Imperialism Game Wiki


imperialism strategy guide

Pwrgamer November 2, 2014 User blog:Pwrgamer

Hi, I will in this guide cover strategy how to win Imperialism. As there are many interdependencies between various issues I will start with strategies  from beating intro difficulty and eventually progress to beating NOI most of time.

Beating intro and easy: Early conquest


Here I will cover tactical combat. It gives such advantage to human that knowing it alone suffices to win at easy difficulty and also on normal difficulty provided that you could get/buy horses in first ten turns.

Opening strategy

Before going to tactics I will describe a strategy. It is relatively simple. On first turn start making arms, send troops from capital to neighbor great power and declare war on him and conquer one province per turn. You want to build experience, as a unit with four medals is twice as strong as a newbie. Unit gets medal once per three victories or five defeats. There is

Exploit: French tactic
When you recruit units send them to enemy border. Attack, place them near boundary and hit retreat. Repeat until they get four medals.

And also

Exploit: Attrition
You attack only with artillery, wait until it shoots unit and then retreat. After some turns this kills all defenders and you take province.

As soon as you get arms you get two skirmishers and two light artilleries and send them to reinforce main stack. Try to plan your attacks so you send MS to one province and reinforcements to another that is adjacent to one that both will attack next turn.

Once full stack of 2 regulars, 2 skirmishers 1 artillery, 2 light artilleries its time to go straight for capitals, rest a turn, repeat.


To reach other continents you need to save for one ship of the line. A sequence of naval invasion is: declare war on turn SOTL sails to sea next to province next to capital. On next turn it makes benchhead. Turn later you send 2 regulars 1 skirmisher and 1 light artillery there. Next two turns you send rest of forces, meanwhile SOTL goes to next capital (or if you buy second SOTL attack capital directly). When stack is assembled attack and repeat with next capital. If you did timing right by 1825 you will be only power remaining.


Now we have described strategy, its time to go into tactics. You will face two types of fight as computer has only starting troops at that time.

First one is starting regulars and artillery versus 3 defending minutemen, tactic is same when you have artillery and enemy only infantry. You want to win these fights without getting hit as you want to keep pace of province per turn.

In imperialism attacking is easier than defending. If opponent send extra forces just place troops to left border and retreat. As most of time there will be at least two adjacent provinces that lead to your target, computer needs either to split its forces into two, which you could defeat, or place forces in one province, in which case you have 50% chance to choose the undefended one.

To win this you need to use opportunity fire. Who shoots first has considerable advantage as damage dealt is proportional to health bar; ideally enemy will just flee without shooting. One could create recipe with screenshots how to best win given troop composition or teach principle. A good recipe for 3 minuteman scenario is position regulars to upper right corner and artillery to upper left one. Let regulars advance two hexes rigth-down and keep artillery standing. Next turn artillery will of one unit and can fire on second one, minutemen will attack regulars instead artillery due of insufficient range. Third turn you could decide if you could finish them of or retreat artillery not to take damage and win with regulars. If one has light artillery instead tactic is even easier, start at rightmost position and let enemy eat opportunity fire while you move left, then finish him off.

A principle here is range calculation. If you know range and enemy speed then you place artillery at distance where these meet.

With practice you will discover more tricks. For example how avoid overconcentration: A hit from four medal artillery makes minuteman flee. So if you have 2 artilleries and two minutemans are coming if you place them to trigger at same distance they will kill first one but second comes unscratched. If you instead place them on adjacent distances first makes first minuteman flee and second second minuteman.

This covers first type of encounters. Second one is conquering capitols and forts with artillery in general. Computer generally has starting 2 regulars and one artillery along with minutemans there. Your stack of 2 regulars, 2 skirmishers 1 artillery, 2 light artilleries is enough, for that.

First turn you move your troops to rightmost green dots next turn you charge with skirmishers to take artillery opportunity fire and place them to OF at infantry coming from fort. Then you advance your light artilleries(one suffices when it has enough medals) to destroy enemy artillery. After that enemy will charge, hit your artilleries in process but if you retreat them you should win without lost unit. In general when you are attacking fort you need one light artillery for one enemy and enough fodder to draw fire. An AI does bad job defending there are following two exploits:

Exploit: Cone of death
computer does not move its units while at fort. So you could move your artillery where enemy cannot hit you and kill all units outside of cone  protected by enemy artillery.

A special case is enemy light artillery that otto's idiocy makes worthless in defense. On first round he moves it out of fort into range of your artillery. Just do not place troops in border green dots where they would get hit by it.

Exploit: Not knowing when charge.
A computer keeps infantry in fort while it has artillery and you are stronger. So if you knock his one artillery to near death you can bring your ten artilleries, kill all 30 enemy regulars while getting minimal losses. Charging would cause heavy losses of artillery when it just moved.

On higher difficulties a fort is great on strategic combat (as otto does not know how to attack) but it harms computer in tactical combat. In open terrain computer can charge and easily overwhelm my artillery stack. However fort causes him immense problems. Say its turn two after I knocked his artillery with light artillery. He tries to move his infantry but half cannot move as gate is blocked by his own infantry. With proper unit placement his troop will get demoralized at gate and block it. Often on turn 3 cavalry cannot move because gate is still blocked. On next turns he manages to get only few troops out of fort which are within what my artillery can handle.

Differences on higher levels

On higher difficulties military tactic alone does not suffice. You race with AI which as time passes buys more and more units (main contribution on higher difficulties are colony armies). When I tested limits of strategy above on NOI one if starting with horses could conquer three major powers on same continent but you cannot also build navy sufficiently early. Attacking great powers early is still good idea as their provinces are not guarded by artillery but one also must grow its economy that will be part of next sections.

Generally you have three windows of opportunity to easily eliminate opponents.

  1. First one is early conquest: attack great power early and reduce it to city state. On Hard+ it is before they get first colony; they get 5 artilleries colony army.
  2. Second is on field/siege artillery upgrade, where you have artillery ready next to capitol and attack as soon as possible. As you have better range enemy cannot hit back.
  3. Third one is field artillery/railroad guns with same tactic.

Barring these, computer has too many units in capitol to make attack viable, it is better reduce his territory to capitol only and move elsewhere.

Exploit: Overdefending
When you declare war you attack/do naval invasion province next to capitol. Computer typically moves all its forces to capitol so you could easily take rest of his territory defended by only militia.

Economy 101

Now I will describe economy needed to beat NOI. Good news is that there is lot of slack room. Easiest way to win is conquer all capitols turn after you research rifled artillery. For each player a stack of 4 siege artillery, 4 skirmishers on 4 ships of the line is more than sufficient for that (and does not need horses). The 4 ships are necessary as computer will unlikely have stack that can stop these nearby. Army there is overkill, one could use smaller one but it needs experimentation.

If you also train artillery you need 100 steel to make that stack (a steel is bottleneck, you get plenty of other resources.) As rifled artillery comes roughtly in 100 turns one needs to get around steel per turn. Without much effort one could afford ten such armies.

As we now have goal its time to describe how to get there. Most of stated here is obvious but its better to say than not.

Getting money

Early in game you will be limited by money. You will typically get most money from making and selling furniture as wood could be harvested most effectively and is most plentiful resource (read gathering resources below). Making clothing is secondary source of income which is limited by amount of wool/cotton you could get. Third possibility is making hardware. As steel is key resource one should try sell more furniture/clothing instead and stockpile steel. However buying iron/coal/steel is excellent as it also will weaken opponents which cannot create army without steel then you need to convert some of it to hardware so you could buy resources next turn. You should not sell other resources.

Exploit: Buying steel, fabric and lumber.
On higher difficulty an easiest way to get money and resources is set buys to lumber/fabric/steel/horses. Some great power will happily sell these to you (se trade how use trade book) and You will rapidly expand converting some materials to finished goods trying to have 3000 in bank so you could buy his materials in next turns. This effectively doubles your merchant fleet early game as you would need to buy 4 iron and 4 coal instead 4 steel. This is important as it takes several years until you could expand it from turn two 8 capacity.

This is exploit because selling lumber etc is a blunder that only idiot of otto's level can make. When timber->lumber yields 100 profit while lumber->furniture gets 300 then instead selling 3 lumbers one should make 2 lumbers, then furniture from it and he will get higher profit as well as save raw materials and merchant fleet space.


On macro level one wants only expert workers. To see why just calculate recruitment cost. A new worker costs 3000-5000 as you could also sell his clothing and furniture for that and additional 1000 for making transport bringing food. If we assume that paper costs 500 (as one could produce lumber for furniture instead) making worker skilled costs only 600 and expert 1000 per unit of work.

Exception why not make every worker expert is to keep several skilled workers that could be converted into army when need arises.

Second trick is that on hard+ first few years your workers have nothing to do. To make them useful I convert two workers into skirmishers and 4/5 experts are enough until 1820 or so.

Collecting resources

One can obtain resources by trade or from ports/depots. A most effective way to acquire these is with help of industrialization.


Process when hamlet becomes village/town giving you free lumber/furniture etc.

To make hamlet a village you need to do following three things:

  1. Have furniture factory of size 4
  2. Connect hamlet containing two wood squares by port/depot
  3. wait around ten turns.

Then hamlet becomes a village producing one lumber per turn. You do not need to connect wood squares to produce lumber.

A province could produce furniture and more lumber per turn. A formula for maximal production is

lumber = min (timber / 2, furniture factory size / 4)
furniture = min (timber / 4, furniture factory size / 8)

Same formula applies for clothing/hardware so civilians should prioritize improve resources to make province production multiple of 4.

Getting these is real bargain. Provinces that could produce 4 timbers are really common and just by creating port and transport capacity for furniture it costs same as 4 transport capacity needed to transport timber.

If also has cotton/wool free fabric is welcome bonus. As it is rare to have province producing lot of wool until midgame one relies on furniture. If one explorers find province with both iron and coal its hitting a jackpot and getting these is your first priority, you won't get these are rare and it takes time/money until explorers can find these.

Industrialization synergizes with early conquest strategy described earlier as one can keep adding cheap villages. Second advantage is economy of scale, if one has only one province that could produce 8 timber expanding furniture factory is costy. However if one has ten such provinces then expansion cost becomes insignificant.

Resources by old fashioned way.

One also needs to collect resources normally. Some situations are more important than industrializing. First priority is connect horses if you do not have any. Then you should transport any coal/iron you could find.

When you run out of industrialization targets its time to connect other resorces, always trying to connect maximal number of these with single port/depot.

As feeding workers is concerned only fruit is important. Placing depots and ports for other resources yields more wheat and fishes that you need.

In early game priorities are bit different, you should look for opportunities where one port can satisfy several at once.

  1. You want one port to industrialize to establish quick cash flow.
  2. You want one port/depot that can transport 3+ timber to be able make paper.
  3. Also you want to be self sufficient in food. Here bit of planning is good, you do not have to do it straight away and choose better location, if you look what ports you could build to make yourself sufficient living on cans meanwhile.

Starting nation/location

On map one can start as nation with best or worst available resources which matters a lot. Usually a best nation is one adjacent to most great powers. As early war is dominant strategy by 1820 their territory becomes your territory and you will probably have best resources by sheer size. Second reason is industrialization that is described below. On normal- one could finish opponents right away and do not bother conquering minor nations. On hard+ one cannot attack minor nations early as they have artillery so it is also better to attack great powers.

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