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Imperial Settlers

One of the hot items at GenCon this year was Imperial Settlers from Portal Games. The available copies sold out early in the convention. Was the game worth all the hype?

What Is It?

Imperial Settlers is a card-based, resource management game with a civilization building theme for one to four players that plays in sixty to ninety minutes. Players take on the role of either the Romans, the Barbarians, the Egyptians, or the Japanese as they try to build the best colony on a recently discovered fictional island. The game is played over five rounds and the player with the most victory points at the end of the game is the winner. On each turn, players will draw cards from their civilization’s deck and draft or draw cards from the common buildings deck. The players then take turns taking actions which can be building a building, discarding one of the cards in hand (razing) for resources, sacrificing one of your faction cards to “make a deal” for resources every round, razing an opponent’s common building for resources, or a variety of other actions provides by their buildings. This continues until all players have passed. Passing can also be a strategic choice as, once you have passed, your buildings can no longer be targeted by your opponent for razing. At the end of the round, each player discard their resources except for resources that their civilization or cards allow them to store between rounds. . The next round then starts with drawing and drafting more cards.

Each civilization plays differently and has their own unique buildings. The Barbarians produce a lot of people and tokens used for razing. The Romans can be a production powerhouse with their buildings. The Japanese have some powerful buildings, but all of their faction buildings can be razed by the other players. The Egyptians profit a lot off of the trade of others and generating victory points with their own goods. This gives each civilization unique ways interact with their opponents and go for the win.

There is a solo variant to the game where the player has to weather attacks from an “attack deck” with the goal of building more buildings that the dummy opponent manages to collect over the course of five rounds. The cards for this variant are included in the box.

A look at the game.

Things going decently for the Barbarians. Common buildings are on the right, faction buildings on the left.


What Do I Think Of It?

If I didn’t spoil it in the description of the game, I really like this game. It’s straightforward to teach, but has an amount of depth that you don’t initially suspect. While the basic game play doesn’t change between the civilizations, the unique buildings make each civilization feel different. The art, while in a cartoon style, works well for the cards. The wooden and cardboard resource tokens are of good quality and seem like they’ll hold up well to repeated plays. The cards are good stock, but I will probably end up sleeving them at some point as I see this game getting a lot of play at our table.

My wife, who is a more casual gamer, also likes this game. She was a bit dubious when we started, but picked up the game quickly. We’ve played several times and she’s enjoyed it each time. This is on our list of games to teach to our eight-year-old as we think she’ll be capable of handling the mechanisms. I foresee many of my buildings being razed while my daughter cackles madly.

I haven’t had the chance to try it out with three or four players yet, but I don’t foresee any scaling problems. This is definitely a game that I’ll pull out when the opportunity presents itself.

Card Art

The card art is on the cartoony side, but it works well for the cards.

Final Thoughts

There are two places in my house where I keep games. One is the hall closet. The other is a shelf on a bookcase in our living room. The shelf is reserved for games that we want to play quite a bit. Imperial Settlers earned its place on that shelf after its first play. The words “civilization” and “easy game” don’t sound like they’d go together, but Portal Games and designer Ignacy Trzewiczek have more than managed to combine them. Board game fans owe it to themselves to at least seek out a copy and give it a try. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it definitely is worth everyone giving it a try.

Picture of the civilization tiles

The civilization center pieces are reversible with male and female leaders. Not necessary, but a nice touch by Portal.

One last note: There is a Easter egg on the box insert that you really should check out. I found it by accident when trying to figure out a storage solution for the bits. I won’t spoil it, but it made me laugh out loud. Well played, Portal.

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