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Subject: Why it's on My Shelf rss

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Rick Spray
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We come to what is currently, and has held for quite some time, my number two favorite game. Imperial Settlers is a game that I have played 40 times, although at least 7 of those were solo. There have been games I thought were absolutely amazing, and they were in my top ten for a while, but then I played them more than 10 times they began to fall. For this game to have 40 plays under its belt and still hold its position is very impressive. But I will say this, after so many plays I have begun to see things that I don’t love as much as I once did. First off, I play this one with two players 97% of the time. I never say anything about any game being unbalanced, and I am still not sure about this one. But I have both “Why Can’t We Be Friends” and “Three is a Magic Number”, and with the decks built the Barbarians seem ridiculous. If the barbarians get their swords up, which happens a lot, they are all but unstoppable against the Japanese and Romans. I still haven’t finished my 5 game test with the Japanese, and have yet to try the Egyptians, but I’m telling you it sure is feeling that way at this point after like 7 games with me playing the Romans.

My second issue I have come to see, again after many plays, that I am not as fond of is the amount of affect the card draw has on this one. I mean, I see huge swings. One game I will put up 77 points and the next game I will put up 45. As I have expressed in other posts, what I love most about boardgames is seeing personal growth in my ability. And after 40 games, I would like to be able to say I have gotten pretty good at this game. But I still struggle to assess this growth because of these swings.

Again, these issues were overlooked with my first 33 plays, but now with many great games in my collection I have started to feel a slight bit frustrated with Imperial Settlers in these areas. So much so, that I just don’t have the same urge to play it. Now my urge previously was pretty high as you can see with 40 plays. It’s my third most played game. I still do want to play it, just a slight bit less. I am almost at the point to let it rest a little lower in my top ten. Still, top 10 though. I love the game, and I really need to stop my experiment to see if the barbarians are overpowered. It might be ruining it for me. LOL.
But don’t worry Ignacy, I am going to leave this one at number 2 right now. And here is why. I didn’t really feel the theme of the Atlantians or the Aztecs. But this new small box expansion and the Amazonas I am definitely interested in. The ability to do a bit more deckbuilding and finally getting a new faction will probably breathe fresh life into this one. I’m very excited about this, and I think I can leave Imperial Settlers at number 2 for another half a year until these expansions come out. Just don’t make me wait too long…

So what is it I love about this game? If you would, go and check out my review of 51st Master Set to get most of the break down on that. But I will provide a brief summary here. This game plays in about an hour with two players, and play goes back and forth to the point where you almost need a chess clock to keep track of when it is your turn. The wife and I are like, “I’m going to do this, your turn”. You here that about every 5 seconds, except for a few plays a game where we have to think a little longer. The resources flow abundantly if you are half way decent at this one, and you feel like you are getting a lot done. The factions play completely different if you get into your faction deck, and there are some real decisions to be made, even when your hand isn’t that good, that could definitely change your outcome in this game.

Overall, the replayability of this one is outstanding and offers great decisions. Also, the solo game is one of the few solo games that you actually play strategically the same as competitive play. I actually improved substantially at this game through the solo mode, which is why it is my most played solo game. (I don’t really like solo that much) I literally played solo about three times with a faction and improved my score from a constant 50 to mid to high 60’s. Because the AI attacks your buildings at the end of each round, you try to discard your regular locations to build faction houses, which are much more specific to your faction’s strategy. Therefore, the solo mode teaches you to work through your faction deck as fast as possible, and sacrifice good common locations for your faction houses even if you don’t think this is optimal. This is usually the same strategy you need to take in a competitive game.

With all that said, I paid probably 35 bucks for this one of Amazon back in probably early 2016, and have since bought the two small box expansions and a custom insert, which I actually got from supporting Dice Tower last year. So I kind of don’t count all the cost of the insert because I wanted to support Dice Tower anyways. But still, I have spent probably $90 dollars on this one, and I can honestly say it’s probably the game I have gotten the most out of my money for. Let me just say though, the insert cuts setup time down from 10-15 minutes to like 4-6 minutes. So worth it. The longest part of setup is shuffling the cards. Money well spent. Once again, can’t wait for the upcoming expansions. Thanks for making this one Portal.

What about you guys, has anyone else played this one 30-40 times and provide their thoughts? Am I way off base? What about the rest of you that have played this one a few times, what are your thoughts? Let me know, this is certainly a game I like talking about.

Check out my Geeklist for other games on my shelf. https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/236719/why-its-my-shelf
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Ryucoo
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Interesting write up, thanks for sharing!

Just my thoughts on your issues:

First issue: Yeah, agreed. I haven’t played with the expansions a great deal but when I have, they do indeed add more imbalance than the base game alone has. It is a tricky feat – creating asymmetry in factions, yet giving them all an equal chance of winning – and harder still when you increase the number of factions and try and keep things fresh and innovative by introducing new mechanics and styles at the same time. But in my opinion, the issue is kinda moot.

Cos I don’t think Imperial Settlers should be built up to be a sweeping epic of complexity and depth and I don’t think it needs expansions. It’s a fun, incredibly elegant, smooth and challenging little engine-building, civ-lite game. The four base factions (despite what some say) are incredibly well balanced and provide enough asymmetry to satisfy differing play styles and strategies. Remember, there are like 30 cards in each personal faction deck alone, and over 50 or so in the commons (can’t recall exact number), which means there are plenty of cards that you won’t see in some games that will pop up in others.

Second issue: Hmm. Well firstly, not trying to wee higher than you or anything, but if your best is 74, I think you have a little way to go in nailing this game. That in mind, any swingyness in the commons is obviously shared between players and mitigated by the draft. We exclusively play the official advanced drafting variant of draw 3 / keep 1 pass 2 / keep 1 pass 1. I have never felt that over the course of the game, one player has lucked out massively over the other players in terms of what they first drew.

Secondly, any swingyness in the faction decks are mitigated by, well, gettin’ gud at the game imo. An experienced player will be looking to draw well over half, even all, of his faction deck. Obviously the more cards you draw, the probability of hitting your money cards increases. Cards should not only be regarded as another resource in Settlers, they should be regarded as one of the most important. If you neglect your draw as a resource, the game will be more swingy for you.

Finally, there are bucket-loads of ways to make points in this game and a significant number of VP engines exist in the commons deck. I’ve won many games using a common engine. The game is a puzzle: how do I win with what I’ve been given? How do I turn this stuff into points? The very challenge itself is built on an important inclusion of randomness. People seem to think that ‘randomness’ is synonymous with ‘bad’. It isn’t. Dealing with what life throws at you is what makes life interesting, and in games, what makes them challenging! Personally, I don’t want everything to be laid out for me and I don’t find non-random in games realistic. Life is full of variables after all.



In the end, issues or no issues, if you get 40+ plays out of a game before it starts to lose its shine, then I’d say you’ve more than got your money’s worth! For a £40 game, that’s like (does complex math) £1 a session. I can’t think of many activities that last a couple of fun-filled hours that costs you a quid. I also can’t think of many games, including some of the most lauded ‘perfect’ board games in history, that don’t start showing a few cracks after many, many plays. Bravo for getting as much out of it as you have!
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Rick Spray
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After further thought Ryucoo, I think your right. The expansions with the deckbuilding have possibly taken the fun away from me for this one. I might need to just return to base decks. Just out of curiosity, what is your normal score? And do you get similar scores regardless the faction you play? Have you played with any of the new factions, and do you get similar results?

I wouldn't say this one has lost it's luster. It's just getting close to possibly losing it's number two spot. I still think it will rest in the top 5 because of, "Cos I don’t think Imperial Settlers should be built up to be a sweeping epic of complexity and depth and I don’t think it needs expansions. It’s a fun, incredibly elegant, smooth and challenging little engine-building, civ-lite game." I think you are spot on, and I never thought the factions were unbalanced until we added the expansion cards. So once again, I might need to return to what made this game great from the get go. This game will always be a go to for me because of what it offers you in it's timeframe.
 
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Ilan Muskat
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Redd85 wrote:
But still, I have spent probably $90 dollars on this one, and I can honestly say it’s probably the game I have gotten the most out of my money for. Let me just say though, the insert cuts setup time down from 10-15 minutes to like 4-6 minutes. So worth it.


And if this had been a Legacy game, you would have had to buy it at least 3 times to get 40 games out of it!

That sounds fantastic, overall. I've only played it a few times as a solo, but I really enjoy the extent to which you need to play off others' boards, and with the relatively constrained interactive action of "raze", it's an option but not an onslaught.

Given that your #1 game, Blood Rage, is a more direct-confrontational, it sounds like the new small-box expansion is going to be right up your alley.
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Rick Spray
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Yeah, here's the thing. I never mind any type of meanness in games. Because I just like having fun. But in this game, I think I actually do. Mainly because my first 25 games of this one was me and the wife doing a couple of razes a game to each other. But then we built that barbarian deck with the extreme meanness, and my wife will get tons of swords most games. It really does decimate what I'm trying to do, and I've actually been frustrated several times. Because my engine can never get going like I want it to. And I get to the point where I realize I'm not even going to get 50 points again. It' really quite humorous to me as I look back and assess. So, when we used to basically have a solitaire experience with this one, has turned into her slaughtering me while I just want to build my tableau. And she doesn't like confrontational games is the funny thing. It's just weird. This game has completely confounded me. The guy who loves player interaction and conflict just wants to be left alone to build his tableau.

But I'm going to get the expansions anyways because I love this game.
 
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Ryucoo
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Redd85 wrote:
After further thought Ryucoo, I think your right. The expansions with the deckbuilding have possibly taken the fun away from me for this one. I might need to just return to base decks. Just out of curiosity, what is your normal score? And do you get similar scores regardless the faction you play? Have you played with any of the new factions, and do you get similar results?

I wouldn't say this one has lost it's luster. It's just getting close to possibly losing it's number two spot. I still think it will rest in the top 5 because of, "Cos I don’t think Imperial Settlers should be built up to be a sweeping epic of complexity and depth and I don’t think it needs expansions. It’s a fun, incredibly elegant, smooth and challenging little engine-building, civ-lite game." I think you are spot on, and I never thought the factions were unbalanced until we added the expansion cards. So once again, I might need to return to what made this game great from the get go. This game will always be a go to for me because of what it offers you in it's timeframe.


Yeah, I’ve never liked the deck-building side of it and never play it that way.

I’d say across all factions I near always break 100 (and still often lose, though!). I think though it’s important (and actually more fun) if you stick to one faction for a while, as you end up learning what makes it tick, as well as building up a nice bit of rivalry with your opponents. Also, I find many players over-build. I know it’s tempting for the points to build everything you can, but the reality is – find a couple of VP engines, get ‘em in place and run ‘em early. Feed resources into your engine, rather than burning them on building stuff for the sake of it. If you are throwing away handfuls of resources each turn, you are producing waaaay too much. Each faction has strengths in some resources (so find VP engines to suit) and weaknesses in others (so find commons to compensate) – and of course some factions have cards that reward bonuses for X, and others that reward bonuses for Y. And again, don’t think your faction cards are the be-all-and-end-all of winning. I think of the game like Race for the Galaxy – its not so much about getting this great sprawling tableaux (unless you are Romans), it’s about spotting a way (or two) to make points and getting that up and running ASAP. Finally, if you are spending people on resources beyond the first round, you are in trouble. Two peeps for a wood = bad deal. Two peeps for a card? That’s where it’s at.

Back to the expansions – I firstly just didn’t find any of them interesting. Or particularly thematic So many great powers/civilisations from history to choose from and we get a bunch of wooly Amazons and Aztecs and Atlantis people or whatever the hell they were. And sadly, I find they just clutter an elegant game and disrupt the balance.

RE: Meanness – we are fine with the razing opponents but we’ve played a few games with my own peaceful variant for those that get a bit sad seeing the town they have worked hard to build get trashed. I don’t really like the official peaceful variant. So our simple amendment is that you can still raze an opponent’s location for the raze goods, but don’t actually burn the place to the ground. So its ‘raid’ rather than raze. You still get the resources but nobody’s house is burned down in the process. Win-win. That said, I’d always rather play with the standard rules – but some people I’ve found just don’t raze cos they are worried they might upset someone; so its good to have a decent variant on standby if you are playing with more timid folks!
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Rick Spray
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Good info Ryucoo. Thanks
 
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