Empires of the North - first impression
Thanks to Board Game Atlas, I recently received the new #Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North. I got to play it a couple of times this week, so here I am with my first impressions! Keep in mind that I have only played twice, and this game has a LOT more to offer, and a lot more discover.
I'll post some pics in the comments below!
Empires of the North is a card-focused tableau and engine builder in which players control different clans vying to build the greatest empire. Each clan has a different personality, and a dedicated deck to match! Some clans love to pillage and conquer, and some love to drink!
The game is played in rounds in which players draw cards, place cards (locations) in their empire, and go sailing on expeditions to pillage and conquer both nearby and distant islands. Once familiar with all of the available actions, turns are simple, as you basically do one thing per turn. While the turns are simple, the strategy isn't necessarily obvious. In each round you're able to take as many actions as you want and as your resources and workers allow, so you're trying to set up a tableau of locations that combos well together and allows you to keep taking actions and scoring points. This can lead to some really satisfying, high-scoring rounds if you set yourself up right!
The main actions you can take are:
- Build a Location (put a card in your empire). Some of these are fields, which provide resources, and some are locations that provide you with actions you can take on your turn by "exhausting" the card, and paying the cost of that action, if any.
- Take an action from the action wheel(?) using one of your action pawns. There are 5 of these - Explore (draw a card), Populate (gain a worker), Harvest (gather resources from 1 of your fields), Construct (build a Location without paying its resources), and Sail (put a ship on the expedition board).
- Pass. When you are finished with the actions you can/want to do for the round, you pass, and any other players can keep taking actions as long as they can.
After the action phase, you resolve the "Expedition" phase, in which anyone who "Sailed" in the previous phase will either Pillage (discard for immediate resources/points) or Conquer (add to their empire for later access to the actions) a "Nearby" or "Distant" island.
And that's it! During the following Cleanup phase, you simply reset your exhausted cards, regain your workers, remove your action pawns from the action wheel, and do another round! The game end is triggered when someone reaches 25 points during the Action phase.
What I like so far:
- Art - the art is great! Every clan has a distinct look, and it's all fun and cute!
- Components - the resource tokens are nice wooden tokens, and not just cubes or cardboard tokens. The coins and ax tokens are cardboard, but that's it!
- Insert - this insert is fantastic. The components are stored in a removable tray that you just put in the middle of the table. So nice. It makes setup that much faster. There's room for expansion decks, and sleeved cards. I'm definitely impressed.
- Gameplay - wow this game is really fun! It's a bit of a puzzle to try to set up an engine that will score you big points in the later rounds. I've only played twice - once with my wife and once solo - and I've used two different clans. Learning the strengths of each clan will be a ton of fun! The rulebook gives a quick overview of each clan, but that doesn't help much in figuring out how to play it.
What is just okay:
- Rulebook - a couple of things with this. The paper quality is lower than I'm used to seeing in...most board games. The art in the rulebook is beautiful like the rest of the game, but the paper feels cheap. Not linen, not even glossy paper, just cheap paper. That doesn't affect gameplay at all, it just felt odd considering how much love was put into the rest of the game.
The contents of the rulebook are easy to follow. The only issue I had there was a few times when I was unclear on how something should be played out, and I had to spend a couple of minutes searching the rulebook to find an answer. So in that sense, it felt like the rulebook didn't have the best layout/ordering.
What I don't like so far:
- Nothing! I've only got 2 plays in, but so far I'm loving this game, and look forward to getting it to the table often!