ThIn Imperial Settlers you take control of one of four factions that are trying to settle their empire on a newly discovered land. This game from 1 to 4 players made by Ignacy Trzewiczek lets you expand your empire, gather resources, build locations and conquer your enemies thus creating the greatest empire and scoring the most points.
The setup of this game is fairly easy. The scoreboard is set to the side. This shows the player’s victory points and the current round of the game. All common cards are shuffled in one deck and placed within easy reach of all players together with all the different resources and workers. The players then decide which faction to play (or choose them randomly like we do) and gather that faction’s board and deck. On a little side note here, the faction boards are double sided with one side depicting a female ruler and the other a male ruler. There are four factions available: Barbarians, Egyptian, Japanese and Roman. The first player is chosen randomly. Finally every player takes 2 cards from the common deck and 2 cards from their faction deck. Now you’re ready to go…
The game is played in 5 round and each round consists of the 4 phases: the lookout, the production, the action and finally the cleanup phase.
During the lookout phase you are on the lookout for new locations. This starts with every player drawing a card from their faction deck. Afterwards a number of cards are revealed from the common deck equal to the number of players + 1. Every player starting from the first player and going clockwise chooses one of these cards to add to his hand. The card not chosen is discarded. Afterwards the same amount of cards are revealed but this time the last player may choose first and the order of choosing is going counter-clockwise.
In the production phase every player collects goods from 3 different resources: their faction board, the deals they have made and their production locations. The different goods a player can acquire are wood, stone, food, workers, raze tokens, defense token, cards and VP’s. Wood, stone and food are the usual resources. Gold is a wild resource that can be used for wood, stone or food. Workers are usually needed to perform actions on your locations or as Samurai in case of the Japanese. The raze tokens can be used to destroy locations and the defense tokens to defend locations. Cards drawn may come from the common deck or your faction deck. There is no hand limit.
Next up is the action phase. Now starting with the First player and going in clockwise order each player gets to do one action. This keeps on going until all players have chosen to pass. When you choose to pass you cannot do any more actions for the entire phase. The different actions you can choose from are build a location, make a deal, raze, activate an action location or spend 2 workers for 1 resource or 1 card.
To build a location you need to pay its resources and sometimes even destroy one of your locations or foundations. You place your location in your empire according to the ability (production, feature or action) and type (common or faction). Some locations immediately give you goods when you build them. Making a deal is done by paying one food and putting one of your faction cards upside down under the top of your empire board. You immediately get the resource it provides when making a deal. Razing a location is where the destruction begins. For one raze token you can raze (discard) one of your locations in your hand and gain its raze goods. For two raze tokens you can raze one unprotected location of another player for its raze goods. In this case the player owning the location turns the location to its backside thus creating a foundation and receives one wood from the rubble.
Every shield or samurai protecting the location increases its raze cost by one. Normally only common locations can be razed with the exception of the Japanese locations which can also be razed. The next action a player can perform is an action on one of its locations. This usually depicts the goods necessary to perform it and how many times it can be performed. You place the goods used on the card itself so that you know the amount of times has been used. The last action is self-explanatory, spend two workers for one resource or one card. While doing actions you can place your shield on a location at any time during your turn or as the Japanese player place your workers as samurai to defend your faction’s locations.
After the action phase comes the cleanup phase (except for the final round when the cleanup phase is skipped). During this phase you can use storage abilities on your locations and your empire board to store goods. Next you return all goods not stored and all the goods used for you action cards to the general store. The first player marker is passed to the player on its left and the round marker is moved to the next round.
After five rounds there is an end scoring to determine the winner of the game. At the end every common location you have built is worth one point and every faction location is worth two. Some Japanese feature locations also reward points at the end. The one with the most points in the end has built the greatest empire and wins the game. If there is a tie you check which player has the most workers and resources left, if this doesn’t break the tie you check who has the most cards in hand. When the tie remains after that the tied players share the victory.
First off, the artwork is stunning. It is reminiscent of those tablet empire building games and I just love it. When you build your empire on the table it just looks great and thanks to the specific placement of your locations it also is very functional. You immediately can tell which locations you need to check for doing actions and which produce during the production phase. It just is such a neat and easy system. The rest of the components are all top notch. This is not a hard game to play, you will know how it plays after one round but it might take some time getting used to the different factions and how they play. You might be playing a game just building your locations and after the third round get your aha moment and start racking up the points. I really like how every faction feels completely different. The Japanese love growing their foods and using their samurai, the Romans are all about their army and building their vast empire, the Barbarians are the fierce warriors and the Egyptians do love their treasure. Since you are reliant on the cards you draw and the different factions every game is completely different. You have to make it work with the hand you are dealt. You can always do the necessary things to draw new cards but still the cards you draw or have will determine your strategy. You might know that a certain card is in your deck but you can’t rely on it because it might not come up during the game. I also like the different usages of each card which means that every card is useful in one way or another all depending on your strategy. This is one of my top ten games for the moment, that’s how much I love it and I can’t wait to try out its two expansions (Why can’t we be friends and Atlanteans).
Play with Honor