A few months ago our boy picked out Imperial Settlers by Portal Games and we just played our first game. He picked out the game because you can play as the Egyptians, he has a big thing for ancient Egypt.
Imperial Settlers is a card game where each player plays as one of four civilizations-Barbarians, Romans, Egyptians, and Japanese. The goal to score the more victory points. Victory points are accumulated via card actions. Simple enough.
Each player has a center board that represents their civilization. Divided into three areas-production, features, and actions cards are played on either side of the board and represent the various actions a player can take or receives. Such as, cards in the production row produce goods at the beginning of a turn for use during the turn. Feature cards are long term such as storage of goods or do X and get X. Action cards require the player to do something to get something, such as pay X to get X.
Players have access to two types of cards, faction and common. Faction cards are specific to that faction and common cards are in a central draw pile for everyone. Fundamentally the only difference between the two is that most faction cards require you to discard a card in play to use. To put either type of card into play, a player pays the build cost, typically an amount of wood, stone, or people, then places the card in the appropriate row and has immediate access to the card unless a production card. Production cards activate at the beginning of a turn.
There are five rounds to a game. Players perform each of the phases together starting with drawing cards. At the start of each round players draw one faction card. Then the first player (first player token passes each round) draws common cards, laying them out for all to see. The first player chooses one, then the next, and so on. Then a second round of common cards is drawn, only the last player chooses first and the order is reversed.
Next up, gather resources from the faction card, production cards, and deals. Deals are an interesting mechanic. Pay a food to turn a card into your hand with the deal symbol into a permanent addition to your faction. For example, I have a card that has the deal, make one food. I pay the cost, one food, put the card underneath my faction card with the deal showing and at the beginning of each turn I get a food.
The action phase where players take turns performing one action. When a player passes they are done for the action phase. When all players pass the action phase is over. Actions are build, deals, raze (essentially sacrifice a card in your hand or ANOTHER player’s card that is in play to get resources), take an action on a card in play, trade people for goods (need a good or have excess people turn in two for any one resource or a card).
Our first game went fast. The biggest hiccup, our girl refused to listen to my advice (and the game’s advice) not to play the Japanese as they are the most complex out of the box. She had to work extra hard to get going, I feel if she had attacked she would have done better, but for our first game nobody wanted to attack, focus solely on seeing how the cards interacted.
The one thing all of us noticed was card draw determines the flow of the game. For our first game the cheap cards, did not appear until round 3. This made for a very non-productive first and second turn. With a better mix of drawn cards the game would have been exciting and interesting throughout.
Despite that we had enough fun to give it another try or two. Rules are easy. Play is easy. Overall a good first game.