Roman Banners is an expansion to the popular card game, Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North from Portal Games. Empires of the North represents the latest game in a journey that started with the first iteration of 51st State. That journey has progressed to Imperial Settlers, and then back to 51st State with the release of the Master Set. This latest version mixes the best of these games with some new, improved, 100% amazing parts.
The Core of the Game
Empires of the North is a 1-4 player hand-management, tableau/engine building game which its successors are known and loved for. However, instead of shared card decks, players take on the role of a different faction, each of which comes with its own variable deck of cards, specific to that particular faction. Gone are the shared/common cards in favour of these faction-specific decks, which are more thematically linked to how the particular faction plays. The core game comes with six different pre-constructed decks that can be played with straight out of the box.
Players will harvest resources which they can use to build location cards, action cards and one time event cards. Resources and workers are also used to activate action cards and gain bonuses. There is also a circular action selection/worker placement wheel that clan action markers can be placed upon to perform various actions such as gather, sail, construct and recruit. Ships are a new addition to Empires of the North and players can conquer or plunder nearby and distant islands. Plundering islands grants the player resources/points and conquering islands are added to a player's tableau and can be activated/used on future turns.
Each of the factions plays differently and is generally better at one particular facet of the game than another. Players will take it turns until they either cannot or choose not to perform any additional actions, at which point the round ends. Play continues until one player reaches 25 victory points. If you want to know more about Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North then you can check out a review of the core game here.
Romans Enter The Arena
Roman Banners includes two new Roman Clan Decks (the Trajana Clan and the Flavian Clan) and additional island cards (4 Nearby Islands and 2 Distant Islands).
Both of these factions are on the upper end of the difficulty with the Trajana Clan being a level 7 and the Flavian Clan being a difficulty level of 8.
The Power of Construction
The Trajana Clan has a new mechanism for paying for cards. To construct a location, you will need to spend a resource equal to the amount of a particular location type you have already built. For example, spend wood for each "wood" location you have. This adds some interesting choices to the game, as the more of a particular location type you have, the more costly it will be to construct. Another interesting addition for this clan is the choice upgrade cards. When upgrading one of your "field" locations you can choose one of the two resources to upgrade a matching location.
This gives players more flexibility in the upgrades and can help to give players an abundance of one particular resource. This is helpful for when you are building those expansive location cards. There are also locations that reward you for "sets" of locations. For example, for every set of wood, stone and apples, you gain 2 money tokens.
Laying the Foundations
The Flavian Clan offers yet another mechanism and requirement for constructing locations. This clan requires foundations to be built. Foundation types are printed on the back of the clan cards. These cards are placed face down to represent a foundation. To construct a location, it may require a certain number and certain type of foundation to have already been built. Foundations also count as victory points at the end of the game. One of the Flavian harvest locations is the construction site. This allows players to draw 2 cards from their deck and place them as foundations.
Both of the new Roman factions introduce new and interesting twists on the mechanisms in the core box. I think these are a great addition to the base game. They add new and interesting ways to play and work well in both the solo game and the multiplayer game. The addition of the new (albeit small in quantity) island cards is a welcome addition.