupy (or cross) a Moat tile at a time and must always connect 2 Garden tiles that are not blocked by hedges.

Fourth, the Imperial Servant player now takes their “Character Camp” and “Strawberry Camp” tiles, placing 1 of the tiles in the 4 corners of the garden. The Norther Raider player does the same, but places both of their camps. Then the Imperial Servant places their remaining camp. When these tiles are being placed, players should make certain the camps are facing towards the center of the garden, with the symbols of the camp facing outward.

Fifth, place the 2 Hydra tokens on any of the corners of the Moat tiles. Then place 2 more Strawberry tokens on the spaces that are the closest to each Hydra token. Hydras love strawberries. Your garden may look something similar to the following image. The starting areas for the players are highlighted in yellow.

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Sixth, each player now simultaneously places their Character tokens on their “Character Camp” tile, making sure that the symbol is not covered up. Only 1 Character token can occupy a space during game set up.

Seventh, give each player their Character cards. Decide if the “Basic” or the “Advanced” side of the Character cards should be used and flip the Character cards accordingly. Set the Hydra and Turn Order card to one side for easy reference and begin.

Strawberry Commandos

Each character in the game is slightly different except for the “Bard” characters, which are the same for both groups. Regardless of which group the player is using, they can rest easy knowing that one side is no more powerful than the other side. While different abilities might be available, they are balanced by the opposing side having an ability of equal power. Equal, but not identical. What will differentiate the characters are not their individual abilities but how wisely the players use them.

Each Character card has the same layout. All the information the player will need to make quick decisions is clearly displayed. In addition, the Character card acts as a “bag” to hold Strawberry and other item tokens during the game.

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“Basic” side shown

 

The Bards

The Bards for both groups are light-footed and quick of wit. They are also useless in a fight, unless they are signing about one. Bards help the players by providing bonus Action Points, which are seldom used on the Bards.

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The Imperial Guardian and the Barbarian

These two represent the heavy hitters of their group. The Imperial Guardian is armored and armed, being able to take a hit and give it back in equal measure. The Barbarian is all brute force, chopping problems down with his huge axe. This includes enemy characters and hedges that get in his way.

imperalharvest_guardbarb

The Monk and the Sorceress

The Monk is not only a martial arts master, capable of throwing opponents several spaces away, but he’s also an accomplished gardener. With just a little bit of effort, the Monk can plant a brand new hedge, replacing those that have been chopped by the Barbarian and creating new ones to hamper movement. The Sorceress is a tricky one with the ability to memorize other characters, forcing them to move where she wills it. She can also move through solid objects as if they weren’t there.

imperialharvest_monk

The Hydras

Having lived their entire life in the garden, the Hydras have come to regard the quiet waterways as their home. Hydras are territorial and tend to take a snap at anyone who gets too close. This was, of course, the plan, as Hydras make for excellent guards. Unfortunately, everyone miscalculated how quickly they would grow. Now the garden is stuck with them, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a very, very, very dangerous thing.

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Frolicking in the Garden

Note: The “Basic” game is summarized here. See “Game Variants” for details on the “Advanced” game.

Imperial Harvest is played in rounds for a total of 7 rounds in a single game. During each round, the players will take their turns, for a total of 14 turns per game (7 per player). Each turn allows the player to control 2 of their characters in the garden. The player acting as the Imperial Servant always goes first and completes their turn. Then the player acting as the Northern Raiders takes their turn. When a player takes their turn, they are referred to as the “active player”. A single round of game play is summarized here.

Step 1: Select Characters

The active player selects 2 of their Character tokens and announces they will be taking actions with them. One of the two Characters activated must be the Character token that was not used during the last round. Use the “Blank” Character token to indicate which of the Character tokens was not selected during the round. Optionally, a player can take control of a Hydra. See “Combat, Death, and Respawning” for details.

In any order the active player wants, they now spend the Action Points noted on each of their Character cards. After one character is has completed their actions, the active player then takes actions with their second character. When a Character token is activated, its facing (noted with an arrow on the Character token) can be re-orientated at anytime, but only once per activation.

A quick word on Line of Site (LoS), as it pertains to Abilities and will impact decision making. If a character has a LoS Ability, it can only be used if the target of the Ability can be “seen”. This is easily determined by drawing an imaginary line in the direction the Character token’s arrow is pointing. Hedges block LoS, as do other Character tokens.

Actions include the following and cost 1 Action Point each:

  • Move 1 space in the Garden. Character tokens cannot move diagonally, over hedges, gates, or over the Moat tile unless crossing on a bridge. They can move through other Character tokens. All movement is orthogonal (unless otherwise specified by another card or rule).
  • Pluck 1 Strawberry token that is occupying the same space as the Character token. Items picked up are “locked” to the Character card in 1 of 3 slots. When all 3 slots are filled, the character can no longer pluck any Strawberry tokens. Plucking a Strawberry token automatically awards the player 1 Victory Point.
  • Deposit 1 or more Strawberry tokens to an adjacent “Strawberry Camp”. Depositing Strawberry tokens awards the player Victory Points at the end of the game.
  • Pass 1 or more Strawberry tokens or special items to an adjacent Character token.
  • Trash 1 or more Strawberry tokens or special items costs nothing, but removes the trashed tokens from the game.
  • Use an Ability (noted on the Character card), which might cost more than 1 Action Point or none, depending on the character.
  • Use a Strawberry Ability (also noted on the Character card), which might cost more than 1 Action Point. Strawberry Abilities can only be used if the Character card has 1 or more Strawberry tokens locked on it. Having more than 1 Strawberry token does not increase the ability power.

After the player has completed taking all their actions with their first player, they then take an action with their second. After doing so, their turn is over for the round.

Step 2: Next Player’s Turn

Once the active player is done, move the marker on the Turn Order card. The next player now goes, becoming the active player. They will be doing the same sort of things described in step 1.

Step 3: End of Round

After both players are done taking actions, the round comes to an end. The next round begins and is completed using the same steps above. Be sure to move the marker on the Turn Order card.

Combat, Death, and Respawning

Characters can attack other characters through the use of Abilities. The Ability being used is read out loud and then resolved. Very simple. Make sure LoS is correct and nothing is getting in the way of the attack.

Players can optionally forfeit one of their character turns to use 1 of the Hydra tokens instead. Doing so allows the player to move the selected Hydra 1 space in any direction, as long as that direction keeps the Hydra in water. A Hydra can be moved 2 spaces if its movement would put it under a bridge. If such is the case, the Hydra token is placed on the other side of the Bridge token. After the Hydra moves, it attacks everything adjacent to it. There is no way to block or defend against a Hydra attack. Nor can a player use a character ability to charm, reason, persuade, or argue with the Hydra. Even worse, hedges, shields, and other obstructions cannot stop the Hydra from munching down on the Character token.

Which brings us to character death. When a character is taken out, any tokens it was carrying are dropped on the space where the Character token is currently located. Then the Character token is removed from the garden and placed back on a “Character Camp” space.

Closing the Garden

The game immediately ends when the Norther Raider player ends their turn and there are no more Strawberry tokens in the Garden. If this condition does not present itself, the game ends after 7 rounds (14 total turns). Regardless of how the game ends, the players now count their points.

  • 1 Victory Point for each Strawberry token plucked by a character
  • 1 Victory Point for each Strawberry token being held by a character
  • 2 Victory Points for each Strawberry token deposited in the “Strawberry Camp”

The player with the most Victory Points wins the game.

Game Variants

Advanced Game

One one side of the Character card is a “Basic” version of the character. The other side is the “Advanced” version. Advanced versions of the Character introduce more Abilities with additional restrictions. In essence, the characters become stronger, but also somewhat weaker. Gaining strengths in some areas, and losing strength in others.

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“Basic” Imperial Guardian on the left, “Advanced” on the right. Both are stern.

Endless Customization

The tiles used in Imperial Harvest are configurable, allowing players to rotate and flip them however they like to create different maps to play on. Game play remains unaffected with the only change being what the players will have to run, duck, and charge through. The garden set up used in this review can be changed to look like anything the player likes. The only restriction is making sure the players can move their Character tokens through the garden. If you create a garden that no one can navigate or gives one player a significant advantage, it won’t be that interesting of a game.

Tag Team Play

Imperial Harvest can only be played with 2 players, but combining multiple sets allows for larger games and bigger gardens. For example, combining 2 copies of the game allows for a 3-4 player game, 3 copies allows for 4-5 players, and 4 copies allows for 5-6 players. Each set increases the game play length, but not he objective. And it should go without saying that even more tiles makes for an even bigger and more interesting garden to run around in.

To learn more about Imperial Harvest, visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign.

Final Word

The Child Geeks had no problem learning how to play this game and getting into the strawberry stealing action. Since each character is controlled one at a time, the Child Geeks were able to take their time and think through their moves, allowing for some very interesting game play on their part. For example, my oldest son kept planting hedges in front of me, forcing my Barbarian Northern Raider to work as a full-time hedge trimmer. According to one Child Geek, “I like this game! It’s like a race and a battle at the same time.” Another Child Geek said, “This reminds me of a game we play during recesses where you have to capture flags. Oh, it’s called Capture the Flag.” Ha! I love kids. One aspect of the game that was not overly used was the Hydra. The Child Geek preferred to use their own characters with the only exception being the few times where an opponent accidentally left their Character token too close to the water. In which case, “chomp”. When all the strawberries were captured, the Child Geeks voted to approved Imperial Harvest, finding it to be fast and fun.

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My son reviews his options while I mentally hit myself for not grabbing an oblivious point

 

The Parent Geeks were also impressed with the game. They liked how you could set up different gardens, play more than 2 players (if you had another copy of the game) and the many different ways you could go about attempting to steal strawberries. According to one Parent Geek, “If you would have told me I would be playing a game about stealing strawberries, I wouldn’t have been interested. I’m glad you didn’t say anything before we played! This game is great.” The Hydra was used more often by the Parent Geeks, but the focus was still on the main characters. I was delighted to see the Bard used effectively and the Sorceress giving the opposite team a headache. Even the non-gamers go into it. One non-gamer Parent Geek said, “This game is really intuitive. I only have so many things I can do and only so many ways to do it. The only thing I need to figure out is what’s the best way to get the strawberry. I can do that.” A few of the Parent Geeks thought the game was a bit like Chess, while others though the game was a bit like Wiz-Wars. Regardless, they all agreed that Imperial Harvest was a game worth playing.

The Gamer Geeks found the game’s theme to be ridiculous, the strange mix of characters to be absurd, and the idea of a magical strawberry granting abilities to be childish. They loved it. According to one Gamer Geek, “I love little games like this that pack a big punch. It’s got just the right level of depth, requires strategy, and provides enough tactical choices to give your opponent a run for their strawberry.” Another Gamer Geek said, “The only thing I don’t like about this game is the lack of more characters. I want to be able to build my team, not be told who my team is.” This statement was generally agreed upon by all our group members, but the Gamer Geeks felt it was a real negative. With near endless customization of the garden, not being able to customize your team seemed silly. All the other aspects of the game were enjoyed, however, from the strawberry powers to the running around to avoid the Hydra. One very happy Gamer Geek said after winning a game, “I can’t wait to see this put together as a 3-D model with miniatures!” When all the games were over, the Gamer Geeks voted to approve Imperial Harvest, finding it to be a great filler game or whenever 2 Gamer Geeks needed to kill some time and eat some strawberries.

All of our groups played with the “Basic” and “Advanced” sides of the Character cards. The Parent and Gamer Geeks thought the “Basic” was a bit too basic, preferring the “Advanced” side overall. But it also depended on what kind of game you wanted to play. Using the “Basic” side tended to make the game more casual with less combat. The “Advanced” side gave players more to do, but less Action Points to spend. It all balanced itself out and gave players more choices. Which might be what “Advanced” is referring to in regards to the game. The more choices a player has, the more time is spent considering which is the right choice. Players shouldn’t worry, though, as the game is intended to challenge, not give headaches.

One of the surprisingly fun aspects of the game is simply setting it up. There are seemingly countless ways to build the garden, but I’m sure there are limitations. I was provided 2 copies of the game for this review and not once after our many game playing sessions did we ever create a garden that the players considered off-balance. We did create some very odd gardens that looked to be planned by a lunatic, but they were all playable.

I had a lot of fun with Imperial Harvest. I never thought I would play a game where I was upset that I had to drop a strawberry and lose a power. I am in full agreement with the Gamer Geeks that this game needs more characters, but adding more might introduce some balancing issues. One thing is for certain, this game can be modified very easily. Adding in new movement rules, powers, and objectives is very simple. You could even add in more creatures. For example, “Larry the Lion” who prowls the hedges looking for characters to pounce on.

Quick to play, fun to set up, and very satisfying, Imperial Harvest challenged, entertained, and rewarded all of our players. Each game was fun to watch and to talk about long after it was done. Do sit down and play this strawberry raiding game when you have a chance. I think you’ll find it to be a berry good game, indeed.

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This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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One Response to Imperial Harvest Game Review (prepublished version)

  1. Justin Call says:

    Thanks, Cyrus! You’re gamer geeks will be happy to know that the mini-expansion (Merchants & Magic) gives players three new characters they can draft as part of their team. It also comes with extra character tokens so that you can swap characters from the opposing team. Beyond that, we have several stretch goals prepared where folks can get even more characters in their base game of Imperial Harvest. Cheers, and thanks for the review! -Justin Call, Broomstick Monkey Games

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