Fan's of the original Imperial Settlers should dig this as a faster alternative to that game.
Huge amount of replay ability in the box and the fantastic SOLO mode.
Having no components to track the resources late game is disappointing.
Very little player interaction.
Hello, hello. And welcome to another Who Dares Rolls review. So in an effort to appease everyone (yeah like that’s going to work) I’ll be attaching both our video review and Ta Da!! A written version of the words that I did say in the video. So if you want to watch go and watch and if your a reader we have you covered.
Imperial Settlers was when my love affair with Portal Games really took flight, up till then it had been a couple of dates some chocolates we never got past first base.
You see our relationship had hit a rocky patch, Robinson ‘Bastard’ Crusoe. I mean how do you pick yourself up after that? The constant bombardment of ill feeling, death, terrible weather and rabid monkeys. It’s really hard to build any sort of trust after that experience.
Then Settlers bounced into my life with it’s cartoony aesthetic and bright primary colours it was the Huge Grant Rom Com to RC’s Leaving Las Vegas, I finally learnt to love again.
For those ill-informed of you out there Imperial Settlers is an engine building game of you nurturing your empire from its first unsteady steps to become an efficient apple producing victory point scoring machine and it’s still as solid now as when it first turned up on my doormat all blushes and with the come hither look in its eye.
But what is this strange new thing a Roll & Write? Despite the apparent trend in the hobby to attach the use of crayons and the need to sit in the corner and tick off boxes on paper like an obsessed Bingoholic to everything, the whole R&W phenomenon has completely passed me by.
I guess its time to find out what this newfangled rolling and writing is all about?
Essentially this is the original Imperial Settlers distilled down to its very essence, no fluff no unnecessary adornments. Nothing but you a pad of paper and the unwavering need to construct the most efficient engine to generate you VP.
In the box, you will find 4 pencils – handy for this writing bit.
4 Custom wooden dice – these are lovely and chunky, I’m not usually a huge fan of wooden dice but these are pretty sweet. and again really useful for the rolling.
Some tiles (favour tokens)
And these score pads, lots of score pads.
In a nutshell, what you are going to do is roll your dice, they inform you of how many actions and what resources you have to work with that round and then you decide on what to tick off on your sheets. We’re going to do that over 10 rounds and at the end of that, we’ll tot up the scores and see who wins.
So in the standard game, each player gets one of these Empire sheets.
Across the top here are buildings that basically give you victory points for cashing in resources and actions. With the blue stars representing VP.
Below them are these fields that when you’ve built a bridge giving you access you can use an action to cross them off to gain the resource.
But there’s more in addition to that base sheet everyone also gets a village sheet (everyone’s is all the same) – which when these buildings are built that player then gains those resources or ability every round.
Now that’s everything that happens in the basic game. There is however an advanced game. When playing with those rules and I’ll be honest it’s really not a massive stretch from the base game, but if you are playing with Muggles, Younglings or the terminally stupid then you might want to leave them out.
In the corner in each of these buildings you will see a Tetris like shape crossed out, what you can do is when you’ve marked off the buildings on this first sheet in that shape you can mark around that shape and that increases the production by one for that building. Do it again for the same building and you can increase the production again.
On the village sheet, there is the architect building in the yellow area which is only used when playing with the advanced rules. And this gives a pile of VP for completing that building shape in your village and again can be repeated to start to build up a significant score.
So during a round, the first player rolls the dice – the pink dice is how many actions you get and the others show the resources that everyone has available that round.
Then in turn order, a player selects one of the favour tokens giving them a small buff for that round and then simultaneously everyone allocates their actions and resources wherever they like.
And just like the original settlers, any resources not spent at the end of the round are lost.
We repeat this process over the ten rounds and that’s it.
But there’s more. Including with the game is another pad of sheets that will allow you to play this as a solo game. Everything else functions exactly the same as the main game except that the adventures sheets for use with this are all different so you’ll be playing with different types of buildings and resources. Which is a cool addition.
And there’s even more. Portal dropped on the interwebs the other day a way to use the solo village sheets in competitive games if that’s your bag. So even more value for you.
So what do we think of this then?
This is solid fun, I’m not one for solo playing but I gave this a whirl and really enjoyed the experience.
Competitively it works well although there is minimal interaction between players I believe a common Roll & Write complaint and there is that feeling of playing solo sudoku as everyone silently does their accounting.
The original game was never big on giant dollops of player interaction and sadly there’s no option to raid an opponent a much enjoyed and horribly fun bit of naughtiness from the original game.
So it’s really down to who can efficiently make the best use of what was on offer throughout the game. It’s still entertaining and was interesting to have a post-game autopsy to see where the winner capitalised on the win and where the losers clearly screwed the pooch.
The one negative is tracking all of the resources and actions late game. Imperial Settlers was always about the mental gymnastics of trying to efficiently use every single last resource produced by your empire to generate the most VP.
It’s still the case here but without any means to keep a tally of what you’ve used, generated or spent.
And when the last few turns of the game can see you juggling multiple different incomes and outcomes and heaven forbid that you change plans midpoint resulting in a high probability of you having a seizure and soiling yourself.
The best solution is obviously you owning a copy of the original Imperial Settlers and using those tokens or you know some tokens out of any of the hundred other games that you fucking own. Duh! But it is worth noting this is the one big issue we’ve encountered when playing and looking about solutions are available on BGG (should you not be able to source tokens?).
Aside from that, the rule book is another solid effort from Portal who seem to have really got their act together on these and it’s clear and concise. And hey! look the box lid even has a simple diagram explaining how to play and can be used as a dice tray. Nice.
All in all, this is pretty good fun, it’s a fast and simple dilution of the core game pretty portable and will keep me entertained while we wait for Invaders of the North to drop later in the year.