So, after Gen Con, this game shot up to the top of my Hot List and thus to the top of my purchase list. Unfortunately it sold out at Gen Con within a couple of hours and then was basically unavailable for a long time as Portal was reprinting and getting copies shipped back to the United States. The only way to get a copy during this period was to cave to the ridiculous gougers on Ebay or Amazon. Thankfully I am a slightly more patient person and didn’t break down and pay upwards of $80 to get my copy.
Finally, after weeks of watching Ignacy’s vlog updates I saw that the copies were shipped and on their way to America. Now I just had to wait for them to clear customs (about a four week waiting period) and then get restocked and then I would be able to get my copy! Now that I have my copy, it is sitting on my television stand and has already been played eight times (only solo variant so far) in the short time I’ve had it.
To start with, this game is a re-imagining of Ignacy’s game 51st State which is a game I haven’t played yet. However, after playing Imperial Settlers, it just makes me want to find and play 51st State even more! I would have actually bought 51st State before Imperial Settlers but Trzewiczek has vlogged that he would love to make a big box version of the game that adds in all of the expansions as well as New Era and hopefully plans on doing it soon. I’ll just go on record now that as soon as I see that this is done I’ll have it on pre-order!
Imperial Settlers is, at its heart, a card game. You play one of four factions (Romans, Barbarians, Egyptians, and Japanese) and are trying to build your specific faction buildings in order to get bonuses and actions to score victory points. This is done by using resources that each faction starts with and can get through other common and faction cards throughout the game. Each of these cards either gets you a resource, an action, or a permanent bonus throughout the game. Through these actions and buildings you are able to score the points that are needed to win. While playing there is player interaction in the form of razing other player’s buildings in order to get resources from them. Imperial Settlers would best be described as a card game which uses card-drafting and engine-building as its primary mechanics. The game is played through five rounds and in a shocking twist; the winner is the player with the most points at the end! I know, shocking right?
Enough of the gameplay of Imperial Settlers, on to the components! This base set is filled to the brim with component goodness! Being a card game first and foremost, we’ll start with the decks of cards. This game comes with 220 cards in the base game. You get 30 Roman faction cards, 30 Barbarian faction cards, 30 Egyptian faction cards, 30 Japanese faction cards, 84 common cards, and 16 attack cards that are used for the solo variant. The cards have a slight matte finish and are standard size. If you choose to sleeve your games (personally, I don’t…at least not yet) they could be put in normal Magic: The Gathering sized sleeves. They are very good quality cards and should hold up with multiple plays.
Each of the factions has their own deck of 30 cards and they each have a completely different feel to them. The artwork on these cards is absolutely amazing! It is almost a chibi-style of cutesy art that shows the building and the little people of your nation on it.Check out my pictures to get a good idea of what they look like. I absolutely love the art and think it fits perfectly with the theme and play of Imperial Settlers.
Along with the faction specific buildings you also get 84 cards that are common buildings and can be built by anyone who has them and the resources to do it. These have the same art as the building factions. The great part about the art is how they all build together. The common cards have light grass on the backgrounds of their cards while the factions have stone (Romans), brown grass (Barbarians), sand (Egyptians), and lush, dark-green grass (Japanese) on the background of their cards. This is such a small but perfect detail that this game is rife with! It is a simple artistic design that makes the cards more interesting and also helps you separate them and make sure they get to the correct side of your player board.
Lastly, there are 16 simple action cards that are used with the solo variant of the game. These cards aren’t specifically interesting, but they don’t need to be as they are a simple way to track the dummy player’s moves during the solo game.
Secondly, the game comes with four player boards that represent each of the four factions that you can play with. These are long, thin boards that show your faction and the specific resources that you’ll get during your production phase. Every faction gets a different influx of resources and they each play completely different so it’s nice to have these different boards for each of them. A nice detail, and in keeping with the artwork/theme, is that on the right half of the board (where you play common cards) the background is the light green grass while the left half of the board (where you play faction specific cards) is in the color of that faction. Again, I may be beating a dead horse, but this is just a beautiful and simple detail that makes the game that much better. These boards are made of the same thick cardboard as the score tracker and hold the same impressive artwork as the cards. They are a great way to really keep you cards sorted and organized throughout the play.
Now, we move on to the components. Trzewiczek and crew really went all out on the components of this game. Normally, for a game of this style, you would have a bunch of different colored cubes that represented the different resources. Not so in this game! The stone, wood, workers, and apples are all nice, wooden pieces that are shaped like their namesake. It is such a simple thing and makes the game feel that much more thematic as you get to take hold of a resource that looks like an apple or piece of stone instead of a colored, wooden cube. The game also has nicely shaped cardboard pieces for a couple of the other tokens such as gold pieces, swords, and shields. These components really add the art and fun of the game as you don’t have to keep track on a piece of paper or with little blocks of wood. Great job Portal Games!
Lastly, the game comes with a nicely illustrated and well laid-out instruction booklet that does a great job of explaining the rule-set of Imperial Settlers. On my first few read-throughs I haven’t noticed any glaring problems or any badly written rules. On top of that the illustrations really help in getting the play down with a visual medium. The insert of the box isn’t the greatest that I’ve ever seen, but neither is it the worst. The best part about it is a hidden little Easter Egg that you can find if you unfold the insert. There, hiding on side of the insert, is a picture of two little ninjas from the Japanese faction that state, “Mission failed. He found us. Oh crap!” This is just another of the little details that have made me fall in love with this game!
All in all, this game is a home-run in my book. The components, rule-set, and artwork of the game all come together to create a civilization game that will hit my table time and time again. Also, and a huge bonus in my book, it has a fantastic solo variant that I can play when I have no one to play it with! On an interesting and awesome note, just a few days ago in his vlog, Ignacy Trzewiczek stated that the first expansion (brilliantly entitled “Why Can’t We Be Friends”) for the game was complete and in its final printing steps. That means that soon I’ll have even more awesomeness to add to the game! Imperial Settlers has all of the things that I want in a game and I see it moving quickly up my favorite games of all time.
To end, I just have to throw out a quick anecdote from a couple of days ago: The night before this story I played my 6th solo round of the game and accidentally knocked a worker (essentially a pink meeple) off the table. I totally forgot about him/her and went to bed after I was done. The next morning I woke up and went out into the living room where my wife was up with my 2-year-old daughter. I promptly got a bowl of cheerios and sat down in my recliner and watched Fiona Knives (her middle name is after Knives Chau in the Scott Pilgrim comic) roll around on the floor watching Sesame Street. She noticed me and then got a guilty look on her face. She then proceeded to stand up and walk over to my chair. She looked up at me with those brilliant blue eyes and curling ringlets of blonde hair and stuck her tongue out. Then she took the poor meeple, which was lying on her tongue, out of her mouth and put in on my chair next to me. So, long story short, even my daughter loves this game...even if it is just because she loves the taste of meeple-flesh!
Thanks for reading everyone! Until next time, game on!