Joerg's Settlers of Catan Ideas

I have been toying with Catan variants for years, and I'd like to get some feedback from other people who created scenarios and variants. One thing I like about the Settlers of Catan game is that it makes it easy to create playable variants without having to produce a new game along with the game material from scratch. Mostly when I look at a new member of the Catan family I tend to look at the rules as modules that can be used with other modules. Any input appreciated.

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Variant to-do list for Catan Ancient Egypt

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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Catan: Ancient Egypt:

With the four city types, building one of these should at least offer a one time Helper-like boon or a minor ability for the rest of the game. Possibly one dealing with a complication introduced into the game, or re-introduced from the Cheops scenario predecessor.

One thing I noticed in our game was the ease with which multiple stones were added to the pyramid in the later game. I think I would like to add a small penalty to building extra stones - after all, your administrative districts support only so many workers and artisans on the pyramid.

Also, having played Imhotep recently, additional uses for the stone blocks might be inherited from that game.


Another project would be to recreate the concept of the Cheops map with a lot of desert to traverse between the productive places. That of course requires some additional straight frame extensions, with Seafarers being the go-to Catan expansion to look for these - unfortunately they all come in sea design, except for the white backsides of the frame pieces in Rise of the Inka or Schokoladenmarkt, and you need lots of desert tiles. The latter are less of a problem if you have hamstered the replacement tile sets that used to be available at catanshop.de (sadly no more since the introduction of the fourth edition individual Mentzer tiles), or if you invested in Legend of the Sea Robbers or are going to invest in Legend of the Conquerors which will include quite a few non-productive tiles, both desert and coastal marshland.


The recent trend of releasing promotional one-use Helper cards for the stand-alone games (AGoT in English edition, Rise of the Inka in German edition, with presumably the same rules functions) was missed for Ancient Egypt, which probably won't receive one either because it was a limited collectors' edition (aka "we promise not to reprint this exact version of the rules", never mind that they already produced a predecessor in shape of Historical Scenarios 1 and two licensed religious adaptations (The Settlers of Canaan, The Settlers of Zarahemla) which used stone blocks to build the Temple Wall of Jerusalem or the Mormon Temple. And the same general theme, but with a very interesting side dish of production of trade goods, in Settlers of Nürnberg with the city wall that needed wall segments and turrets to earn prestige points.)

But that only means that all variants to this standalone game will be fan-made or (at best) official blog posts (or, more likely, a later version with yet new combinations of rules mechanisms from the Catan family).

One quite weird way to reuse the Historical Scenarios 1 items and rules would be to have the Canaan campaign play out using modified Alexander rules.

One very significant modification to this game when used in combination with other variants and scenarios is that the Great Pyramid project cannot end the game any more. If the Pharaoh dies (uses up all his pyramid stones) before the pyramid is finished, the pyramid project cannot be finished and will produce negative victory points - least for the player in the lead on that project, most for the ones previously carrying the Pharaoh's curse card. I encountered a similar problem when incorporating the Wonders of Catan scenario's variant rules into my normal overboarding C&K game. My solution there was to make having finished one of the wonders a prerequisite to be able to end the game on your turn (and win regardless of how many victory points you managed to total).
Other such pre-requisites would have been a minimum of four prestige points from the E&P mission bars (which would contribute a lot less direct VP, but possibly some indirect ones, or avoidance of negative "displeasure of the Council of Catan" cards similar to Pharaoh's Curse), a minimum of Traders and Barbarian deliveries, possibly having captured a barbarian (again special scenario VP turned into indirect prestige VP, or a mission bar).

Combination with Barbarian Attack

The scenario Barbarian Attack from Catan: Traders & Barbarians is historically quite on topic for Ancient Egypt with the invasion of the Sea People that was repelled by Rhamesis II around 1300 BCE.

Rather than knights, Rhamesis used the peak of military technology of his time, the war chariot, but overall the situation was pretty similar to that scenario.

There are two differences between the original scenario and Ancient Egypt, and both are about the map. One difference is that the coast of Egypt is rather short, although there are the Nile hexes which are within reach for naval raiders. This makes holding on to the hexes of the Nile delta quite a bit harder as the barbarians can penetrate into the country and take out the entire region if the Egyptian response is too slow.

The lesser issue is the absence of a castle - the pyramid site will do as a replacement staging area for newly bought troops.

Combination with Explorers and Pirates?

In the Bronze Age, Egypt was a major naval power both in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Red Sea and on adjacent coasts of Africa and Arabia (Yemen, Oman, possibly even all the way to the Indus Valley). It should be possible to use E&P frame as an extension to the desert frame and depict the Mediterranean symbolically as the discovery area of that game. The only problem comes with the rather different resources offered by the discovery area as opposed to those of the Egyptian homeland.

On the other hand, ancient Egypt didn't have much to offer in terms of lumber (which they imported from Canaan), which might make an adjacent strip of Palestine as in Cheops an option. (While there is a shipbuilding tradition using oxhide rather than lumber as ship-building material, that was used on the Atlantic coast rather than the Mediterranean.)

I wonder whether to demand the use of wool for the sail portion of the ship-building or whether to multi-purpose papyrus for that (as papyrus is already used for the development cards). These Bronze Age vessels weren't the papyrus ships that gained so much publicity from Thor Heyerdahl's Ra and Tigris expeditions, but wooden ships that could even be disassembled and re-assembled after overland transport (e.g. between the Red Sea and the Nile, or between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates in one campaign in northern Canaan).


Reuse with standard Catan combination games:

I have already decided to reuse the Nile tiles and the soggy graphics of the rest of the Egypt tiles for my E&P-based variant Salt from the Marshes.

Having Papyrus as a resource or commodity in a normal Catan game variant is another possibility. It would be harvested like a resource but could take the function of paper or books. One reaon why the Roman culture in the Frankish kingdom collapsed in the sixth century was the loss of access to papyrus for its bureaucracy (along with the rest of the Mediterranean trade that came with it). Writing declined massively, and needed almost to be re-invented in the monasteries under Charlemagne.
One use of books outside of C&K progress tracks could be as technology points (a concept introduced in Starship Catan for the higher upgrades of the mothership). Difficult projects like dykes, bridges, irrigation, enhanced fortifications or similar might require these.

There are uses for less posh reed, too - at least the terrain hexes fit that description nicely, although the papyrus sheets of the resource cards don't quite reflect that. Thatch for roofs, or reed huts, or ersatz fuel for industry (as in Nürnberg).

Cattle is already a resource that has been used in Catan Histories: Struggle for Rome (along with horses), but my plans to make use of that is to take the standard pasture resource Sheep and add stickers of horse or cattle symbols to that for a game using the Struggle for Rome military economy. The Llamas from Rise of the Inka are a similar case of not that significantly different resources from pasture hexes.

Stone is hardly distinguishable from ore. I guess I could borrow the graphical design for a "quarry" commodity that could be derived from either mountain or hill hexes, to do something that clay/brick cannot do (like improved city walls or advanced architecture). The commodity cards in C&K distinguish commodities that can be earned only from cities with a border corresponding to that progress chart (or the general color of the hex field in case of some English language editions).


In a game which uses separate map regions with different rules (like e.g. suggestions for combination games of Seafarers, The Colonies, and E&P, or my combination of chocolate market and Transport Settlers) you could have one corner of the board with the Egyptian tiles (and others with tiles from e.g. Rise of the Inka, AGoT Catan or DIY designs or older editions of the game).
Suddenly switching to alternate building cost with resources only available in a portion of the map only can work if you get to start with already pre-existing settlements or otherwise some scheme to translate external resources into local ones. This could be an opportunity to sell commodities that don't serve much of a purpose any more in the C&K development for local currency. Buying stuff for gold is another option.
A third option could be to ally with one of the native tribes at one of their settlements on the Nile by dropping a unit and use their settlements to expand into this new land of opportunity. After the first unit has been dropped, the other players will automatically get assigned another faction after three turns during which they may drop their ambassador. First player to drop an ambassador will get 2 bonus VP, players who follow up before the default drops will get 1 bonus VP.

Native resources don't leave the area, but they may be used to produce goods that can be sold for gold or other commodities when transported back to the council. An exception can be made for grain, which was Egypt's main export good and which is in high demand as an activation currency in C&K variants, and for papyrus which might act like book commodities for bureaucratic or activation purposes. For transport purposes, I would swap the resource cards for resource tokens. You might have to introduce either a harbor settlement or otherwise a harbor add-on for a coastal or river settlement for this transfer (and intermediate storage) of such tokens, or use some "open harbor" storage option like in the The Colonies (which would be subject to pirates, or at least some incarnation thereof).
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Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:41 am
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Legend of the Conquerors Third (and final) Chapter

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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I waited for this week's clarification of the fortress mechanic before writing this blog, since the fortresses are a major change that makes the third chapter different from the two previous ones.

First off, a detail that was omitted in describing the first two chapters. "In the third chapter, you can build metropolises again."

Sure, it makes little sense to build a metropolis in a territory that you are about to abandon, as in chapter one, and the victory point requirements can be met by overcoming conquerors or using the special set of blue progress cards altruistically. And I guess that researching the progress charts up to level 3 is still required to get mighty knights, and nobody wants to go without the aqueduct or the ability to trade unneeded commodities 2:1.

In chapter 2, I see less of a point for a no metropolis rule - after all, this time you are fighting to stay, not fighting to leave.

Another change (back): the third chapter is played with the normal set of blue progress cards. This means several VP options less available for altruistic behavior. And the robber is back, confident that the reconquista will work.

So, let's start with a look at the gaming table (in all its plastic glory) with mostly the final pieces:


A number of frame pieces still are in the prototype version, but we do get to see the coastal marsh (or dunes/heather?) hexes - eight of these,half of them occupied by a castle.

A thing I may have overlooked before: there are trading posts on land background rather than sea harbors available as lay-ons. Your future games of Catan don't have to be insular any more, now you have frames and trade posts to have peninsular (or if you combine with Legend of the Sea Robbers, almost completely land-locked) frames if the aesthetic of your theme asks for them. Having a VP counter on the frame cannot hurt in any case.

The image shows the set-up. 16 castles are placed (in a 4 player game, I suppose) and crewed with conqueror units. There is a demarkation line (in red) which shows where the set-up border is for the players. Four spots are marked (encircled in blue) where the players must set a starting settlement, leaving the hinterland for a second settlement. Only when both settlements have been placed and resources have been taken for the second settlement, each player upgrades one of his settlements to a city. (A rule which could be applied to a normal C&K game, too, making the set-up strategic choices a bit different.)

The turn sequence table has the final graphics already:


The weird item in the third field of the approach is a representation of a plastic road piece. This is a free military road each player gets to place north of the red demarkation line. The gratis wine and amber symbols should be obvious, and the red card symbol marks the opportunity to spend wine and amber for combat progress cards. The two-headed axe stands for the standard C&K plunderer arrival that will de-activate all your active knights (and reduce a city to a settlement if that number was insufficient).
The six swords mark the occasion of a sally of the besieged conquerors - the rest of the time they are sitting ducks in their fortresses, but on these occasions they attack any knights in their neighborhood, so you better don't place advance elements of your forces between three of those castles at these times.
The castles don't add to their combat strength. Their main game purpose is to provide a random reward for removing one of these castles, with a symbol on their back side (which probably comes as part of the sticker sheet): a removed castle will give a free road or a chip of amber or wine as plunder to the victorious players - one item for each participating player.
The mobile High Knight will probably play a big role in these sieges, as it can be put on intersections too risky for normal knights and return to the place of its origin, as illustrated in the 15th blog:


The game end is a bit more random than in the first two games: the two last fields of the ship approach route has red dice depicted on them. If the Black Ship event is coupled with a red die number shown on the table, the game ends. (City gate events don't end the game when that number is rolled.)

If the players don't manage to reduce the number of fortresses below the number of players, they all lose, and the reinforcements will spew forth even greater numbers of conquerors. Otherwise, the player with the most VP will win the game, with a number of tie breakers not detailed in the 15th blog post. As usual, a premature win will end the game, too - the player who manages to get eighteen VP wins the game. Since every player participating in a victory over a castle will gain one VP for that, quite a few of these hero VP will have been dealt out if the players even approach the "we don't lose" condition.


The combat resolution remains easier than that of Barbarian Attack, with losses inflicted only on unlucky players unable to send enough reinforcements to conquer a castle before the sally event comes (or left hanging by another player who had promised to send aid but reneges on that promise).

The High Knight can only intervene if he was activated before. However, the transfer mechanism for the high knight may mean that this role could be given to another knight after the first high knight has participated in a conquest. I have no idea whether there is a limit on how often that ability may be passed on (or the gunner ability to get that one extra point of strength).
I also have no idea whether the High Knight might be able to resolve two sieges at once if two neighboring castles become eligible for conquest from the changed situation after its placement. My guess is that the rules say "no" to that, the activation allows only one assault.

I have no idea yet how urgent that "we will all lose" mechanic is in this scenario. Unlike e.g. in AGoT Catan, this scenario doesn't have a winner in case of the cooperative defeat, removing that less altruistic strategy from the player choices. (Unless you house-rule it that this player becomes the chief collaborator of the new management...)


The announced sales date is now July... basically, that's a "in 2019, as early as we can manage" date.

The blog entry closes with a mysterious "How it continues after the third chapter I will tell you in next week's blog."
As it turns out, this is a little piece of closing fluff, and some considerations of Teuber how the world would be different if there was a roughly Ireland-sized island or archipelago somewhere in the neighborhood of the Azores.
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Sat Feb 9, 2019 6:49 am
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Catan Mini-Expansions - or - How to make the Helper effects less obtrusive

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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If you are using the Helpers throughout a game of Catan (or Ancient Egypt, or AGoT Catan, or Star Trek Catan, or the Rikshaw Run geography set), these cards take on quite a weight in the way the game runs. You also have to decide whether to reuse the Helper card you chose, or whether to take a new one (hopefully available) which looks like it is appropriate for your current situation.

This mechanism can be quite dominant – possibly more so than the progress cards in C&K, which were sort of the ancestor of many of those concepts.

The Helper cards in Legend of the Sea Robbers are a lot less dominant in the game. You get to choose one as a reward in each of the three first chapters, and you get to use each Helper up to twice in a chapter. There is a difference – you have up to four Helper cards available to do something on your turn, although you can always only use one Helper card in your turn. These Helpers are more of a tactical reserve than a “use as often as you can” advantage.

Recently, there have been two promotional sets of one-use Helper cards for two stand-alone Catan games – the High Priests of the Inka and the Houses of the North, for Rise of the Inka and A Game of Thrones Catan, respectively.

Rise of the Inka is the first of the recent Catan publications without Helper cards included. Adding this choice of five one-use cards (each player gets to choose one, first choice goes to the starting player) gives a slight taste of the Helpers, but limited to one time rarely a game-changing one.

The five abilities of the High Priests are:

Development Card Bonus: pay one resource less for a Development Card, and choose one of the topmost three cards, place the other two on the bottom of the current Development Card stack.
(Rise of the Inka has two sets of 7 Martial Arts cards (Knights) and one each of Road Building, Rich Year or (the weaker form of) Monopoly (drawing up to two cards of the chosen resource from each other player), in order to avoid having all of the latter cards on the top or the bottom of the deck. No hidden victory points…)

Determine the Dice on your turn. (Basically the Alchemist progress card of C&K)

Send the Robber to the Desert (actually, the jungle frame) and take one of the resources (or commodities) of the hex you just liberated.

1 : 1 Bank Trade: you may exchange exactly one card for a card of your choice.

Move a terminal road: most useful in the first generation as you start with a road on each starting settlement. Later on it will be rare for you to branch your road network without closing the road.

The cards have the faces of friends of the developers and names that have been “Andenized” from their German names. While this has some tradition in Teuber’s games (the special cards for Rivals have been based on real people, too), using these very Middle-European faces for presumably Inka high priests probably wasn’t such a good idea. I’ll spare you the images and the names.

The six “Minor Houses of the North” cards that come as one-off Helper cards for AGoT-Catan all have very specific functions tied to Tormund (the robber) and/or his activation by patrol development cards. This allows their introduction without much interference with the Heroes of the Watch cards, none of which (in the 3-4 player box) have inherited the “security from the Robber/the Seven” feature of the other Helper sets (Sean aka Siegfried / James T Kirk / Isis).

Speaking of this, I haven’t seen any details on the AGoT Catan new four hero cards yet. The rules for the expansion aren’t available on catan.com yet, and the extension has only two measly images (apparently taken from the promo presentations at some convention).

There hasn’t been any sign yet of this extension making it to the German language edition, so I would be willing to make an across-the-Channel (or across-the-pond) swap of some German language Catan stuff unavailable in Anglophone editions for that extension. Contact me via Geekmail if you’re interested in such trades.


I also got me in my “annual new stuff” order from catanshop.de the 2018 world championship bonus scenario (or really basic game add-on) “Kölner Dom” (Cologne Cathedral) which actually fits very well under this header as it uses Helper-like abilities as a reward for sponsoring a part of the cathedral under construction.



The scenario has some similarity with the concept that was first used in the Cheops historical scenario and re-worked for Ancient Egypt, copied for Settlers of Canaan (or Zarahemla) or Siedler von Nürnberg – participation in a joint building project as a way for the leader to earn bonus VP (and some of those variants have negative VP for those players who lag behind most). The cathedral is a 3D cardboard puzzle of seven parts which can be clipped together to form a replica of the cathedral that looks rather impressive for its 4 inch height. Each of the seven parts can be purchased in game for one brick, ore and wood card each. A player may only build one of those pieces on his turn.

As a reward, there are six builders’ advantage cards (with one side printed in English, the other in German). You can use the printed advantage immediately on your turn, and keep re-using it until someone else builds a part of the cathedral. In that case, you switch your reward card to the wrong language side, indicating that its function doesn’t work any more. You have to be rather lucky (or your fellow players unlucky) to be able to use the reward card more than once or twice.

While there are seven pieces, the last reward card has no bonus action (but in case of two players having the same number of cathedral parts, it acts as a tie breaker for the 2 bonus points the best cathedral builder earns – provided the cathedral is finished by the end of the game. An unfinished cathedral earns no bonus points.

But let’s look at the card texts. There are two pairs:

2X the Aqueduct/Samwell Tarly effect: if a number other than 7 is rolled and you don’t get a resource, choose one from the bank. This works once on each player’s turn and isn’t limited to your own turn.

2X Pay one resource less when building a road / settlement / city.

1X Move the Robber to the desert and earn one resource of the type of the field he occupied before.

1X Pay 1 resource less when buying a development card. View the top three cards on the stack and choose a card from those, and put the other two to the bottom of the stack.

And, like already mentioned above, 1X Cathedral Completed, with the potential to act as a tie-breaker beween the busiest builders.

This is an easy add-on to any other Catan game (and might even work with the Rise of the Inka standalone game, or possibly AGoT-Catan.).


The limited time activity of these helper functions are another cute way of introducing such a bonus without making it dominate a game. They also sweeten the deal to invest into a project that may well remain unfinished in the game - for a real world comparison, the towers of the Cologne cathedral were finished only several centuries after the rest of the cathedral had been constructed. For those centuries, the building crane on one of those towers was the highest point in the city, and its defining landmark.
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Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:54 pm
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Legend of the Conquerors Second Chapter continued

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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Rather than edit my previous post, I decided to add a new post since that may get a few more hits. I did edit this to include the rest of the new info from 11th January, though.


The wine chips shown on the map are an obligate, non-renewable ersatz commodity for these hexes. (Which feels a bit strange, I know vineyards in Germany that have been in use since Roman times, and I guess there are ones in the Mediterranean that have seen more or less constant use since the Bronze Age. But then, on a shorter time frame, the plant stocks need to be replaced at some intervals, so maybe that is what this rules mechanism is supposed to model.)

Looking at the map from the eighth designer's blog post again:



Only the commodity-less hill and field hexes have these wine chips as a temporary commodity, and your other commodity collection efforts racing to the metropolises won't be affected. Your ability to activate knights will, on the other hand. Luckily the conquerors don't need active knights to be dealt with, and the robber has fled this contested peninsula, too.

The amber chits are collected by either placing a starting settlement on these spots or by connecting to them with your roads (with your road-building capacity slightly ironically hampered by the reduced resource productivity due to the wine chips). No knight movement involved.

There is a new type of progress card that can only be bought by paying exactly one wine chip and one amber chip, the combat cards which will be described in next week's designer's blog (and cause an update of this blog post). This makes me assume that these chips can be traded between players, possibly for non-chip resources or commodities, too.

The presence of this additional type of progress card increases the progress card hand limit by one. Given the exchanged set of blue progress cards, there is a chance that they (or any other progress card) cannot be stolen by other players' spy cards, either.

(Smartass niggle: By the definition in the body of Catan rules, cards bought rather than earned from events or activities should be called Development Cards. Even ones bought with commodities like the explorer chits in scenarios like The Colonies or the original Desert Riders, or the Frenemies guild blessing.)


There are also events that will distribute one type of the two chip commodities triggered by the Barbarian Ship.

On that note, I was wrong in my assumption from lack of mention of the barbarian track in the first two rules blogs on this chapter because the new one is a bit more involved:



Apart from the Madeira-wine-colored background of this track card, let's focus on the two new types of events triggered by the Barbarian ship.

The three free wine or amber commodity events are ringed blue in the image.

The other new type of event is the ability to spend these commodities on the combat cards, symbolized by the (six) green flags on the black ship event track. (Which does mitigate the justification my smartass niggle above somewhat...) They are called "Captain Wyler's aid" - captain who? The emissary from the foreign nation that is a rival of the conquerors and has already brought the blessings of the cannon and the warhorse for this chapter. It's all in the back story, the translation of which (and copyright issues of) I will leave to Catan Studios.

The placement of the free wine event before the second battle ensures that each player should have at least one wine even without having a city on either field or hill hexes or without that number having been rolled so far, and some amber is quite likely to be earned during set-up - if not by the settlement or city placed directly atop a pile, then by connecting to it with the free road that comes with settlement or city.


Comparing the two event tracks side by side, the one for chapter two is two black ship events longer than the one for chapter one. The first two regular barbarian events are spaced just as in the first chapter, the third (and last) is delayed by one black ship event. The first "landing" and advance comes way earlier, and conqueror strength has gone up, too. They have also become a lot nimbler, with up to seven instead of four movement phases.

There is one more victory point that can be earned through victories or altruistic use of progress cards, too.

Six combat cards that got presented in the eleventh blog on catan.de. Here they are, in rather inglorious playtest versions (which probably goes for most of the graphics, too):



(These cards would be the final size of the German edition).

The character names are from the backstory, again.

Cavalry Leader Dagur
Play this card during the attack of your high knight against a conqueror or a fortress (chapter 3). Your high knight has one extra strength for this attack.

Thora (commander-in-chief in the back story)
Play the Thora card at the start of your turn and place the card openly before you. Each of your knights has one additional point of strength. Discard this card at the start of your next turn.
While the Thora card is displayed before one player, no other player may play a Thora card.

Crossbowman
Play this card in your turn after the resolution of a combat. In case of a draw in which one of your units was involved
- the Conqueror loses
- the Fortress (chapter 3) falls.

Archers
Chapter 2: Play this card immediately after the movement of a Conqueror has been rolled. The Conqueror piece is not moved.
Chapter 3: Play this card in case the event "Sally" comes up. At one fortress of your choice the sally doesn't happen.

Aegis the Naval Hero
Play this card, when a black ship symbol is rolled. The black ship is not moved during this event. You earn a victory point, every other player earns one wine token and one amber token.

Odo the Quartermaster
Activate all of your units (knights). If they haven't performed any action in this turn yet, units activated by Odo may immediately perform an action.

Again, this is obviously a selection of the combat cards available, and there will be multiples of these cards.

The use of the term "units" probably means a collective noun for normal knights, cannoneer knights and High Knights and not a reference to the units we know from E&P and Legend of the Sea Robbers.

We get a hint of what is going to come to pass in chapter three - there will be conqueror fortresses to be conquered by the defenders of Catan, and there will be sallies of conqueror units (probably triggered by the black ship track).

There will be events where conqueror units sally forth from their fortresses, probably using the movement rolls. Fortresses will probably come in different strengths.

Road building is going to be quite essential in the final chapter to bring enough fighting strength to the conquerors and their fortresses.


It looks like this week's blog (Jan 11th) will complete the chapter 2 presentation. Jan 18th and Jan 25th are quite likely going to see the backstory for chapter 3, placing the first physical representation of the game at Nürnberg Spielwarenmess (Jan 31st to Feb 2nd) before the rules part of the third chapter. I expect the rules part of the last chapter to take at least two more blogs, and then I expect at least one designer's comment on development history, design choices, and mention of outtake ideas. And possibly some advice how to use the barbarians in a less prescribed setup for more fun mowing down conquerors.
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Fri Jan 4, 2019 2:18 pm
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The night of the Catan stand-alones

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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On the occasion of my birthday, I had three family level three player games playing three of the more recent Catan standalone versions, all with variable board setup possibilities, in three-player games. Two of these, Rise of the Inka and Ancient Egypt, fresh out of the box, and the third (AGoT) again after a number of plays on christmas eve.

And we managed to do that in just a little over 4 hours, including setup, unboxing Rise of the Inka and explaining the special rules of both Rise of the Inka and Ancient Egypt (also included 10 wasted minutes of trying to get one of the two non-gamers on the table to participate at least once, but then given up mutually, the non-gamers enjoying some shared Netflix on the side sharing the snacks with the gamers). The only thing where I had to create a slowpoke rule was the selection of the next Helper card - I ruled that you had to pass on the dice before selecting your next helper. Atum/Samwell Tarly usually was well kept track of, and that and Isis's protection from the seven (which nobody chose) are the only Helper cards that work off-turn, so little sacrifice there.

I do wonder whether a vertical board on which you place your marker on the Helper currently employed visible to all players would speed up Helper seletion even more, together with a wish-card (or just plain paper notes) that you can use to prepare yourself for the time after you used your previous Helper.


Rise of the Inka was my birthday gift. Maybe I need to study the rules more, but I couldn't find any modifications to the map or setup to be made for three instead of four players. As a result, only very few of our overgrown cities were oversettled.

As I learned since, due to a misreading of the rules: In my case, I had actually bet on it, since it did remove the longest trade road of the leader by ending his second phase and made my three road piece automatically end my second tribe on his turn, too. The third player had shown us how building a third road could result in getting her second tribe into play for minimal expenditure, and since every player had the longest road at least once before the final round, our inherited income was hardly affected.

The commodities did enable trade both between players and to the bank quite a bit, although I still think that game should have a variant where these commodities are used to build a winning condition object.


We played the Ancient Egypt Nile and pyramids scenario right out of the box, having gotten used to the heroes of the North well enough to be able to deal with the slightly different abilities of the Egyptian pantheon.

It took a fair time until the pyramid building by the players took off, due to a weird imbalance in resources. Again, I didn't recall seeing any less spacious variant for three players only,giving each of us some area to expand into without being really cut off.

I had not studied the Ancient Egypt rules much before, rather correctly assuming that it was mainly a re-release of the Cheops scenario with moveable tiles, which means that the added functionality to the Pharaoh's pyramid stones indicating the maximum hand size when the seven is rolled had escaped me.

The 1:1 trading option for the vizir had escaped us for several rounds, which made me rule off the cuff that you'd have to wait for your next turn to use it. This makes it an interesting gamble to see whether other players will steal it before you profit from this - possibly a good variant for other games where you have the option to participate in a communal effort.



A special form of the curse of the Pharaoh appeared to have struck the owners of the Atum god/helper card, causing a weird chain of die rolls where the player owning this deity's powers always received some random (and rarely that helpful) resource, or either suffer through rolls of seven. (Same thing happened again to whoever held Samwell Tárley in the later AGoT game.)

I usually play C&K-rules Catan (plus some sort of ships) rather than C&K-less Catan, which means I haven't really used the Helpers much before. They didn't feel worth the trouble of adopting them in exchange for the progress cards, and in a way I still feel that way.

As will soon come up in a different post here, there are a lot of game mechanic items that get re-released in different forms for Catan which makes adapting all of the different small releases hard.


The final Game of Thrones Catan was the first I have played which was not ended by the third breakthrough, and was won by a most selfish "many guardians" tactic. We went fairly random with the game setup - I picked four land hexes without looking in addition to Thormund's hex, which means we ended up with five brick hexes and three each of the rest. When assigning the production numbers, I erred in our favour and distributed all four of the red (five dots) numbers, which I then put onto the map before looking at possible shortages, then distributed the other numbers randomly. That left us with a 10 remaining, which we mutually decided to switch for a 3 just south of the Wall which had another neighboring 3 a row further south. The starting player recognized the lack of good combination positions for wood and occupied the only good one on the eight in the southwest (3rd row from the wall in corridor 1, with another on with an 11 on 4th row in the same corridor, on the brick trade camp).

Compared with Ancient Egypt, the need to cooperate to keep the game running is a bit higher, and the various invaders, giants killing off guards and the higher threat level than the Pharaoh having built all of his stones make this the slightly more tense game.


So, how do the three games compare?

Ancient Egypt is the closest to Basic Catan, with special harbors and 3:1 harbors, and 4:1 bank trade. Which, to be honest, is how I like my Catan games better than that "free for all" 3:1 trading that cropped up in almost all the releases of Catan GmbH since E&P. It lacks the cooperative effort that AGoT forces on you to delay the game end - actively building the pyramid doesn't keep the game from ending, it just puts pressure on your fellow gamers to participate, too. But with all these similarities, and a number of missed opportunities for variants which I will address either in a separate post or on the dedicated forum, make this the least exciting of the three games. It lacks the feeling of "we're just a narrow band of fertile land in a lot of desert" that the original Cheops scenario managed to convey so well, but that could be achieved with a few straight frame extensions (desert pattern to be printed on), a few more Nile sides for the hexes which still don't have them, and a lot of desert hexes.

Removing the trade oases from the frame and putting them onto productive oasis hexes out there in the desert might be another way of making this a bit more like the original Cheops. With the addition of Canaan as a colony that might be settled in a campaign (and then defended against the Hittites) and the Arabian peninsula mines hinted at in the Cheops scenario, ore and wood might be re-introduced into the production scheme, the Canaan war could add a Game of Thrones-y or C&K-ish threat that one may have to deal with which might force another end of game danger to be averted cooperatively, and possibly a similar theme for the southern extension where the Kushites would send their warriors on raids or even conquest when the Pharaoh wouldn't hire them as mercenaries. Desert riders are another obvious occupation threat that might be added, and given the mercenary recycling function of one of the gods, a lack of knight cards wouldn't stop the ability to deal with the threat if you hesitate to have players field their own charioteer forces and foot soldiers. (Which could be a nice C&K variant - "charioteers and pyramids".)


Rise of the Inka really is Vinci(or its successor Small World, which I have no personal experience of) meeting Catan, dropping the special advantages of the tribes (partially sneaked back in by those promo "priests of the Inka" one-use helper cards, which I would then introduce for each of the three tribes, and possibly reuse of the earlier tribal ability, too), and dropping the military component of Vinci (you have to roll to overcome your neighbors or even retired civilizations). Britannia has the same concept, in a more scripted history (which can be adapted to other fictive or historical settings, as Keith Nellist, a fellow Glorantha fan proved when he asked for a new challenge to port a boardgame to that setting, responding to my challenge - he has done at least three regional variants in that setting). It also is a way to have a legacy Catan game in a single session, and one that may very well be ported over into your own scenarios/variant games.

There is no cooperative challenge at all. The ability to steal retired settlements or cities is a major tactical factor. The addition of the three commodities was a pleasant and unobtrusive addition, with the hand size expansion not playing that much of a role in our three-player game as there were occasions when people earned whole armfulls of resources and other periods of severe drought of income which are the ugly downside of Catan games in general.

Of the three games used in the RAW form, AGoT was the winner in fun. But then I buy Catan games to tinker with variants and scenarios (and to plunder them for my combination games), so neither Ancient Egypt nor Rise of the Inka have even begun to see the end of their possibilities.

The lack of buyer's remorse (apart from being a magpie collector) is of course tied to the European price range, which is about half what the English language market has to pay.


All of these three standalone versions could (and probably should) have been produced as expansions (and extensions) to the standard game. Apart from AGoT, the frames are compatible to the standard game hexagonal frames - small blessing, really, because apart from the two hex longitudinal extension of Rise of the Inka the frame pieces are of the three hexes with a corner type, of which you can use just six for every hexagonal frame. I haven't checked yet, but there is also the possibility that the longitudinal extensions which have white back-sides only work with the "harbors printed on" side of the basic game frame, while both Seafarers and E&P use the other side - a problem that I first encountered with the one hex extensions from Schokoladenmarkt. The AGoT frame has one normal looking longitudinal frame piece in the south, but that's incompatible with the European hexagonal frame. I can't really blame them for that, however - the AGoT frame is the single most stable frame construction I have encountered in the history of the Catan games.

But yes, this means I now have different land print three hexes with corner frames coming in the following denominations: four desert frames with oases (one side with the Nile coming through) in Ancient Egypt (with two sea frames with printed-on harbors added in), three one-side Jungle pieces and three one-side sea pieces from Rise of the Inka, and three standard land hex pieces from Legend of the Sea Robbers (and three more coming up with Legend of the Conquerors). All this thematic variation and extension possibilities, and totally wasted on the corners... and no "uncornering" or even "reverse cornering" connection pieces in sight.

I do keep all the punch-out frame parts with the connector negatives, though, and one of these days I will manage to construct some that allow change of direction of such frame pieces, either straightening them out, or allowing for bulging or even star shaped frames.

Alternatively, I could just try and find a company willing to produce die-cutting tools and small print runs for such frames on my own, or produce laser-cut wooden underpinnings for such a frame with some other connector system and create hex styles of my own (dumping the Michael Mentzel style would be a shame, though - acquiring these nice new hexes for use in my normal extended Catan games was one of my secondary motivations to buy these games or get gifted with them - I have an almost complete collection of all European Catan hexes ever printed, only missing out the original style T&B hexes that were produced by 999 games for the dutch edition, and while I missed out on the Atlantis box, I recently got a second copy of Das Buch zum Spielen which has a lot more in the way of material).
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Fri Jan 4, 2019 10:45 am
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Legend of the Conquerors Second Chapter

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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Two weeks of blogging the background story has gone into the land, followed by two weeks of rules presentation. In the midwinter post we get an impression of the map for the second chapter in this legend:



This time the defenders occupy the tip of a peninsula separated from the mainland by a belt of dunes and coastal marsh, with the invaders coming in from four entry points.

According to the backstory, the retreating action of chapter one wasn't too much of a loss (never mind that you just placed a heap of settlements and cities in the path of these conquerors) and now you are defending a portion adjacent to the original landing site.

There are two major old European powers in the business of crossing the Atlantic with the goal of colonizing the New World, one seeking to pick up Catan as it lies on the way, the other seeking to hinder the first by lending material aid in the shape of modern war equipment - cannons and warhorses, each able to upgrade the fighting power of the knights of Catan. And while they give you, the defenders of Catan, all their hearts and minds for free, they want some remuneration for this gesture of goodwill - the local amber and wine, both of which can be found on this peninsula (in the shape of chits placed on the board).

If you take a closer look at the game board, you will see piles of one or two amber chits on various intersections on the game board (only ones unoccupied by any buildings or knights), and piles of wine chits on hill and fields hexes (as many per hex as the resource number has dots in the English versions of the game).
How these are collected is reserved for the next blog, due 4th of January (and will be updated in this blog post).

The military situation is a lot tighter than in the first game - there the conquerors win after occupying 10 productive land hexes, while in this chapter they win after occupying 5 productive land hexes (after their movement event).

This is balanced by the option of building a horse breeding farm for a warhorse to create a (single) high knight who can temporarily be placed on any free intersection of the board,




and a foundry for a (single) cannon, increasing the individual fighting power of the knight on the board accompanied by it by one.




Each player will receive one gun token and one warhorse token in his material. These aren't the final versions of those cards (the warhorse token in the image above has an uncanny similarity to the horse knight from the wooden edition of Traders and Barbarians, and the gun also looks a lot like a wooden game piece.) I expect the final product to be plastic only, though - or wood only for the English language or Viking edition. But seeing that Teuber does his playtesting with wooden pieces rather than the plastic stuff he could have taken out of T&B makes me smile slightly sadly.

(Talking about imagery, the buildings differ from the images in Rivals for Catan or its predecessor, the card game.)

The two upgrades cannot be given to one and the same knight. The knight with the warhorse (aka high knight) must return to an intersection with a road in player color at the end of the player turn.

Placing the high knight deactivates it, which at first glance prevents him from using the "special mission" road-building blue progress card to bypass another player's knight or building limiting road building. On the other hand, if one plays a "activate all your knights" blue progress card first, the issue might come up and be caught only in the rule that each knight may be deactivated only once in a player's turn.

At least now it is entirely clear that knights don't care about activation status when fighting the conquerors.

It is possible to transfer both the cannon and the warhorse from one knight to another, paying a grain for the horse exchange or a wood for a cannon exchange. (It shouldn't be possible to place a high knight in the middle of nowhere, then remove the horse and replace it with the cannon.)

Knights can be defeated and be removed from the board, and this might apply to high knights and gunner knights, too (normally as a consequence of the conquerors making a move). Since both the horse breeding farm and the gun foundry are buildings, I suppose getting the special abilities back into play may be a case of paying the movement cost.


It is likely that the same advancement track is used as in the first scenario. The main new elements in this scenario (other than the new map) are the two commodities and the upgrades for the knights.
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Sat Dec 29, 2018 8:20 am
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Legend of the Conquerers first scenario: combat rules and new progress cards

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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The fifth blog clarifies quite a few of the rules: https://www.catan.de/news/2018-11-30/catan-die-legende-der-e...

Combating the conqueror: simple strength vs. strength, if one side in a conflict has less strength, the units get eliminated. In case of equal strength, there will be a stand-off.

The knights don't appear to require activation to combat the conquerors. All other activities (like defending against the plunderers, movement) still require activation and deactivation.

While conquerors appear to block the harvest on the hexes they occupy, they don't appear to take over the frontier settlements in this scenario, unless that will be told later.

(No information whether stand-off conqueror will move when the invader move is reached on the barbarian ship chart - I guess it will.)

Participation in a successful fight against an invader will allow all participating players to advance one field on the hero bar / victory point lane. Up to six VP might be achievable that way, also through some of the new politics progress cards.

Only one conqueror can occupy a hex - if a hex indicated by the movement arrow is already occupied, the conqueror will use the next arrow in clockwise direction.


Six new politics progress cards are shown, though not necessarily in the final form. There will be more (and different) ones. Lea the Healer is a character from the backstory.



Bribe: Remove one of the weakest conquerors. Place a weak knight (strength 1) on your road network.

Neighborly aid: Either upgrade one knight belonging to another player or activate all his knights. Advance one step on the hero bar (gain a VP).

Calling in aid: each player with more VP than you gives you two resource or commodity cards of his choice.

Lea the Healer: Immediately after a combat: Choose one overcome knight and place it according to the rules on an intersection. If you choose another player's knight, advance one step on the hero bar (gain a VP).

Special order: deactivate a knight and build up to two roads extending from that knight's intersection.

Help in the time of need: take one resource card of each kind, shuffle, and deal out one card to each other player. You may retain two cards.


Apart from the missing progress card effects and distribution, this scenario could be played with rather little DIY, in case of doubt using groups of T&B barbarians to signify the conqueror strength. The number of desert hexes might require some improvisation, but any land hex without a number chit will serve. Basic game, seafarers and one additional two-hex frame extender (e.g. from Legend of the Sea Robbers) will do the trick.


There doesn't appear to be much to be picked up by the players as legacy reward. On the other hand, the outcome of the invasion will probably shape the situation for the next scenarios.

Edit: Or possibly not, and all we get is a railroaded script. No preview on how the legend might inherit from the previous chapter.

The next installment of the blog gives us the first part of the narrative for the next chapter. Another foreign power is offering cannons and armor in exchange for amber and wine. Looks like another commodity gathering scenario similar to the gold mining in Legend of the Sea Robbers.
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Fri Nov 30, 2018 6:37 pm
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AGoT Catan promo cards Minor Houses of the North: Another possible Legacy element for a Catan campaign

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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I managed to miss the A Game of Thrones: Catan – Brotherhood of the Watch: Minor Houses of the North Promo, something similar to the Helper/Heroes cards, but one use in any given game, and with a quite limited influence on the game while still providing a sense if identity that may have been gained in a previous part of the campaign/legend.

These are quite minor additions to the game, small extras that come at no specific cost and might be given out as rewards for certain achievements.

Here's the AGoT set:



This set of cards could be used with any Catan game that has a robber (which is the normal term for Thormund). They are played either if the owning player rolled a seven or if he became targeted by another player playing the robber on him.



So, what other sets of abilities could be expressed in such hereditary or acquired abilities?

There could be a set for trading, possibly as simple as "When you manage to trade in a specific type of resource, you may take an additional card of this type from the bank", or "When you make a trade with another player where you give more cards away than you receive, you may draw one resource card that you traded away of your choice from the bank." Again, all one-use.

Another set might be triggered when building something, possibly allowing to use one alternative resource card for building something, or allowing to place an extra road at half cost if you don't hold the Longest Road, or similar.
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Sun Nov 25, 2018 9:35 pm
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Legend of the Conquerors - first presentation of the first scenario.

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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The blog on catan.de has arrived at the fourth installation (https://www.catan.de/news/2018-11-23/catan-die-legende-der-e...), and after the initial presentation of the idea and two installations of backstory we finally get a peek at the scenario.

Like in Catan: Seafarers Scenario – Legend of the Sea Robbers, the scenario is set on a portion of Catan, in this case the northern shore which has a broad belt of sandy dunes with four bays in which the bad guys will disembark:



The setup reminds of the Desert Riders of Die Siedler von Catan: Das Buch zum Spielen aka Desert Dragons of Die Siedler von Catan: Schätze, Drachen & Entdecker (though without the Seafarers element of fleeing) or the Barbarian Attack of Catan: Traders & Barbarians played along with the normal barbarian threat of Catan: Cities & Knights, although with a random directional element reminiscent of the Great Wall scenario in Die Siedler von Catan: Historische Szenarien II or the Wall in A Game of Thrones: Catan – Brotherhood of the Watch: 5-6 Player Extension (which has the mammoths as additional directional element over the basic version).

The map shows an initial setup. The board is a standard-sized hexagonal Catan elongated by three hexes on opposite sides, creating a wider board than usually encountered. Each player sets up a city and a settlement as usual in C&K, but also a border settlement on an effectively unproductive one dot corner bordering on two dune hexes, with a road and an inactive knight already present.

This egalizes the additional threat of having to fight off the plunderers that make up the normal C&K bad guy. Unless you spend your knight force fighting off the invaders, at least the first wave of the plunderers will be no big issue.

The scenario is a short one. The blog offers a playtest progression board for the invaders which has only three plunderer raids, interspersed with four arrivals of conqueror armies in ever stronger waves.



The arrivals come as units of varying strength. The first wave has armies equal to a strong knight (combat 2), and this increases with each wave. While the blog announces that the combat rules are going to be explained in the next installation, parallels to the dragonslayer scenario in SDE suggests that to overcome such an invader, the defenders need at least that much in knight strength to free an invaded land hex.

There are only 22 progressions of the invader/plunderer ship, which gives a game of an average of 44 turns in total. That is significantly shorter than the C&K games that I usually have.

Judging from the quite verbose backstory, the first scenario is a holding action against the conquerors. There are three ways the scenario can end.

The first option is that the conquerors win by occupying 10 land hexes after their movement (7 in a three player game with a presumably smaller map). There are 16 invading armies, and they get harder and harder to beat, so to avoid a communal loss the defenders need to eliminate seven of the units or be lucky enough that one or two of the conqueror armies never leave the dunes.

The second option to end the game is if a player manages to reach 13 victory points before the barbarian advance runs out of steps.

The third option appears to be a shared victory if the defenders manage to eliminate enough conqueror armies but fail to reach 13 victory points individually. In this case there will be a set of tie-breaker conditions defining the victor, and possibly a different set of ways to earn legend points. I guess the story outcome will be that finally the joint forces of Catan were successfully mustered and can take a stab at going to the counter-offensive. (No idea whether this will be the second or the final third scenario.)

I would expect that the remaining conqueror strength might influence the starting conditions for the second game of the set.


This being C&K, I guess that getting the knights to the action requires the defenders to provide roads for their knights to be able to fight an invader. Since normal road-building tends to cut off the competition, I suspect that like in Legend of the Sea Robbers there may be two different colored roads on each hex edge. Given that roads may not be moved once put down (except through use of the Diplomat progress card), this might lead to somewhat wasteful road building. But even if such a rule is possible, building a road parallel to another player's road will often be blocked if a knight or settlement/city occupies an intersection. Getting the defenders to the foe will require some effort.

Conqueror movement will occur five times, once each for each arrival of new forces, apparently with a three-colored die similar to the one in Barbarian Attack rolled for each unit. At least, this image suggests such a rule:



The movement chart also offers a bar that counts the victories over invader units, each of which will be worth one victory point. I suppose that in case of joint victories, each participant may advance on that chart, but there might be something like a tie-breaker as in the pirate battles of Catan: Explorers & Pirates, or a lesser advantage (analogous to the Defender of Catan victory point).

With bad guy tokens going to block productive hexes, I don't think the robber will be part of the game, which will affect the Bishop progress card.

The presence of just the five 2:1 trading ports acting as trading posts along the dry land border suggests that bank trading is going to be 3:1 by default once more.


On the whole, I don't see any overwhelming complexity in this scenario.

I have used the Desert Riders scenario with C&K before, with attrition to the knights participating in those battles (reducing a knight's strength by one level for each such battle). I doubt that this scenario uses attrition, but I will wait for the combat resolution mechanism which just might offer a randomized battle outcome that might result in weakening a failed attempt by defenders to remove an enemy unit.

I am curious whether the scenario will use the vicious knights optional rule for dealing with the plunderer attack, or whether fighting off the plunderers will have mandatory deactivation of all knights on the board.


Having the cooperative component in an official C&K scenario is a first for me. I don't mean fighting off the plunderers, but I mean the "you all lose and this game ends here" end of scenario condition.

Having that carry over into the next scenario will be the major difference to the Game of Thrones C&K-less game. (Adapting that game to C&K is of course impossible without giving one set of pieces a paint job or living with two-colored game pieces, or using pieces from other expansions like the E&P units for the wall guardians.)

Having seen this scenario, I now want to design a crossover of AGOT and C&K. Possibly even inheriting Legend of the Sea Robbers for a naval component.


Apart from inheriting a greater or lesser mess depending on the outcome of the previous scenario in this three-act legend, I wonder what the other legacy elements will be. From what has been shown so far, it doesn't look like we are going to see Helper cards as in Sea Robbers.

Has anybody successfully combined Helpers from any of those incarnations with C&K? If so, I would like to learn about it. Legend of the Sea Robbers with its strongly reduced use of those helpers might be the least overpowered variant.
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Sun Nov 25, 2018 7:24 pm
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Rise of the Inkas - leafing through the rules.

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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Another stand-alone historical Catan game, this time thematizing the rise and fall of cultures.

I don't own the game yet, but the rules are there for download, and if you have a fairly complete Catan collection, you could start playing with existing material. (I haven't done so, yet...)

The rules can be downloaded from catan.com (or catan.de if you prefer the German language rules), as usual.



With all of these stand-alone variants of the Catan game family, the collector will have to ask himself "is it worth handing over these additional bucks, and do I still have shelf space?"

Like the recent A Game of Thrones: Catan – Brotherhood of the Watch and Catan: Ancient Egypt, this game provides a variable setup with hexes that provide a different optic but are basically compatible with the standard boardgame.

Unike both these games, the plastic material with the game is almost in standard player faction colors (a light grey instead of white), making a direct re-use of the game pieces with standard catan expansions possible rather than requiring a paint job.

Having such material does expand your options when designing your own scenarios - I have an E&P variant making use of the Egypt wetlands optics, for instance. The terrace optics for this game might make these hexes suitable for specific highland hexes, possibly with increased building cost for roads or for initial cultivation. But that's beside the point of this visit to the new rules.


The rules do describe the gaming material, so let‘s have a look at it.

Four players receive 2 cities and 8 settlements each, plus fewer roads than the standard game – only 7 roads are provided.

Commodity and resource cards have the same back sides, but different from other Catan games. Size looks like the small, European standard, but I may be wrong.

The game board has the same number of standard hexes as a normal Catan game, but no desert. Instead there are 3 hexes for each of the commodities (fish from fish shoals, coca leaves from jungle plantations and feathers from untamed jungle), plus two water hexes that don‘t provide any resources separating the fish shoals. Only edges and intersections on the standard hexes can be built on.


Unlike AGoT Catan, this game doesn‘t provide a dumbed down basic game version. Its complexity doesn‘t really require one, either. The new concepts are significant, but not that hard to grasp.

In the light of recent publications, it is also almost noteworthy that there are no helper/hero/god cards involved in this game, either.

And with the exceptions of Ancient Egypt, Legend of the Sea Robbers, AGoT Catan basic game variant and the geographies, the recent Catan games all have a standard 3:1 bank trade. No trade harbors or trade posts in this game, but that is buffered by the commodities.

Playing a culture, then retiring it but keeping to profit from that culture until it gets eliminated isn't new. Britannia does this with Victory points for surviving older tribes, for instance. There is this other military/building boardgame which does this, too, Vinci, or in its newer incarnation Small World.

Combining this with Catan, playing each culture to 4 (or in the final era, 3) victory points is new, and probably worth a standalone game. The game uses other proven concepts, too, like commodities.

The variable board represents an abstracted stretch of the Andes, with terraced terrain fields, a row of sea hexes (half of which produce fish) and a row of jungle hexes on the other side producing feathers and coca leaf. The commodities can be traded for resource cards - two commodity cards of the same type can be traded for one resource card, and a set of one card of all three types can be traded for two resource cards.

Actually, slightly disappointing. I would have liked to see commodities expended for some cultural achievement that allows to retire a culture. But I haven't played the game yet, so complicating it already before the first play isn't indicated.

A retired culture loses all its roads, and all its settlements and cities get covered with thicket tokens to indicate their inactive status.

A settlement or city under a thicket prevents settlements on adjacent intersections like a normal city or settlement, and it stops road building even for the former owner. It can however be replaced by a settlement of an active civilization. and will have to be replaced as board space is limited. A retired city still produces resources and commodities, which makes them a good target for replacement when a player is in the lead. On occasion, a player will be forced to replace a retired settlement of his own.

Longest Trade Route and Mightiest Combat Arts don't provide victory points for cultural advancement, but offer in-game advantages - an extra trading option of any two cards for one for the Longest Road and the option to send the robber off the board into the jungle frame, earning one card of the hex type the robber has been standing on.

Combat Arts (knight) development cards increase the number of cards you may hold when a seven was rolled by one for each card. This benefit remains after retiring a culture. Other than that and the continued income from retired settlements and cities, there is no form of legacy in this game.


Retiring a tribe leaves you without any roads, a single settlement to build future roads from, and either four settlements or two settlements and a city covered by thicket markers.

Ideally, you will want another player‘s retired culture nearby, to replace with your own settlements to their disadvantage and your advantage, but if you are the fore-runner, you will have to be patient and wait until your direct neighbor(s) reach retirement. In case of doubt, you might want to give such a player advantageous trades to make sure you can grab his assets…


Since each retirement gives you a free settlement and you already start with two settlements (VP), you only need to add seven VP through cities or settlements to end the game.

Because your retired assets can be built over, you need to track them on your culture board.
The description of the Culture Board almost suggests that the individual tribes might have individual goals. I don‘t think that is the case, but it might be added for a variant. Possibly utilizing the commodities somehow?

So what can be inherited for normal Catan games?

If you are lacking hexes for big games, here you get another complete set, with slightly different optics, which are great to have if you like huge boards with regional differences, like any scenarios based on Transport Settlers or that theme recreatd with E&P. The four two-hex frame extensions are useful for such oversized boards, too. The three-hex ones with the 60° angle can be used for their exotic optics, but that‘s it.

The commodity cards might be of interest for standard Catan games. With the different back sides, at the very least you need card sleeves, with different card sized you are facing a DIY job.

The city wall-effect of the knight cards might be inherited – especially for oversized board games with separate accounts for different territories like in Transport Settlers.
They might also be an interesting alternative to building a permanent knight in a C&K game if the development card can be used once either to defend Catan or to chase a robber or pirate. I see a similar potential for re-introducing development cards to E&P.

Reducing the VP advantage of the Longest Road for a trade advantage might be a good optional rule for other variants, too.

We now have quite a few different jungle hexes in our arsenal – the original ones from Das Buch, the productive ones from The Colonies or Chocolate Market, the spice island hexes from Legend of the Sea Robbers, the spice island hexes from E&P, and now two different ones from this game. We have commodity cards for three types of spice, cocoa, and now feathers and coca (or if you are drug-averse, tea) leaves. Many opportunities for exotic colonial destinations e.g. in E&P variants/variants using E&P or similar sea travel.

The plastic pieces are different in design from the normal plastic pieces, but are they different enough to be used as new building types alongside the standard game?


Can the culture retirement be inherited for normal Catan games?

It certainly does provide an alternative to way-oversized boards and the impoverished land rule from e.g. Greater Catan.

Something like this might be used for colonies from the main culture which achieve independence after a while, and possibly a way to allow conquests in Catan style.
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Wed Sep 19, 2018 7:41 am
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