April 19, 2017 by Jake
So recently a new expansion for Imperial Settlers finally came out for us non-convention hopping American consumers. Maybe you’ve heard of those Aztecs with their fancy feather head-bands and push yer luck mechanics? I have slowly been digesting it like so many cacao beans (that’s Mayans Jake you idiot) and am not ready to give my more refined thoughts on the expansion in general, I did come across something quite savory though in the interim I’d like to talk about.
You see I really like Imperial Settlers, but sometimes my partner and I are not in the same mental/spiritual place required to dedicate an hour or two into letting her trounce me with the Egypt faction. Luckily IS comes with a very satisfying and only slightly less engaging solo play mode. I set out to play a few solo games with the Aztecs so I could wet my sun-bird beak and come back to the table able to give my freckled Cleopatra a run for her cardboard gold tokens, but before I could start I happened upon a link I hadn’t seen in awhile, for quite awhile actually. A solo campaign mode for Settlers! Oh yes baby. I’m not sure why skipped over these rules so long ago, but I will give you the zippy.
The campaign mode has a few extra steps and essentially lets you save your victory points between games and/or invest them in bonuses in future plays. Also each time you play and beat the AI opponent you conquer one of 20 unique “provinces” that gets added to your empire. The whole you know …. empire part is that most of these new lands aren’t just going to sing your praises and hand out flowers as you pass by, some of them give you a bonus sure, but all of them want something in return, either a stipend of victory points at game’s end (sure no problem the High Priest is happy to share) or some of your hard earned resources at the Clean Up phase of EACH GAME ROUND … say wha? In this way the larger your empire gets, the better you are going to have to play until finally the snake finally begins to eat itself and your dreams of old world glory come falling like so many historic Icarus-uses …. Icari?
I will post the rules and tables here and then rather than go into the nitty gritty of what makes it different from single session mode, just recap my first three excursions while testing the new Aztec faction.
Session One: At last I arrive on this new land in hopes of teaching these savage plebeians the glory of our many colorful gods! The Aztec core deck has some very strong production cards, but there are action cards that if used wisely can produce a lot of extra resources. One thing that I notice very early on is that Aztecs NEED workers. So many of their actions require workers and can be used twice, having plenty of gold and resources can fall quite short if you can’t keep activating your main point scoring cards multiple times a round. I close the game out with 70 points, wow that 4th round came fast. Normally I would be ready to annihilate in the last round having finally got my groove, but the game is over and I manage to claim a chain of islands which will provide a common card every round, but in exchange I must give up a precious worker each round. These natives are greedy to the extreme! I purchase an Officer Academy to gain an extra sword each round, which can guarantee the chance to Raze an AI card every round!
Session Two: I roll Flooding on the event table, and an instant narrative is built! My new Island territory is hit by a hurricane as the gods demand greater tribute and laugh at my mortal quest for glory! Each round I will have to give up a production building as torrential rain ruins my momentum! The seas rise and the noose tightens. This was actually a super annoying event that really hampered my progress. I had to build so many production buildings just to get foundations for my faction deck and was faced with several hard choices. I did manage to pull off the optional quest of repairing the damage which combined with my very low score actually brought my total up to 93 points! Woohoo! I can afford both Maps and Free Trade upgrades to my empire, piling on extra gold and another common card. I manage to recruit the Misty Mountains which will give me a stone each round so long as I can keep giving them wood, a fair enough trade I guess. There is a slight break in theme I notice that I don’t actually know the province I am capturing until after I win the match. It doesn’t make much of a difference but maybe I will roll on the province table before each match and apply the bonuses after from now on.
Session 3: The Destroyed Bridge event means I will only be able to make two deals for the whole game this time, my empire is beset on all sides! Actually this isn’t such a terrible event. What is worse is the only way to correct this next game is offer up four workers for repairs. I finally manage to offer up four carpenters in the final round begrudgingly while cringing at my loss of victory point potential. I squeak by with 90 points and behold I have conquered a new jewel for my empire, a magnificent …. desert. Wow. I suppose the best part about this province is that I can’t roll it again as you can only conquer each province once in your empire. I also get a one time bonus of NOT having to roll on the event chart next game, which honestly I found a little disappointing. Sure the events so far have been bad, but they add some uphill torque to the treadmill and create difficult decision point every game. I decide to save all my points and see how I do next round before buying any new upgrades.
My final thoughts are this: Portal, Ignacy, please make this an expanded and official expansion! If you put more events or tables out there in cardboard form I will buy them! I enjoyed the extra narrative each province and event provides and how they randomly meshed with each other to create even more flavor. My islands are flooding – GAH! My mountain bridges are all broken – why!? All of my solo plays will most likely be in this format from now on I don’t really see any reason to go back. I think this would be awesome in multiplayer as well and I may just try to home brew something that works for Meg and I to try out.
I’ll write about my thoughts on the actual expansion for Aztecs in a week or two, but until then my question is have you tried the New Imperial Settlers expansion yet or do you plan on acquiring it in the future?