Imperial Settlers

You Raze Me Up!

So it has been awhile since I last wrote in here. It’s been absolutely busy since my last post. I’m still teaching both at school and at the cafe.  Still playing dodgeball and I hope I’m getting better at it. And I’m still playing board games, but it’s in rare moments that I get to.

In any instance, during those rare moments, I came across a board game at Pips that I saw people play and I was really curious as to what was going on with them, so I rented it to see how it played out. I learned that if you want to get ahead, you will have to step on the toes of others. And in some cases, stomp on toes.

Imperial Settlers is a card drafting game created by Ignacy Trzewiczek. In this game, you take on the role of the leader of one of four factions: the Japanese, the Barbarians, the Romans, and the Egyptians. Each one of these factions has their own deck of cards, which produce structures that would have been built in their respective empires. There is also a common deck that all the players will use to add more structures to their factions. On each structure card, there is a cost found at the top right. In order to play the card, you must have the available resources in your faction. As the game progresses, you will produce more resources for your faction, which will help you play more cards. The cards may also feature a “raze to gain” section on the upper right corner of the card. This means that if you or someone else were to raze the card, then that card is taken out of play and you earn the resources found on the card. (Not going to lie. I didn’t know what raze meant until I looked it up. It means to destroy). On the bottom of faction cards is a make a deal section. If you use these in deal making, you will earn the items found during your production. All cards can also be categorized into one of three groups. Production cards will help you earn more resources during the production phase. Action cards will allow you to perform multiple actions that will help you earn points, provided that you have the resources to use the action. Feature cards are enhancers. They will modify your abilities, thus allowing you to earn more resources and points.

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To start the game, each player chooses a faction and takes their respective faction deck and player board. Players at the start draw two cards from the faction deck and two cards from the common deck. Then cards are shown from the common deck to each player equalling the number of players plus one. Starting with the first player, and then moving clockwise, each player gets one of the cards shown on the table. Then the process is repeated, but this time with the last player and moving counterclockwise.

Once everybody has received their cards, players will then take their respective resources. These are wood, stone, food, workers, sword and shield tokens, and gold. At the beginning of the game, you take the amount of resources as indicated by the player board. As the game progresses, you take those resources as well as the ones found in deals and in your production buildings. Once you’ve gathered your resources, each player can take one of the following actions on their turn:

  1. They can construct one of their buildings. This is done by paying the cost indicated on the card and playing the card beside their board. When the structure is built, they gain the abilities found on the card.
  2. A player can also make a deal. To do this, players discard a food token and place their faction card upside down and under the faction board so that the deal side is visible. This means that they gain the resources on future rounds.
  3. A player can also choose to raze a card; they can spend one sword token to raze one of their own cards to earn the items found on the raze to gain corner or spend two sword tokens to destroy another player’s card that has already been played on the field.
  4. Finally a player can use their workers to get more resources, or use any of the actions provided by one of their buildings by placing their resources on the card.

At the end of each round, the tokens that were placed on the cards are removed during the clean up and the process is repeated. This is done for five rounds and the player who has the most points is declared the winner.

One of the coolest parts of Imperial Settlers is the chaining that you can do with the cards. It’s an intricate strategy that you have to consider, especially when you are working with a specific faction that has their own special cards and have only a limited number of resources at any given time. As you get more cards on the board, more opportunities become available and you’re trying to figure out how to maximize the number of points before the game is over. And because you could be one of four factions, and could have any combination of cards, the replayability in this game is high. The only way to master this game is to play it often.

The cards themselves also present players with an interesting dilemma since they can be played in one of three ways. Do you spend resources to consistently gain the benefits throughout the long term of the game, or do you ignore these benefits and get the short term perks from razing? Aside from the resources you’re allowed to store, most of your resources will be spent, with a rare few being discarded. So there’s also this balance between production, point gathering, and creating point-generator engines. This gets significantly harder when other players could potentially wreck your cards for their own benefit as well.

The game also scales quite well; playing a two player game plays just as good as playing a four player game and this is because the gameplay is fairly quick. The game also provides a single player variant where you are trying to build up your civilization while a specialized card deck will also decide which cards could potentially be razed.

The only con I have with this game is that it doesn’t invite very much player interaction. I’ve played this game a couple times and many players are highly focused on their own board and tableau. The only interactions that you see between players is during the card draft where you are trying to recall what your opponents have drawn. I’ve always shown some preference to games where there is a spark in conversation, and this game rarely allows for that.

Imperial Settlers, in my opinion, is one of those deck builders that I found to be good if you are able to understand its intricacies. There is a fair bit of text that players have to understand and if you are playing the game for the first time, it will be a bit of learning curve to deal with. After two or three plays, the chaining of the cards for the maximization of resources becomes more natural, and that’s when the game showcases its true elegance.

Pros:

  • Really nice components. Artwork is cute, the quality of the cards is nice, and the tokens are created.
  • Intricate deck builder that focuses on chaining.
  • With a game that focuses on scarcity and economics, it gives players some tough decisions to make.
  • Quick to play (if you know what you’re doing)

Cons: 

  • It’s a deck builder, (I think I’ve said this before in a previous post) you’ve got some readin’ to do.
  • This game is prone to analysis paralysis, especially when you have to make decisions to maximize profits.
  • A player-centered game, such as this one, rarely invites player conversation and interaction.

 

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