Author: T3d-1978

Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North Review

Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North is a game designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek and published by Portal Games (among other board game companies). It’s based in the universe that Imperial Settlers, a game previously designed by Trzewiczek, takes place in, however, we will not be referring back to the original game. This review will treat Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North as a standalone game, because while the two games are similar, Empires of the North is different mechanically, making it it’s own, independent game. 


There are 5 main resources (wood, fruit, fish, stone, sheep), which are represented by small wooden tokens. You can use these resources for a variety of things, like sending your clanmates off to pillage a distant island, building mead halls and banks to expand your empire, and reinvigorating your clan to take that extra action you so desperately needed. And the sheep… well, the sheep are just mainly used for victory points. All of these components can be easily divided into a tray that comes with the game, making everything easily accessible and organized. On top of these 5 resources, there are three other tokens in this game (people, raze tokens, and gold coins), which are not considered to be resources but are placed in the same area as them. The tokens themselves are really easy to tell apart, with each one being a unique shape and color. 

There are three main factions (the Scotsmen, the Inuit, and the Vikings), each one with two different clans (decks). This means that there are 6 completely different decks in the base game, with an additional two if you get the Japanese Islands expansion! Each one has it’s own special powers and abilities, giving the game huge points in terms of replayability. It’s not too difficult to figure out the best strategy for gaining victory points with a certain clan, though it’s helpful to go through all of the cards before you begin the game to make sure you actually know what you’re doing, and that you don’t accidentally discard a card in the first few rounds that would’ve given you a ton of victory points. 

The decks themselves are distinctive, each one having a different color and a (very adorable) person illustrated on them. However, the colors on the score markers don’t match those on the backs of the decks, and the illustrations don’t necessarily match the illustrations on the back of the cards, meaning that there’s a lot of guessing and eye-squinting at the start of the game. The ship tokens have the same problem, where they have no color markings. Once again players are forced to examine their chosen deck of cards and try their best to match it to one of the ships. You could just randomly assign score markers and ships to players, but that’s not how it’s supposed to be! Certain score markers and certain ships are supposed to go with each clan, and the fact that it’s not clear what goes with what just adds more time to the setup. The Japanese Islands expansion does fix this problem, though, making the background for the boats and the score markers the same color as the back of the cards.

The action markers are four different colors, and while they also don’t match with the 6-8 deck colors, it doesn’t really affect the game. Eventually players will get used to being represented by two different colors, and since the action markers are for a different function it’s not that big of a deal. Overall, these little issues don’t generally affect the gameplay of Empires of the North, it’s just annoying at the start of the game when you don’t know what markers are yours.

 The components are of pretty good quality, and the artwork is very nice to look at. Since this game also has variety between players and the cards of each deck, more effort had to be put into the game, and I applaud the artists and designers. All of the tokens are quite easy to pick up, move around, and keep organized, so you won’t have any big messes (unless you’re playing with someone who cannot keep a tidy play area – we’ve all been there).


The game is made up of rounds, which are structured into four main phases (Lookout, Action, Expedition, and Cleanup), with the possibility of some extra phases depending on the decks being played with. Players will go through these phases, playing until one of them has reached 25 points, at which point the final round will start. 

The first phase is the Lookout phase, where each player will draw 4 cards, and choose which ones to keep by spending workers. In Empires of the North, instead of spending workers like you would any other resource, returning it to the tray from whence they came,  players instead place spent workers on the designated platform, where they can be recovered later on (in contrast to the resources lost to the tray, some of which may be trapped there until the next game). Truly, people are the most special of all. This means that players have to plan their actions in advance, especially if they have a clan where they have a lot of options to spend their workers. Even if you have a ton of cards and actions, you still need people to perform the action.

After the Lookout phase is the Action phase, which is where most of the game will take place. Players go in clockwise order, each taking an action until they decide to pass. Actions can vary from using a locations action to using one of the action tokens, building a brand new location, raiding an opponent’s location to stop them from getting even more victory points, and performing one of the five actions located on the action tiles (Populate, Explore, Construct, Harvest, and Sail). Populate allows you to add a new person to your clan; Explore allows you to “venture into the wild” and draw a new card (which you keep for free); Construct allows you to build a new location for free; Harvest allows you to get more resources from one field location in your empire; and Sail allows players to travel to distant or not so distant islands. You can perform two actions this way for free, but to perform additional actions you must tempt your clanmates with some fruit, spending said token and exhausting your action token. You may only exhaust each action token once. 

During the Expedition phase, players who have boats ready to set sail will choose one of the Nearby or Distant Islands to either pillage or conquer. Pillaging an island will give you immediate benefits in the form of victory points or resources, while conquering an island will integrate it into your clan, with the action on the island becoming available to the clan leader. 

Finally, the Cleanup phase occurs. During the Cleanup phase, players basically reset everything. All of the cards become unexhausted, spent workers come back into the players supply, any leftover island cards get discarded, and the next round begins. 

The action tiles are a bigger part of the game than one would originally expect, but with the large amount of cards that are directly or indirectly related to the action tiles, it makes sense. For clans that give benefits to sailing or stockpiling resources, players are going to be using the action tiles a lot more. Each action is simple enough that it doesn’t take a massive amount of time to perform, but there are enough actions that players may be subjected to analysis paralysis. Overall, though, all of the actions are simple, quick, and easy to understand, and the variety not only with the decks but the action tiles (since they can be rearranged from game to game) definitely adds to the replayability of the game.


Players go through these phases, collecting cards, performing actions, pillaging and conquering islands, to build an engine that will ultimately carry them to victory. And, overall, this works! Empires of the North was a lot of fun to play- it’s fun to play with different clans, it’s fun to collect the little resources, and it’s fun to strategize how to best destroy your competition (or really just beat them by getting the most victory points the fastest). The art is pleasing to look at, and, aside from the color differences, it makes different symbols distinct and easy to tell apart. The tray included with the game is a big bonus, especially to people who may not have designated component trays. It saves space and it saves time, especially at the end of the game when you’re putting everything away. While the actions are all relatively simple, there is a good amount you can choose from, and action order does matter in some cases. Players have to strategize in order to get the most victory points in the quickest amount of time, and while players can still be subjected to the randomness of their draw this isn’t a game that’s based on a lot of luck. Another positive for the game was that players got through most of their deck by the end of the game. Personally, when there’s still the majority of the deck left in a card game, I feel disappointed because there were all those amazing cards in there that I simply couldn’t get to, and while future replays may remedy that situation it’s always nice to know that you (most likely) haven’t missed out on an awesome card.

So, if you or your friends are looking for a fun, relatively simple engine builder with adorable artwork and a variety of options, strategies, and actions, I would definitely recommend Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North.


We are a Family owned San Diego business,  focused solely on Table Top and Role Playing games and the community around them.  We have been playing board games as a family for many years and want to share that experience with others. We decided to create a place where everyone is welcomed to come and grab a game off the shelf and play!

For a nominal fee of $7 per day (or less if you are a member), you can enjoy our ever growing selection of over 600 board games. That’s less than a movie ticket, and is way more fun!!! We have a fun, friendly and knowledgeable staff that will help you find the right type of game that you may be looking to play.  We also have weekly, and monthly events, plus other fun activities centering around Tabletop games. We look forward to seeing you at the Table!

Our family’s first 10 games that got us into board gaming, and eventually led to this store!

Your Friendly Local Game Store

Our store is located just off of Main Street in El Cajon, California. 

We are a friendly local game store, primarily a place where you can meet with your friends, and play some games! We have over 600+ games available in our game library, and are welcoming to people from all walks of life and all ages. 

Game Room #1

We have four main rooms, three of them dedicated to game play. We have big and small tables, depending on the size of your game, and plenty of comfortable chairs. All of our games are located in the back room, where you can browse for the game that you want to play. All of our employees are familiar with board games, and will gladly help you with picking, finding, or learning any board game that you have in mind.

We have a special room that is more closed off than the others, making it a great spot for role playing games. Members have the privilege of reserving tables, and can do so in this room.

If you play a game that you really like, or need a gift for a friend, we also have a retail section. You can find all sorts of things from dice, board games, and cool trinkets and statues!

Introducing a new feature of Off the Shelf Games – the Painting Station!

The paint station is included in the daily entrance fee (or free for members). There are 67 different paints available for use, and variety of small brushes. We also have employees who are familiar with painting minis, and will show you some tips and tricks if you are new.

The painting station includes the paints, brushes and tools, just bring your own mini to paint. They can be a mini from your favorite board game or a mini from your favorite role play system. You can even buy the minis at our store and paint them here! Happy painting!

Hadara Board Game Overview

Personally, I love civilization building games, and quite luckily there’s a lot of them out there! That’s why I (and the rest of the team at Off the Shelf) were so excited to play Hadara, and it’s great! I really liked the card drafting mechanism in this game, and how the game forces you to balance out what you’re getting (since you need money to buy cards, but you also need food to “feed” the cards you draft, but you really need to increase your military to get that colony, and wouldn’t that expensive purple card be nice to have?). We all enjoyed playing this game, and would definitely recommend it to others.
If you are a big civilization-building game fan, but don’t know where to find any of them, then visit our store, Off the Shelf Games, where you can play games like Hadara and Through the Ages. And if civilization building games aren’t your cup of tea, then we have plenty more tabletop games for you to play, so come on down anyways when we open in early December.

Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates!

Quick Overview

Ahoy there! We’ve just been transported back into the Golden Age of Piracy, sailing from places like Port Royal to Tortuga in Don Bayer and Glenn Drovers game Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates.
Published by Forbidden Games, this is a set collection game, where players race to get to the limited crates located on various merchant ships. This game also has a deck-building component, as you gather more cards that give you and your 3 pirate ships more power throughout the game. We here at Off the Shelf greatly enjoyed this blend of mechanics, and generally had a lot of fun playing this game! You may have to think ahead, but overall it’s great for the family.

The game a few turns into play

You and your family can play this very game by visiting our store, Off the Shelf Games at 109 Rea Avenue! If you’ve played this game before, or you have any recommendations for us to play (and possibly include in the store library) leave a comment down below, and we’ll see you in December!

Our Review!!

Put on your pirate hats and get in the buccaneering spirit as we embark on a race through the Carribean in Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates! A triple threat, this game has deck-building, set collection, and racing mechanics. Don’t let all of that deter you, though, it’s actually quite simple to play. 


Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates is a deck-building game, so naturally the cards are an integral part of it. Each player gets a starting deck of 10 cards, signified by their background which corresponds to the player color. The rest of the cards are split into two decks, clearly signified by either a coin or island symbol in the upper left hand corner. Furthermore, a symbol in the upper right hand corner signifies if the card has a persistent effect or if it’s a one time use. Some of the text can be confusing when first encountered, but after enough game-plays the cards are all clear and easy to understand. 

Now, it should be noted that there are a couple versions of this game. The base game has wooden tokens for the pirates, cargo, and ships, while the kickstarter game has plastic miniatures and cubes.We have the kickstarter version, and as of now I have not played with the components from the base game, so I am unable to comment on them. That being said, the plastic ships, pirates, and cargo cubes are all wonderfully made. Each player’s pirates look different from the other players, and while the ships all look the same they are very sturdy and easy to handle. The cargo cubes are exceptionally well made, and they look astounding. Furthermore, the tiles used for the treasure that players can get throughout the game are thick and big enough that it’s easy to see what’s on them.

All of this being said, there is one problem with the components of this game, and that’s the board. The spaces on the three tracks where the ships and cargo cubes are supposed to go are simply too small. Each space can only fit one ship, and since players can share spaces the other ships have to be pushed off, and then when the first ship moves the players can become confused as they are now left with a ship that isn’t on a space. By making the board bigger or tweaking the course so it’s more curvy, the creators could have made the circles bigger so that the ships could all fit better.


Despite the mixture of three different game mechanics, Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates is really simple to pick up and play. Every turn, players draw up to a hand of five cards, of which they play three cards. Players will then use these cards to raid merchant ships for cargo, and then go to port to turn in the stolen goods for treasure, which will earn you victory points. 

Each card has two parts to it, a movement number in the bottom right hand corner, and a power (or filler text) in the caption underneath the pictures. Players will choose whether to use the power or the movement on each individual card, giving players the choice of a powerful action at the loss of movement down the track. Oftentimes, players must make crucial decisions to maximize their powers. 

An example of this is the Sailing Master’s Mate card, the most powerful card in a player’s initial deck. 

The Sailing Master’s Mate allows you to either move three spaces, or to permanently discard a card in your hand  from the game. Having this card allows you to thin your deck, an important mechanism for all deck-building games – however, it’s movement of three is alluring to most, if not all, players. Players will have to decide when and how to play cards like these, making decisions between powers and movement all throughout the game. 

This is a very thematic game, all of which is emphasized by the method of getting new cards. Players receive new “pirates” (cards) when they either raid a merchant ship (that still has cargo on it) or stop at a port. These new cards cost nothing, so thematically it represents the player picking up more crew members, either by force or by their will.

Another part of the game that we really liked was the placement of pirates at the start of the game. Players are faced with a variety of choices, and since they have four pirates to place on three tracks, players have to choose a track to favor. Players also have to consider at what point they think they’ll be ready to turn in cubes for a treasure tile, since pirates are much more valuable when paired with treasure. Either way, the pirates add a fun and interesting layer to the game, and we definitely recommend using them in all your playthroughs.

We love pirate games, some of our favorites being Skull King and Jamaica, so we’re so happy we can add another great pirate game to the list! With it’s simple mechanics, this game is easy enough so that the whole family can pick it up and play, and it has enough strategic elements so that everyone can exercise their minds and have a great time! Add all that with the great components, racing through the Caribbean has never been funner!

When Gelatinous Cubes Go Wild

The meeples from Tiny Epic Quests seem to have stumbled across a gelatinous cube that’s been eating up the townspeople! Will they be able to successfully defeat the monster, or will the only monsters they’ll be able to fight be goblins?
Find out when we open at 109 Rea Avenue in El Cajon, California, in early December, where you can play all sorts of games from D&D to Tiny Epic Quests!

Components used are meeples from Tiny Epic Quest designed by Scott Almes and meeple soap soon to available at our store, Off the Shelf Games

Why Board Games?

Short answer….. Because they are fun!
Long answer…..
I have always loved games, all kinds of games. From traditional Board games like Monopoly and Clue; Card Games like Spades and Hearts; to Active Games like Tag and Hide and go Seek. And I would argue that Everyone loves games of some sort: Sports are structured physical games, and everyone plays some sort of Video Game on thier phone, if not on a console or Computer, and lets not forget that Las Vegas is a city built on Games! (of course there is the lure of cash that goes along with that) So with that in mind, I was shocked when I discovered that there are Literally Thousands of different board games available! And they really all have different feels to them, with different mechanics and themes. So I started buying them and playing them with my family, and we all became hooked! There is nothing like sitting around the table for a couple of hours, and seeing who can build the best Railroad (Ticket to Ride); Who can build the best settlements (Catan); Who is the best racer (Formula D); Or if we can all gather treasure and survive a sinking island (Forbidden Island). We would then introduce these games to our family and friends, and they would Love them and ask where they can get them. But with the amount and variety of these games out there, and the cost, it can become overwhelming to find which one would best suit a Family or person. So we decided to open up a store that would not only sell the games, but have them available to play! That way a person, couple, or family can come in, sit down, play a game or two, and then decide if it is something they would want to take home or not. When we open, we will have a starting Library of over 600 Games available for play, and we will be adding more weekly, so there will always be something available for someone to try out!
I hope that answered the question, But if you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me at