I really enjoy a good civilization game, but the problem is that they tend to be very long and complex. This means it’s difficult to get them to the table or find the players that are comfortable with them.
Through The Ages had to leave my collection due to its insane length and complexity – and Nations its replacement is also a long one. I really like Sid Meier’s Civilization – but again, long and involved. I hope to acquire it soon from my brother who can’t play it back home, yay! I don’t own Clash of Cultures but, again, it’s enjoyable and of course, lengthy.
Building a Civilisation Takes Too Long??? Do it Faster!!!
Now, there aren’t many light civilization games that can be played in a quicker time than the ones I’ve already mentioned. But I guess “light” isn’t something we associate with a civilization game.
However, designer, Ignacy Trzewicek, the man behind Robinson Crusoe claims to have pulled it off with Imperial Settlers which was a huge hit at Essen 2014. My first play of Robinson left me a little disappointed, but after a while I tried it again, solo, and I started noticing qualities within the game – in fact I now actually enjoy it. So I figured “well the last Portal/Ignacy title worked well, so there’s high hopes for another success!
Designer: Ignacy Trzewicek
Publisher: Portal Games
# of Players: 1-4
Play Time: 60+ Minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: 259 / 7.97
Dice Tower 2014 People’s Choice Rank: n/a
Category: Civilization Building Card Game
Looking for Civilization-Lite??? Check Out Imperial Settlers!!!
Each player chooses a unique faction from the four that are available (Japanese, Romans, Barbarians and Egyptians). Each faction has their own board which shows their basic resource production that they make each turn. The aim of the game is to build your civilization over the course of 5 rounds. To do this you use two types of location cards – those common to all players and those unique to your faction. The aim? To amass the most victory points (of course!)
At the start of a round each player draws a new card from their own faction deck. All faction locations are unique to the faction and have a specific theme to them – they grant you the most points and best abilities and resources. After this, some cards are drawn from the Common location deck and players draft them, much like with 7 Wonders.
After the draft, each player earns their resources – based on the production capability of their starting board and any further locations they’ve built over the course of the game.
Each player then takes it in turn to build new locations, manage resources and utilise the actions available to build up victory points. There’s also the choice to raze other players locations to hinder their progress and gain resources for yourself.
After 5 rounds have elapsed the player with the most victory points is the winner!
No Civilisation Game is Complete Without… Valuable Resources!!!
Let’s face it, 3D pieces always look better than tokens when it comes to resources in games. Imperial Settlers provides virtually everything as a nice little wooden piece – resources from meeples to food to wood to stone……….except for the swords and shields. Now I’m not sure why they couldn’t have made them out of wood too… But it seems like an oversight to me. Unfortunately, they are a little small though so anyone with big hands is going to find them a little fiddly.
The cards are of good quality, to the extent that I’m tempted not to bother sleeving them! The artwork is a big switch from the more serious and slightly bland look of Robinson Crusoe and the cartoon feel isn’t too over the top or silly. It’s hard to describe… It reminds me of playing one of those old PC civilization games where everything looked colourful and the workers made funny noises when you click them…. Come to think of it… Imperial Settlers would actually make a good App conversion if the artwork was animated!
Paying the Builders Overtime
There’s plenty of building choices to make in the Common deck, of which there are multiple copies, but there’s a good variety meaning the draft phase gives you unique choices more often than not. Your individual faction deck also has a good selection of locations. These vary in the number of copies – from 1 to 3 of each. It’s not a ground-breaking amount of variety by any means, but there’s certainly plenty to keep you entertained with new tricks for a lot of games. Bearing in mind that there’s already four factions to begin with here – you know there’s more coming!
The common buildings consist of generic types like watchtowers, villages and brewers – but they all carry the same quality cartoon artwork throughout.
The highlight to Imperial Settlers is the faction deck where your buildings are tailor-made to your civilization. For example – the Egyptians can build Pyramids to generate gold and the Barbarians build Fighting Rings for weapons! I found it really amusing in my last game to have built my Japanese Sake Distillery over a common Brewer. Each faction is well-defined and differentiated from each other, you never feel like you’re the same as everyone else. For me, it’s this uniqueness that’s key to a good civilization game. A lack of diversity is what put me off Clash of Cultures, because for half the game you’re essentially the same as everyone else (although the expansion may have solved that problem).
Environmentally Conservative Mechanics
One thing that plagues a lot of card games is the infamous “dead draw”, which is where you have a hand of cards that are mostly, if not entirely, useless to you. This is expected every now and again, but if it happens consistently in the same game, it puts a serious downer on the experience for the player as they feel they are constrained and unable to do what they want.
Imperial Settlers turns what we know about card games on its head and gives us an experience where almost nothing goes to waste. Locations all have two uses, build and either raze or deal depending on the type and if you’re the Japanese faction you have three options on your own buildings because of their unique theme. All of the cards are useful, but more than that, there is always something you can do with them. Need the ability? Build it! Don’t like it, but could use a few resources? Raze it from your hand! Can’t spare the resources to build a new faction building? Make a deal and boost your production! This doesn’t even include all of the actions you get from the buildings, your own board or razing other players!
In Imperial Settlers, you always feel like you have something to do – each action, until you pass, never feels like a waste. This keeps you involved in the game and allows flexibility with what you want to do with your civilization. As a result – casual gamers that I’ve taught this game to have really come to enjoy it even if they don’t do very well!
Imperial Settlers… What’s the Verdict???
Imperial Settlers fills a hole in the civilisation building genre. It’s a game that promotes the fun of building up a faction from start to finish, managing resources and using unique abilities – but – without it doesn’t bog you down with complex rules or extended game lengths.! Now, I like those big complex Civ games but it’s nice to have a lighter version for casual gamers. Imperial Settlers is certainly light when you compare it to the likes of Clash of Cultures, Sid Meier’s Civilization and Nations, but it’s got a good amount of options and some depth so I wouldn’t call it a gateway game.
Overall, Imperial Settlers is a really solid game and will get a lot of plays! However, over time, it will need expanding because even though there’s a good amount of variety in the box, it won’t be enough to have staying power! I’m sure this fear will be conquered once you add in a few more factions and mechanics – but until then, the base game has plenty to offer! For more information about the first of the Imperial Settler expansions, keep reading!
You Will Like This Game If:
- You want a game that gives a civilization building feel, but keeps it short and simple.
- Drafting and engine building are high up on the list of mechanics you enjoy.
- The variety included appeals to you, particularly for what the future is going to bring.
You Will Not Like This Game If:
- You want a full fledged civilization 4X game.
- You would like more meat to this style of game or more difficulty – in which case try Nations.
- You want a good deal of player interaction – there’s a little here, but not much.
Expanding Imperial Settlers… Why Can’t We Be Friends???
For those who are interested, take a look at the Why can’t we be friends expansion available soon! In this, the first of the Imperial Settlers expansions, you’ll get more cards for the common deck and each of the factions, two new solo play faction cards and some new mechanics!
The new elements worth noting are instant cards that can be played straight from your hand and “Open production” locations. Once you build one of these new “Open” locations your opponents can use them… but you can’t use it… Fear not though, if your opponent does use your location then you’ll receive a worker from the general supply and you can always use any of the open locations that they build!!!
A quick glance at the rules sheet that comes in the expansion shows that you don’t just add the extra faction cards to the existing decks, you get to build your own deck using the available cards. A deck is made up of 30 cards consisting of 3 cards with 3 copies, 6 cards with 2 copies and 9 single cards. This means that with this new expansion you’ll be able to make your faction even more unique than it was in the base game!
Check the store soon for this great addition to the game!
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I'm known as The Broken Meeple, a blog, podcast and YouTube channel devoted to board and card games. I live in Portsmouth, UK, working as a Chartered Tax Advisor and I enjoy playing games of many genres and varieties with as many people as possible.