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Imperial Settlers

Settlers from four major powers of the world have discovered new lands, with new resources and opportunities. Romans, Barbarians, Egyptians and Japanese all at once move there to expand the boundaries of their empires. They build new buildings to strengthen their economy, they found mines and fields to gather resources, and they build barracks and training grounds to train soldiers. Soon after they discover that this land is far too small for everybody, then the war begins...

Imperial Settlers is a card game that lets player lead one of the four factions and build empires by placing buildings, then sending workers to those buildings to acquire new resources and abilities. The game is played over five rounds during which players take various actions in order to explore new lands, build buildings, trade resources, conquer enemies, and thus score victory points.

The core mechanism of Imperial Settlers is based on concepts from the author's card game 51st State.

User Reviews (5)

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Professional Reviewer
I play black
Silver Supporter
134 of 142 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 3
“Cute civilizations for fans of complexity”

Imperial Settlers from the accomplished polish designer Ignacy Trzewiczek is a game that has a lot going for it – high quality cutesy visuals, smart system of modeling an ancient civilization and a rewarding feeling of your plans coming to fruition. The game may seem to have universal appeal, however its true complexity becomes apparent by midway point and threatens to overwhelm the less experienced. It is a good game that knows its audience and doesn’t bother reaching beyond it. Grab a shovel and come along – let’s explore and take a closer look!

How it works

Two to four players compete as leaders of ancient civilizations sending settlers to a newly discovered land. Their outposts will grow and (hopefully) prosper as the players expand in search of resources and glory. Each player plays one of the four ancient civilizations presented (brownie points for reversible male/female leader portraits!). A vertical cardboard base forms a foundation from which your settlement will grow as you produce and spend resources (the usual fare of wood, stone, food, people and military).

The most important resource in the game and the true meat of Imperial Settlers are the location cards. These represent the different buildings that the players encounter and can be used in different ways – cheaper options (pillaging) allow you to sacrifice the cards while more expensive (building) allow you to add the cards to your empire, reaping long-term benefits.

Most actions in the game require a player to have resources and a game round goes until each players has depleted their resources. At the beginning of the new round every location in the empire produces more resources and the process is repeated for five rounds. Victory points (representing glory) are awarded for building locations and using specific buildings’ abilities – whoever scores most after five rounds is the winner.

There is also a workable solo variant that is rewarding, useful for learning the ropes and can be a fun “light” way to enjoy the game when you have no one to play with.

How it plays
The game focuses in on building an economic engine – you are trying to use the resources you have to build up more ways to produce resources and then use these resources to produce victory points. There is a great variety of ways on how to go about it, but that’s the crux of the exercise.

Note the “great variety”. There is truly a ton of options – each civilization gets a small deck of cards unique to them and can also access universal buildings available to everyone. The game starts of briskly enough as your production means are meek and first couple of turns is about maximizing what you can produce on a tight budget (hint – it’s not a lot). The turns go quickly, however all of that changes once your empire grows to even medium size.

With more options come additional considerations and analysis paralysis is not far behind. This is less noticeable with two players but with higher player counts the down time becomes an issue. It doesn’t help that the cards, while beautifully illustrated, have lots of tiny text. In my experience this led to players “losing” their strategy and having to re-locate the cards they wanted to use, provoking further delays.

This will be much less of an issue for experienced gamers of course. The game’s adorable graphics and breezy start might make it seem like a good lighter option, whereas in reality Imperial Settlers is a decidedly medium offering, tipping slightly towards the heavier end of the spectrum.

With practice games do fit in the advertised 45-90 min playing time, however the game is a pretty intense exercise and does not leave you with the immediate desire to play again. The games tend to not be very social as there is little interaction outside of the occasional raid to take out an opponent’s key building.

How it feels
The impressions of Imperial Settlers will vary greatly based on a player’s comfort with complexity. Experienced gamers thrive on the rich variety of options and are able to make quick decisions to keep games lively. Newer participants in my experience get bogged down by the choices, growing frustrated and not enjoying the game as much.

The game itself is very well-designed – the four factions each have a very unique playing style to it – the Barbarians are able to muster great hordes and threaten their neighbours while the Romans build efficient bureaucracies, obtaining multiple bonuses from related buildings. Seeing your empire grow in front of your eyes is satisfying (even though the table space does become an issue towards the end of the game). The different factions seem to be well-balanced and are all fun to play.

The game does suffer a bit in that an outcome can be determined in the first couple of turns. If one of the players is able to get a much stronger production going early on – catching up is hard and watching someone rack up the points while you flounder is not pleasant. Because the options available are semi-randomly determined – bad draws can lead to rare frustrating scenarios. Overall though, the luck factor is more enjoyable than bothersome – majority of the time you are in control as long as you can keep track of all your twenty buildings’ abilities.

Imperial Settlers is not for everyone, no matter how approachable it may look. Keep this away from your less experienced friends and the game’s complexity will not turn into a negative. For those who thrive on crafting intricate economic engines for maximum efficiency – Imperial Settlers will offer an engaging, chunky experience that will leave you wanting to play something lighter afterwards.

If you enjoyed this review please consider visiting Altema Games website for more neat board game materials.

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Intermediate Reviewer
120 of 128 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Too accurate for Sandpeople”

Only Imperial Stormtr … ahem … Settlers are so precise.

Imperial Settlers is a cute card driven civilisation building game. At the beginning the turns are fast and easy and before you know it you are in round 4 and a vigorous fight with your opponent who just destroyed one of your most helpful buildings. Aaaaaargh! My Empire will strike back!


The card qualitiy is quite good and the artwork is beautiful. The resources are part wood, part good cardboard. Nothing to complain here. Same with the four different faction boards and the score board. Impressive, most Impressive.


The game is played in five rounds and every round each player gets new cards. One from the own faction deck and the rest is drafted. A card from the common deck is layed out for each player and everybody chooses one going clockwise. Then again the other way around with a new set of cards.
Then all the already played production cards (and the main player boards) produce goods which will be needed in the next Phase: The Action Phase which is the main part of the game.

Going around each player takes actions which can be playing cards in different ways, activating already played cards, destroy cards (from your hand or from your opponents soon burning city) or spend workers to get resources. In the first rounds there is not much to do but later when you civilisation has become a little empire you have a lot to combine and activate everytime it’s your turn.
You should use all your resources during one round because at the end of each of the five rounds all resources get discarded (exept for one special resource per faction).

After five rounds the game ends and the player with the most points is the winner.

Replay Value:

Alone with the four factions in the Base set you have enough to experience to have a lot of fun. But there are more factions coming in the future.


– each faction plays quite different
– beautiful cute artwork
– enough player interaction


– downtime in later rounds (especially with 4 players)
– artwork maye too cute for heavier civ-players?

Last Words:

Thank you Ignacy Trzewiczek for a great little civilisation building game. Hope for a lot of new factions soon.

Best wishes,

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Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
oddball Aeronauts fan
131 of 141 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 3
“Build a jolly empire over lunchtime.”

My first introduction to Civ games was the granddaddy of em all Sid Meir’s Civilization. And oh my! have I whiled away countless hours chasing that next wonder or shiny new tech, its like historical crack. I’ve circled Fantasy Flights lavish board game adaptation like a seagull over a ham sandwich but I just couldn’t commit, you see the great thing about Civ on the PC is that all the fiddly niggly math is done way off camera leaving you to just enjoy the “gotta collect em all” ride for all the fun and megalomaniac joy that it brings, I just suspect having to do all the hardwork yourself will kind of suck the fun out of being a dictator.

So along comes Ignacy and his jolly little card game Imperial Settlers (and let me be clear I’m developing something of a fanboy crush on this designer having spent many a wonderfully terrible time on a certain cursed island) Imperial Settlers sets out to offer us that Civ game experience we crave but with a compressed play time, streamlined rule set and minimal components, whilst still managing to offer a continents worth of choices.

The first most refreshing thing about this game is the well written but surprisingly light manual, following a jaunty run through its sparse 14 pages you’ll be able to play the game by the time you’ve flicked passed page 12. The game is intuitive and relatively easy to teach to any one with a basic grasp of this style of game and with a modicum of knowledge of modern board games. And in this day of Tolkien sized tomes accompanying boxes filled with more wood than a lumber mill its a nice surprise, and whilst it may be light on instruction it doesn’t skimp on game.

Another attractive feature is the art choice. If you were passing the box on a shelf you might well be predisposed to believe it was a big cuddly cutesy game of simple village life involving farming root vegetables, well you’d be wrong. On the lid there’s this portly looking Belgium chap wandering away from his picturesque little village all smiles his faithful hound scampering beside him, both appear ignorant to the fact that at any moment a hoard of barbarians could descend to raze the town hall, eat his dog and make off with all the women folk, I love it but it may disarm some who go in expecting that carrot gathering game. The art carries over to all areas of the box (literally) and the different faction decks, giving it a character all its own. It kinda reminds me of the early Settlers PC game’s especially as each card depicts a building with your little followers going blissfully about their business, as you build up your empire it becomes this brightly illustrated tableau of village life giving this a retro game feel with a dash of Asterix The Gaul and just a delightful whimsical feel all its own. And here’s another little touch that I really like, the player boards for each of the races is reversible offering either a male or female avatar a feature previously utilized in Robinson Crusoe, its nothing really in the big scheme of things but for me it shows a designer and company not limiting the choices players coming to this game have, no one is alienated.

Played over five turns this see’s you building your own little dynasty from one of the four supplied factions and the great touch is that each of these races has specialized deck compiled of buildings and powers requiring the construction of slightly different engines to thrive. So whereas the Barbarians are all about Razing (Destroying) other players locations and getting generally all a bit fighty. The Japanese are all very Zen and have the option of recruiting workers as Samurai to defend locations and the ability to take other races resources for their own. This gives you a lot of play in this box offering plenty of strategies to explore before your going to get a real handle on proceedings.

And as we are covering factions and the decks a little more about those, besides the individual factions there is also the common deck that everyone can use and is chock full of generic buildings and powers that can be combined with factions to enhance your engine. The cool thing about these cards is that each can be used multiple ways, so whilst you could just build a card if you have the resources available with the commons there is also the option to raze the card (discard it) and collect the payout, or you can rotate faction cards placing them under your main faction board and “make a deal” where it will produce an effect or resource each following round. Its a great design that offers a wealth of options and means that you always have a choice its for you to decide what is the most efficient way to go.

And that efficiency is the core of the game, because with a few exceptions for each faction or certain special buildings at the end of every round everything that you have produced will be discarded. This requires a deep brain burn of planning and juggling of cards and resources to eke every last drop of game out of each choice, a poor early decision could mean you throwing away valuable resources you acquired because there is nowhere to spend them that turn. And with the game only lasting five rounds that could be enough to lose you the war. This does lend proceedings the feeling of each player engrossed in a complex game of solitaire but this experience is enthralling heck! its the game. Nothing gives a greater sense of accomplishment than managing to chain together a series of actions resulting in no wastage allowing you to sit proudly back and smile at the player across the table with a pile of resources and that desperate look in their eye. The game does allow for every faction to attack an opponent and destroy common buildings gaining resources so there is some interaction, and it means you always do need to have one eye on the other players, and it may be time to get nervous if those filthy Barbarians are stockpiling Raze Tokens. If you find all of this a it too much or your just predisposed to flag waving and tree hugging then the rule book contains a peaceful variant limiting all this nasty attacking business. Pansy.

And really is the meat of the game. Every round is broken down into four main phases.

Lookout – this is where players acquire three new cards one from their specific Faction deck and two from the common cards.

Production – Players receive resources from the their specific Faction board and then from any Production buildings or Deals in play.

Action – Where everything happens. Cards are used to build Production locations, Features locations (these give either multipliers or other abilities usually tied to taking actions), Action locations where you will use a worker or good on that card to receive a ability or bonus. This is done in turn order with each player taking one action and play passing round the table until everyone has passed.

Cleanup – Everything is cleared away and then rinse and repeat.

Once the fifth round is over Victory Points are added up, gaining extra for Faction locations and any other multipliers and whoever has the most wins.

So who is this for? Well if your looking for that Civ game experience without a telephone directory sized rule book and a brisk playing time then this does the job admirably, I love that each of the factions have distinct strategies and a feel all their own, adore the clever design of the cards and all the neat looking wooden components. Its true that the randomness of the card draw could be problematic if you do draw a dead hand in the early rounds, but personally with all the options available to you there is always something to do. The learning curve has a gentle amble to it that escalates with each subsequent round and there’s this beautiful moment where you see the light switches clicking on reflected in everyone’s faces as they suddenly get it, I mean really get if I do this and then spend that and then do this I can get the thing I wanted here etc etc. It scales great and plays just as well with two or four and if you are a solo player then this also includes rules for you, its a solid little variation that captures the essence of the main game and is being supported in the forthcoming expansions.

For me this was one of the highlights of 2014 its a snare drum tight little game my only lament is I don’t get to play it nearly enough as my home groups is usually five players, hopefully the promised extra factions will appear in the coming year and allow for expanded player numbers, for the time being I guess I better convince my better half to play more. There is already one expansion available “Why can’t we be friends” that includes more cards for the decks and opens up the possibility to deck build your factions. As more of these sets become available then another avenue of strategy will be there, personally I just like the game for what its is and i’m not convinced I want to bury its sleek design below the requirement of having to build decks before I can play, but I certainly welcome more cards to the sets even if I just mix them all in.

I personally don’t own anything else like this, it has a dash of deck building two shots of civilization and a shake of engine builder resulting in a heady cocktail of all the great things from bigger longer games distilled into a satisfying hit of fun with just enough thinky to result in a gratifying game that won’t outstay its welcome.

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7 of 7 gamers found this helpful
“Great card based Civ game!”

I was initially hesitant to play a civilization game that was entirely card based, as I’m someone who LOVES maps with lines, and territory, and the sweep of history. I also initially didn’t care for the lack of combat between players, as this is one of the primary ways civilizations have interacted throughout history.

Those fears were soon put to rest as I settled in to play the game. The back and forth between the players, and the fear that your opponent will buy a building out from under you creates plenty of tension. Which strategy do you want to pursue? With the limited number of rounds, you know you won’t get to build everything you want, and so it becomes a game of which path you want to take. Do you focus more on your civilization buildings, which are harder to build but offer more points, or the general buildings which are easier, but are exposed to attacks from opponents? I soon didn’t care that there wasn’t a map in this game, as there was plenty for me to think about just with the cards, as in where on the strip would I put them, would I focus on my own civilization, etc. Even the powers associated with each civilization seemed to fit them thematically, as the Romans definitely conquered a vast empire, and Japan is known for having some of the most beautiful art in the world.

Speaking of artwork, I like the cartoon style of the art. As the game is thinky enough, I like that the lighthearted artwork was used. In fact, I think serious artwork might have been a turnoff, whereas this art drew me in. The components were cute too, with nice wooden pieces that gave it a very tactile feel to it. My only complaint is that some of the chits were cardboard, whereas I would have preferred that all the tokens be wooden. A small thing, but still…

Besides the artwork, the cards were easy to read and understand, and I liked how the faction cards blended with the faction strip, and even the general cards meshed well with all the boards, which was amazing. Indeed, for such a relatively complex game, I found it unusually easy to learn how to play. I’m sure with more play, and with other factions, that there are devastating strategies that each faction can use to mop the floor with any other faction, but the mechanics and rules were relatively easy to learn. The owners of the game had the expansion, and I could easily see plenty of opportunities for more expansions, provided they are able to make them unique enough and yet balanced, especially if as they showed with the Atlanteans they are willing to go into the fictional.

My only complaint with the game…where it claims the play time is 45-90 minutes…that, is, a, LIE! My group played it at the local library beginning at 1PM, and we had until 5PM to play games. We ended up having to settle for a quick filler game after this, finishing around 4:30. Granted, I was learning the game, and I wasn’t the only first timer, but as previously stated, I learned fairly quickly. We did have four players, but even with some learners, that should at MOST double a game’s length. And this wasn’t the only time. A previous time I was at a gaming group and some of us in the game I was playing were wanting to play a game with someone playing Imperial Settlers in the next room. We played some long games, but we were still after several games being told no, they weren’t finished, and we played another game. In my own game, and in the game I observed at a distance, this game seems to be subject to lots of analysis paralysis. Both games seemed to have people (including myself) taking quite some time to analyze their next move. I think this is because until late in the game, it seemed that resources were tight. I always felt even more limited on spending than in most games, which isn’t a bad thing, but then this is the end result. Maybe it was just us, and with experience and learning the different factions, and the game, better, we could reach the point of being able to breeze through turns and finish a game in under two hours.

Final thoughts: An excellent game that has great art and components and makes you think, and yet can be shown to gamers with relatively little experience, although definitely not an entry level game. But again, be prepared to devote quite a bit more time to it than what the box claims.

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Book Lover
Miniature Painter
94 of 106 gamers found this helpful
“Very good for two players”

The mechanics have been already discussed, so i want to add this is a great game for two players. In our case it has become a favorite to play with my gf.

When playing two players is really quick, wiht almost no downtime between turns, and become more strategic as it is easy for watch which engine your opponent is building and so try to interrupt some how (which i find a nightmare in 4 players game)

The bad point on the 2 players is that each one becomes the unique target for the agressions of the other, but this is also an added factor to take care of. We have anyway made some tweaks on the shields mechanics for our two player sesions.

So, if you are looking for a two player consider seriously this game, while be quite sure if you are thinking to play with four: in this case i find the downtime too much, as well as being too difficult to follow your opponents makes that most probably you will end up playing on your own and feeling like 4 guys at a table each one playing its solitaire game.


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