Review – Imperial Settlers: Roll & Write

OVERVIEW

Roll and Write games are having a moment right now with everyone wanting to get in on the action and honestly I love it! I really enjoy Roll and Write games so I’m always happy to discover a new one to play. One of the latest offerings comes from Portal Games, Imperial Settlers: Roll & Write, which is set in the familiar Imperial Settlers universe but is a completely new and standalone game.

In Imperial Settlers Roll & Write you are competing to expand your empire by harvesting resources and constructing various buildings in your village. The game is played over 10 rounds, each round one player takes on the role of active player, rolling the dice which everyone will use, they then get first choice of the favour tokens, followed by the rest of the players in clockwise order. The favour tokens give you one off special abilities such as taking an additional action or allowing you to harvest extra resources in this round.

Of the four dice, three of them will offer resources: stone, wood, food or coin that acts as a wild for the other resources. The fourth dice is the worker dice and will determine how many actions you can take in a round, between three and five with four being the most common result. You can spend these actions to construct Walls, Cottages, Granaries or Bridges, depicted by the four tracks on the Empire sheet. Each track will score you points equal to the furthest box you cross off on a track. Or you can use actions to harvest from any of the fields to which you can access using a bridge that has been completed. Finally you can also use actions to construct the buildings on your Village sheet.

The Village sheet introduces an engine-building element to the game as the buildings you construct will offer you bonuses each round, the more of them you build, the more fruitful those bonuses become! You may gain more resources and actions through these bonuses as well as the favour tokens, so in later rounds especially you will be able to do far more than what is simply given to you by the dice!

Player Count1 – 4 players
Age10 +
Play Time30 mins
Weight2.20 / 5
PublisherPortal Games

Disclaimer: This game was provided by the publisher, but my reviews are always 100% honest and all photos and opinions are my own!

GAME PLAY 7/10

As with all Roll and Write games, dice mean luck, and there is no avoiding the fact that this game is luck based, but there are some elements that allow you to mitigate this factor just enough to build some strategy. Between the favour tokens and extra actions/resources gained by constructing buildings on your village sheet, you can sway the odds in your favour a little at least!

I enjoyed the engine-building aspect, which I haven’t experienced in a Roll & Write game before and towards the later rounds you really can rack up a healthy amount of resources and actions in one turn if the stars align!

Of the five favour tokens available at the start of each round, we tended to use the same ones depending on player count, with a couple of them never being used at all, so competition is high for certain ones that seem more powerful and these can be pretty integral at certain points in the game.

There is an advance mode in the game which allows you to draw the buildings from your village sheet onto your empire sheet, which allows you to multiply the value of those bonuses. My advice would be to skip over the basic mode and go straight to the ‘advanced’ mode as it really isn’t that much more advanced and honestly I think it would be a fair bit duller without it.

AESTHETICS & COMPONENTS 8/10

The art is in keeping with the original Imperial Settlers but with a charming hand-drawn feel. The components are simple, pads, dice, pencils and five favour tokens, all of good quality. I especially like that the dice are wooden rather than plastic!

And as a bonus the box is designed as a handy dice tray which was actually great for when we played on the sofa, away from the table!

RULES & TEACHING 6/10

The rule book is nicely illustrated and has a personable quality that I always enjoy from Portal Games but there did seem to be an omission in some of the advanced rules regarding the villager sheet. We actually had to look these up on BGG where the same questions had already been asked and discussed so it wasn’t just us at least.

As with most Portal releases though, there is a Watch it Played video, which I checked out and Rodney actually does explain these extra rules so maybe make sure you watch that too!

There are no player aids but I’m not sure it really needs them as the rules are relatively simple, especially for anyone already familiar with Roll & Write games. Personally it’s not a Roll & Write I would use to introduce new players to the genre though as the engine-building does add an extra level of complexity.

REPLAYABILITY & VALUE 7/10

I feel like the replayability of this game is mainly for solo gamers, which unfortunately isn’t something I do. The solo pad has 48 unique village sheets, so every game is different from the next, which is incredible!

But as a competitive game I do think it would get a little stale as I feel like we discovered a winning strategy pretty quickly and wouldn’t deviate from this much in the future, unless forced to.

To over come this issue I did wonder if you could use the unique village sheets in a competitive game and low and behold, I saw on Portal’s website that they have released some official ‘hacks’ so you can get the most from the solo pad even if you’re not a solo gamer! The simplest solution would be to buy a second solo pad and play identical sheets, but they do have some zero cost options too which you can see here.

OVERALL SCORE 28/40 = 7

RECOMMENDED IF…

… you enjoy Roll and Write games
… you’re looking for a solo game with high replay value


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