ARTICLE: 51st State is NOT Imperial Settlers

51 enIt’s true, there are many similarities between Imperial Settlers and 51st State. Imperial Settlers was designed as a light-hearted update to the award winning 51st. This year, 51st State is getting a new skin and boy has the reaction been interesting. For us, it’s awesome that fans of the game are so passionate about changes to their beloved game.
To set the record straight, the 51st State Master Set is NOT a re-theme of Imperial Settlers. It is very different and I’ll explain why.


1. The Pace of the Game

In Imperial Settlers you have 5 rounds. Always. You get to build your engine and easily calculate what each card is likely to provide you over the remaining rounds. You have time to build your engine and use it.
51st State is a race. You only have as much time as your opponents give you. Instead of 5 rounds, the end game is triggered when one player reaches 25 points. You are under pressure from the very first turn and have no way of knowing how long your precious engine will last.

2. No Faction Deck

In Imperial Settlers, players have their own unique deck of cards that drive their particular strategy. The Romans enjoy building, the Barbarians like to raze, etc. When the game starts, you already know the basic strategy of your faction and have an idea of how to build that out.
There are no faction decks in 51st State. There is a single common deck of cards that all players build from. You get your first hand of cards and you have to deal with it. This is the start of your strategy. You can’t rely on getting tons of gold like the Egyptians. You get what you start with, what you draft, and from this you have to figure out your engine. There is no pre-constructed strategy. You have to gather random crap from the wreckage of a post-war America and build some sort of existence. Good luck with that.

3. No Safe Haven

Remember those factions in Imperial Settlers? You can rely on them. They are safe from destruction from the other players.
This is not the case in 51st State. This is a post-war apocalypse… nothing is safe. Your opponents want everything you have and they will tear you down. That precious engine you pieced together out of scraps will be destroyed. You cannot count on it. You don’t have 5 rounds of planning. This is a race and it is built on destruction.

4. Distance

In Imperial Settlers, each deal costs 1 Food. Razing costs a sword. Building costs Stone or Wood. It’s simple. With one Sword, you can Raze any location in your hand.
In 51st State, locations have a Distance. Some places are close to you, and you might only spend 1 Raze or Deal token. Some are much farther away and will cost you 3 tokens. You need to plan ahead and save up your tokens in order to be able to interact with them. They are more powerful, but will cost you valuable time to reach. Is patience a viable strategy in a race? You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.

5. Three Choices

In Imperial Settlers, common cards can be built or razed. You can make a deal or build a faction card. These two, different options, give you an easy way to distinguish between the two types of card.
In 51st State, each card represents locations in your area, and all of them can be either built, razed, or dealt with. You have many more choices in your hand… your options are more flexible. You have access to many more resources, but you must figure out how to achieve them: build, deal, or raze?

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7 Comments Added

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  1. George 2016-03-25 | Reply

    Not convinced. Still seems like Neuroshima Settlers.

    • Walt 2016-04-01 | Reply

      But Imperial Settlers is based on 51st State…

      • GEorge 2016-04-04 | Reply

        IS is the vanilla, family version of 51st state. There is no need for Neuroshima Settlers, i.e. another vanilla 51st state.
        Of course there is need for such if they wanna make more money. But 51st State is now no more a gamer’s game.

  2. Pedro 2016-03-29 | Reply

    Even though this is not imperial settlers. Will it have an amazing solitare version like Imperial Settlers? I love Ignazi’s solo rules, Robinson crusoe was on my table for months until imperial settlers replaced it as my “I wanna chill out grab a beer and play solo for a while, the world can wait” game.
    On the other hand…will text be more readable than I. S. text? There’s been a pot of fuzz about it, when you play you have to continuously ask other people about their cards cause there’s no way to read them across the table.
    I’m buying every Game signed by Ignaci, I just have so much fun with the two I own now.

  3. Thomas Covert 2016-03-31 | Reply

    Loved the original 51st state and I can confirm it plays a lot differently than IS

  4. Ashton Green 2016-06-01 | Reply

    Copied from the thread over on BGG :
    It is more different than it first appears. In Imperial Settlers, you can use resources directly for making deals, setting up locations, etc.

    In 51st state, most of the raw resources need to be converted first, before they can be used and your base board has limits on those conversions. In practice, this means that you need to plan a bit more carefully in 51st State to avoid getting stuck with resources you can’t convert and can’t store. Also, once resources have been converted, they can’t be stored, which can create some issues.

    Distance is also a big difference, since that’s the card cost in this version. Distance one cards, easy to work with. Just one gray arrow to build, a blue to make a deal, a red to burn it down. Distance two cards, require two, distance three requires a full three arrows to work with it. This makes it harder to make use of the higher cost cards than in Imperial Settlers. Though the brick to directly upgrade is nice, especially since two works become a brick.

  5. Darren T. 2016-07-18 | Reply

    Love the strategy of 51st state & feel it is a deeper look in the mechanics over Imperial Settlers (love both 51st & IS in their own ways). Very curious now to see if any expansions show up to 51st State to give other thematic settings (like how the post apocalypse world is dealt with in different areas), plus more factions to play for more players. Keep up the great work Portal Games!

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