This is the second game I’ve purchased designed by Carl Chudyk, the first being the amazing Innovation. I’ll surely be giving that game a review before too long, but for now let’s focus on Impulse.
A fairly generic space-centric science fiction glaze is all the fluff you’ll get with this game, though there are some interestingly-named races their differences are extremely slight. Certain races start with given abilities others do not, but you’ll rarely hold onto your starting abilities long anyhow.
The objective is to be the first to reach 20 points, which can themselves be obtained several ways.
Some off those ways are:
- Trading a card. You get as many points as the card has icons
- refining minerals. This eliminates the card from your mineral pile, so you won’t benefit from it any more, but you will get some number of points (varies per action card)
- sector core patrol
- visiting sector core with a fleet of carriers
Setup consists of laying out the cards to form the space sector, at the center of which is placed the valuable Sector Core card. Given the number of players (Impulse can accommodate 2-6) their starting position on this “board” are fixed. Each player takes a race card and a color of rocket ship tokens, placing one of them on the score board at 0. After drawing an initial hand of 5 cards, each player must pick up his home card and decide from among all of these which will remain as his face-up home card after all. Then each player places 2 carrier ships and 1 cruiser ship on his home card. The cruisers “patrol” the “gates” between adjacent locations. Carriers “occupy” the locations themselves.
Think of carriers as your civilian ships and cruisers as your military muscle. Fleets can basically be reorganized on the fly, consisting of one or more ships.
Each player’s turn consists of:
- adding a card to the impulse
- using one of your two techs (either the starting abilities or those you’ve researched your way into)
- Running through the entire impulse and making use of those actions that are useful
- Running through the player’s entire Plan (basically a non-shared version of the impulse), though this may be delayed if the plan has fewer than 4 cards in it
- Scoring points for cruisers patrolling the sector core
- Drawing two cards and trimming the impulse down to 3 cards
Impulse is basically a 4X packaged into the smallest of analog formats. It’s because of this, as well as some rather interesting design choices – Chudyk seems keen on innovative and even initially unintuitive design, though it usually has a way of burning a hole through the clouds of confusion that initially settle in- that this game is definitely a gamer’s game, rather than a gateway game. I say this because, unlike the previously-mentioned Innovation, Impulse has a lot of meat to sink one’s teeth into.
One of the complexities/odd choices in Impulse is the multipurposing of cards as any of several tools in the game. Initially they are formed into an interesting hex grid board of play. The reverse sides are revealed through exploration, likewise being added to the explorer’s hand and one card replaced face up on the board, as with setup. Card actions are activated in numerous ways, such as landing on them with a fleet of carriers, or executing them from the impulse or plan.
In addition to being used as a board and as queues of actions via impulse and plans, cards may also be mined and used as minerals. These cards simply contribute a number of icons (in one of four colors) which thereafter boost actions taken using corresponding colored cards.
Combat only occurs when two or more fleets of cruisers wind up at the same gate. It works like so:
- First the defender lays out a number of face down cards from his hand as “reinforcements”. The attacker lays down reinforcements similarly face down
- These cards are revealed. Any invalid/bluff cards are returned to their player’s hands, while the others remain. In order to be a valid card, it must match another card from the impulse, the player’s plan, our his techs. It must match both in “size” (the number of icons on the card) as well as color.
- An additional card is drawn for each cruiser in the fight and added to the reinforcements. These new cards are not required to match anything.
- The number of icons on each side is totaled, and the loser’s ships are destroyed
The winner of a combat receives points equal to the number of destroyed enemy ships + 1.
Cruisers passing through territory occupied by enemy carriers (but no cruisers) simply obliterate them without a fight.
Innovation is chock-full of options on every turn, which can easily lead to analysis paralysis in non-strategic or neophyte players.
The box says 30-60 mins, but to me that figure seems unrealistic for average players. I’d give it 90 mins for your first game and be glad if you’re done at that mark.
For gamers steeped in strategic play and ready to take tactical advantage of the varying terrain and the whims of other players on the impulse, this game is great. 5 out of 5 easily. For middling gamers or newbies, you might want to find you fun elsewhere.
Here’s a race card with several minerals accumulated, two replacement techs and a plan forming:
Here’s a few race cards to compare, as well as the pile of rocketships in the box:
Finally, here’s a potential mid-sized play scenario in a two player game, where both races have spread out significantly from their originating locations on either edge of the board. Red seems to be in control of the sector core for now…