The newest game from Portal Games, designer Joanna Kijanka and master imperialist Ignacy Trzewiczek is the brilliant Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North. The original Imperial Settlers has long been a staple of a well-rounded board game collection, marrying hand management, resource collection and engine building. But we forget that Imperial Settlers is part of a knotted bizarre lineage of games, getting better with each iteration. The original 51st State (2010) introduced this world of ephemeral resources, which disappear each round, necessitating efficient resource use and collection. 51st State inspired Imperial Settlers (2014), the poster child game for the genre. Imperial Settlers has collected many expansions over the years (Aztecs, Atlanteans, Amazons, and a few things not beginning with ‘A’), but it also inspired a new game, 51st State: Master Set (2016). I know it’s confusing, but the lineage thus far is 51st State begot Imperial Settlers, which begot 51st State. And now, the newest game in the Iggy T genealogy is of course… Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North.
Empires of the North not only made resources store between rounds, but added some very clever worker placement and action selection mechanisms to the glorious foundation built by Imperial Settlers. The game comes with 6 very different factions/tribes which all play in clever ways. Some tribes are best at sailing the seas, pillaging and conquering the islands. Some are best as homebodies, collecting resources and living off of the interest. Others just beg to work with the other players, living off of trade.
No sooner had this gem of a game been released, than Portal announced the first expansion, Japanese Islands, of which Ignacy himself claims “The Japanese faction connects the world of Empires of the North and the base Imperial Settlers.” Portal promises two new tribes for the base game, along with new islands to explore. Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North is in limited pre-release now, with copies on sale at GenCon, and full release is dated for August 22. The new Japanese Islands expansion is due to be revealed at Essen Spiel 2019 this October.