Despite me not having too many games under my belt when it comes to Twilight Imperium, I prefer the Burocracy card over Imperial card. And adam, a word of advice, not giving any compelling foresight into why your group and local retailer believes that the Imperial card doesn't 'break' the game (or at least make it a ring around the table, reducing the strategy since you plan for when you're getting it) while insulting a very large portion of the community here, of whom have played many hundreds of games combined, doesn't shine very greatly upon you.
When I bought my copy of TI3, I immediately bought SE. Just reading the rules, I could see the flaw in Imperial I. I wanted an alternative right away, without the need to introduce house rules of "It's only worth 1VP" etc.
It just seemed paradoxical to have a game with such flexibility and diversity of strategies, and then this obvious Imperial I "would you like to win the game?" card. The presence of Imperial I in any game essentially trumps ANY available strategy. A player earning VP by means of objectives simply cannot compete with an enterprising player who chooses Imperial I every round. Imperial I is in effect, the nuclear option. It is the ultimate route to total domination, and forces a very specific and methodical approach to spreading the Imperial I wealth thin.
Allowing someone to choose Imperial I every round is negligent of course. The issue is that Imperial I does not encourage "dynamic thinking" or the altering of strategies at all. You simply have to take your share of the Imperial I free VP or lose; end of line. As Imperial I reveals new public objectives to work towards, your strategy will change, of course. That is to say…your strategy will be to do whatever you can to earn VP in order to keep up with those who got Imperial I this round, and stay in the game long enough to get your hands on Imperial I yourself.
I always got bored of strategy games and RTS games on PC when nuclear weapons became available. RTS is always an arms and territory race, but when the game goes nuclear, you are locked into a formulaic tech tree route to nuclear armament and defense. Time spent on ANYTHING fun like recon, or micromanaging troop formations to baffle the enemy is time lost to the only key to victory. This is why I liken Imperial I to the nuclear option.
I fail to see evidence or logic applied here in the defense of Imperial I. As your opponents choose their Strategy Cards and you weigh your options, of course your strategy will change. As opportunities are shut off to you, you alter and adapt to do the best thing for your course to victory. That's how everyone plays TI3. The bottom line is that ANY Strategy Card will become a feature in ANY player's plan to win the game. Imperial I takes the fun out of the game because it removes theme, and the viability of choices done because they are "cool". Even if you assume a house rule where one cannot choose Imperial I twice in a row, Imperial I is still necessary to move the public objectives, and the game forward. A player who simply wants more objectives available has no way to do it without also playing the Imperial I VP race. THIS is why Imperial I "breaks" the game. The game lacks momentum without public objectives, but players need not worry about objectives at all if they can simply claim 2VP per turn while their opponents scramble for VP scraps from public objectives that are worth half as much initially.
Furthermore, if Imperial I was not an issue, it would not have been replaced twice already. SE has a full set of replacements, yet a special addition of Imperial II was made…why would that be? If a group of gamers has fun playing with Imperial I, the overall objective of the game has been achieved. That much we can all agree on. If a single round goes by where Imperial I was not chosen all all however, it becomes plainly obvious that the table has chosen to play theme over efficiency. Imperial I is THE most efficient way to victory for little to no effort. It breaks the game by making it thematically crippled, and strategically limited. There is simply NO counter for a domineering player who can claim Imperial I more than any other player. If there is a logically sound counter-argument with supporting evidence, other than stating opinion as fact, I have not seen it yet.
The Virus Runs Rampant