Portal Games released their very first roll and write game set in their Imperial Settlers universe. The smartly named Imperial Settlers Roll and Write game was easy to learn, but as Andrew noted in his review, heavily bogged down by accounting. At the time, I always thought this game would have made a better digital app. Was I right? Hey, we can now find out as it’s been released for tablets and phones!
The Imperial Settlers Roll and Write app is a one player only game that will have you rolling dice and crossing things off on your empire sheet. Each round you will roll three resource dice and a worker die. Every worker lets you take an action (i.e. crossing off boxes), while resources (wood, stone, apple, and gold) are used to pay for the various things. After rolling dice, you also get to choose one of three favors to use the round.
One-way actions and resources can be spent is by constructing buildings, which give you bonuses like free resources or extra victory points. The other way to use them is by spending them for victory points by crossing off boxes in the middle of your player board. Once you’ve cleared enough spaces here, you can also use the cleared areas to place buildings you’ve constructed, upping their efficiency, and granting bonus victory points.
After 10 rounds, you total up your score, earning up to three stars depending on how well you did. Stars are used to unlock new empire sheets, which come with their own assortment of buildings.
Overall, the app worked pretty well, and this game lent itself really nicely to the digital experience. Gone is the struggle of trying to keep track of your resources on a turn by counting them on your fingers. The app does all the heavy lifting and lets you know when you have things to spend.
Your first time playing, the app presents a guided tutorial to help teach you the basics. Unfortunately, it’s pretty awful. It tells you what to do, but never explains why. So, I’m clicking buttons and doing what it says, but not really understanding the concepts of the game. I eventually gave up on it and just read the included rulebook which was thankfully fairly short.
The app lacks any kind of multiplayer which, for some people, I could see being a dealbreaker. But to be honest, I thought it was fine. This app really feels best as a quick solo game you can play when you have a few spare minutes to kill. This is a great app to play while waiting for someone to arrive, on the train, or when you are in “the office”.
I will say that even after a patch from Portal lowering the requirements to unlock new settlements, it still feels kind of grindy. The cost to unlock a new sheet increases every time you buy one. This, combined with the fact that you are spending your stars, means you must grind to unlock new sheets, which feels really out of place. This is also true because some empire sheets are much easier to get stars from than others. I’m not totally sure each sheet’s star value was balanced against its score difficulty.
My only other gripe is that I feel like a few things that were directly ported over should have been tweaked a bit. Such as the favor token that provides +1 resource from those you rolled this turn. When playing a game with that favor and the +1 gold favor, which acts as a wild resource, I don’t know why a player would ever not choose the gold favor. It makes sense in a multiplayer game if someone takes the gold favor first, but in a solo game, it’s just wasted space.
Finally, I will say that the visuals in the app are excellent. They are mostly lived from the board game and thematically fit very nicely. The app integrations, for the most part, is pretty excellent as well. You click and drag things and interacting with the app is really intuitive.
The Imperial Settlers Roll and Write app, while not perfect, is definitely a much more enjoyable play experience than the tabletop game it’s based on. It’s quick to play, has some great visual, and a solo game feels about right for how the game plays. However, it could still use some quality of life and rules tweaks to bring it into prime time. As it stands, it’s a fine app, but maybe one you’ll wait to go one sale before buying. If you want to check it out, it’s available for iOS and Android.