Imperial settlers: Empires of the North

Empires of the North

We had already seen Empires of the North multiple times and it looked like a lot of fun! So when Portal Games told us we would receive it to write a review about this board game, we were really happy. Time to find out what clan we would like the most and who could build the best empire!

How to Play.

Empires of the North is a round based game which isn’t complicated once you have played a couple of rounds, but has a lot of rules you need to remember. Let me take you trough it the best I can.
For the setup you take the scoreboard and the expedition board and place them in the middle. Place the nearby and far island cards on the expedition board and reveal two of each card stack. Then you shuffle the five action tiles and randomly place them in a circle near the expedition board. After that each player chooses a clan and takes the clan cards, ship tokens and score marker of that clan. For your clan set up, place the three basic cards face up in front of you and place your other clan cards face down in a stack. Make sure you have enough space to expand your empire. Take all the goods from your basic cards and five workers, this will be the supply you start with. Also, draw five cards from your deck, take three and discard the other two. This will be your starting hand. And for the last action, take your score marker and place it on zero on the score board.

There are four phases you will go trough each round. The lookout phase, action phase, expedition phase and cleanup phase. In the lookout phase, you can decide to take up to four extra cards in your hand, but you have to pay with workers to get them. Draw four cards from your deck, and pay one worker for the card you wish to add to your hand. Discard the others. There is no limit of cards you may have in your hand.
The action phase is the main phase of the game, you can build locations, perform an action using your clan pawn, raid an opponent, or use an action from one of the locations in your empire. To build a location, simply take the card from your hand that you want to build, and pay the costs under the ‘spend to build’ icon. Once you have placed your location, you can use the action on that card. You can also build a location for free if you place you clan pawn on the build action tile. With your clan pawn, you can also explore to take a card from your deck, populate to permanently get one more worker, harvest to gain goods from one chosen field in your empire, or sail to place your ship token on the expedition board for the expedition phase. Note that if you want to sail to a distant island, you have to take supplies with you and pay one fish extra immediately with your ship token. If you want to conquer an island, you immediately have to place a axe token as well. You have two clan pawns that you can place anywhere on those tiles, even on the same one. There is no limit of players or pawns for a tile. You can use each pawn one time unless you pay one apple. If you pay an apple, you can move one pawn to an adjacent tile and perform that action, or perform the same action once again.

If you want to prevent your opponent from using an action, you can raid them using an axe (raze) token. chose a location from an opponent and discard the axe token. Then exhaust the location as if it has already been used. If you start expanding your empire, you will build some cards that have an action on it. You can use this action once per round. To do this, pay the goods that are required and resolve the action. Such actions can give you benefits like earning more victory points or performing more actions for example. if you have used the action on a location, rotate your card sideways to show that is has already been used this round.
After the action phase you can go on expedition. If you chose to sail in the previous phase, you have placed a ship token and possibly a fish and/or axe token. You can choose to pillage or conquer an island, but who came first, gets to choose first! If you pillage an island, you immediately get the rewards from the pillage side of the card and discard that island. If you want to conquer an island, you will need an axe token on your ship, this was already decided in the previous phase with the sail action and cannot be added now just like a fish to sail to a distant island. If you conquer an island, you can add that island to your empire and gain the action permanently of that card.

The last phase is the cleanup phase, here you take all your workers back and rotate your cards back to normal. take your clan action pawns back from the tiles and discard any remaining face up island cards and place new islands. Pass the first player marker to the next player and start the next round. This will continue until one of the players have reached or passed 25 points. If that is the case, the last expedition will take place and then the counting will start. For each card within your empire, you get one victory point. You will also receive a victory point for every two resources and one victory point for every gold token. The player with the most victory points, will win the game.

Playtrough of the game.

We had a lot of fun playing Empires of the North, and we noticed that with every clan we played with, we had a completely different playstyle. Some clans cards are focused on sailing and conquering islands, while others may be focused on raiding, or harvesting. Also beware that some clans are more difficult to play with. No matter how different we played, we found that you can really play and compete with whatever clans you want, although with some you might like to play more then with others.

We also like that you can really grow your own empire and gain more and more power along the way because of all the actions and features you will have over time. The art of the game is also a nice cartoonish style which makes it more fun to collect locations. It’s also not just an a simple game with an action phase, because after that, the expedition phase starts. The fun of this phase is that you already have to think things trough in the previous phase because of the play order of the ships. If you decided to sail first, and your opponent doesn’t have a card to move his ship up the line, he will go first. And then he might pick the island you needed. Finally, we like the small but different elements in this game. For example, you don’t have to worry about your hand limit with cards, or you don’t have to think about a maximum amount of players that can stand on a certain tile, this gives in our opinion more room for fun.

Final Thoughts.

Empires of the North is a medium strategic game where you can build and expand your empire. It’s an easy to learn game and fun to play with only two players, but is also fun with more people. Different clans have different playstyles and different cards, but each clan can compete with any other clan. The game brings a lot of fun to the table and has nice components with fitting art.

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