In the first parts of this series, we discussed the Imperial Settlers base game as well as its two smaller expansions. Join us now for this third part of our series as we discuss the first of Imperial Settlers’ two larger expansions – the Atlanteans!
Imperial Settlers, designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek, is a card game of civilization and engine building. Each player selects one of the several factions (Romans, Egyptians, Barbarians, Japanese, or, beginning with this expansion, the Atlanteans) and uses that faction’s Faction deck in conjunction with a deck of Common cards to produce resources, acquire more cards, build locations, and to score points. The game is played over a total of five rounds and the person who has accumulated the most points at the end of the game wins.
In this multi-article series, I am going to discuss Imperial Settlers and all of its expansions. I’ll tell you how they work, how they change the game, and what I think about them. In my previous articles, I talked a lot about the base game and the game’s two smaller expansions – Why Can’t We Be Friends and 3 Is a Magic Number. In this article, I am going to focus on the first of the game’s two larger expansions: The Atlanteans. Since I’ve previously discussed how the game is played, I am just going to discuss what this expansion brings to the game and how it changes it. Of course, it goes without saying that this expansion opens up new possibilities for pre-constructed decks if that’s your thing. So, without further adieu…
Unlike the expansions that I discussed in Part Two of this series, The Atlanteans expansion not only introduces new concepts and mechanics to the game, but it also introduces a brand new faction. Whereas a large part of each other faction’s total score comes from the construction of Faction buildings, the Atlanteans are different in that their Faction buildings are going to all “sink into the sea” (read: get discarded) at the end of the game. This means that they’re going to have to figure out other creative ways to score victory points.
The Atlanteans expansion is packaged inside of a small, square box. Included inside of the box are 110 cards: 40 Atlantean Faction cards, 10 cards for the other factions, 28 Common cards, and 2 cards for the solo game. Also inside of the box are a collection of “technology” tokens which are shaped like gears. There are three different kinds which I will discuss shortly. There is also a 4-page rules booklet, a Faction marker, and a Faction board which is broken into two pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Presumably, this decision was made so that it could fit inside of the box. All of the pieces here are of the same high quality as the base game and the other expansions.
Aside from the introduction of a new faction, The Atlanteans also introduces several new concepts. First are Events. When an Event is drawn, the text on the card is carried out, the card is discarded, and a new card is drawn in its place.
New Color – White
The Atlanteans introduces a new color to the game – white. Along with the new color comes a new color/goods association. The color white is associated with the new technology tokens.
This expansion includes a new type of card which features an action that can only be used once it is unlocked by using a different action that is printed on the card. For instance, the Emerald Haven card allows the player to pay a Basic technology token to unlock an action which allows them to spend a worker to obtain either a wood, a stone, or a food. Once this action has been unlocked, it is unlocked for the remainder of the round and can be used as often as the player wants to use it.
The biggest and, perhaps, most complicated addition to the game are the technology tokens. These tokens come in two main types – Basic and Advanced. Advanced technology tokens are further divided into two distinct types – Advanced scoring and Advanced defense tokens. Basic technology tokens are available to all players, but only the player in control of the Atlanteans faction will be able to use any of the Advanced technology tokens. When a non-Atlanteans player uses a basic technology token, they will receive the benefit of whatever the card calling for the usage of the token provides. However, when the Atlanteans player uses these, it is a very different story entirely.
The Basic technology tokens provide a different kind of benefit to the Atlanteans player depending on which zone the token is used in. If the token is placed onto a Production card, then that card will produce its goods twice for the player during the Production phase. If placed onto a Feature card, then the Feature card will provide twice the benefits to the player. If placed onto an Action card, the player will be able to pay to use that action one additional time.
Advanced scoring tokens will provide one extra victory point to the player whenever the card that the token has been assigned to is used. For instance, if assigned to a Production card, whenever that card produces, the player would receive a victory point. If that card also has a Basic technology token assigned to it, the player would receive TWO victory points since it would produce twice. Advanced defense tokens act as permanent shield tokens when placed onto a Common card. These may not be combined with the regular shield tokens that are discarded during the Cleanup phase.
The Atlanteans expansion is a very streamlined experience that presents a significant challenge to the player that chooses to play with the faction. It is such a challenging experience that I would highly recommend you only play this faction if you are already well acquainted with the base game. If it’s your first time playing and you’ve taken on the Atlanteans, then you are not going to fare well. This is one of the hardest factions in the game to play.
The main challenge with the Atlanteans is that they lose all of their Faction buildings at the end of the game. Whereas most of the other players will have 12+ faction buildings earning them 2 points apiece at the end of the game, the Atlanteans player cannot rely on this huge influx of points. This means that that player will have five rounds to squeeze out as many in-game points as they possibly can and doing this isn’t always easy. For instance, you may not get the cards that you need to get your engine started as quickly as you’d like or you might have a fine production engine going, but it isn’t producing the things that you really need.
The second challenge with the Atlanteans is in learning how to effectively use your Basic and Advanced technology tokens. Early in the game, it’s very likely that you’re going to be assigning most of your Basic tokens to your Production cards because the more stuff you have, the more you can do with it. After a few rounds, though, your focus is going to shift to scoring points because that is ultimately how you win the game. This is when you become a target. Used wisely, the Atlanteans’ tokens can quickly score massive quantities of points very rapidly and the other players are going to try to shut this down. Hand management is going to be key. Your scoring cards are probably not going to be around for very long once they are played. Holding back your best scoring cards until you’re in a good position to make the most of them is going to be important because an opponent cannot target a card that hasn’t been played from your hand yet.
Coming from a Magic: the Gathering background, the way that the Atlanteans’ various Faction cards interplay with one another and the way that the various technology tokens chain together really speaks to me. Even though this is one of the most difficult factions to play, it is my favorite. The Atlanteans have layers upon layers of depth to them and figuring out how to manage them effectively always presents a unique and exciting challenge. When my wife and I play Imperial Settlers together, we like to randomly choose which faction we’ll be playing with during our session, but secretly, in the back of my mind, I’m always crossing my mental fingers in the hopes that I’ll be the Atlanteans. I like this expansion so much so, in fact, that if you only ever purchase a single expansion for Imperial Settlers, this is the one that I would recommend you purchase. It’s just that good.
However, this doesn’t mean this faction is going to be the faction for you. You might prefer the excitement that comes with discovering the unknown and an element of luck in your game. If that’s you, then you’ll probably enjoy the subject of our next article – the Aztecs!