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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Looking for possible legacy elements in Catan: Kingdom Builder Score Cards

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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An image search for Catan helper cards in English (which I don't own) also brought up an image of Kingdom Builder score cards. Unaware of the origin of those cards, I wasted some time trying to find a Catan fan expansion using such score or mission cards before I could identify the origin of these cards. (I have rather few plays of Kingdom Builder under my belt, and with a German edition, so I didn't recognize that.)



Let's have a look at those cards. The image shows 10 cards, and browsing Kingdom Builder's images I found two more which may have come from expansions.

Fishermen: Build settlements on the waterfront.
1 gold for each of your own settlements build adjacent to one or more water hexes.


Sure, that would work for Catan. Whether "gold" is the currency to decide upon the victory point total, or just contributing to a prestige total resulting in VP or legacy points can be postponed.

Miners: Build settlements next to a mountain.

This made me think about a variant of the Specialists variant from e.g. Das Buch zum Spielen or Catanimals.

Best Fisher, best Farmer, best Shepherd, best Miner, best Brickmaker, best Lumberjack, best Gold Washer - all of this exists in the "Specialists" variant, providing a victory point (or for a campaign, possibly a prestige point) and a nice but not overpowering ability to earn 1 item more of a specific form of income across the whole board. (The fishers are a later addition, but work fine with the same mechanic.) In the existing variant all of these are for the grabs for everybody, and only the first and best gets to keep these specialists. The Green Folk friend cards from Starfarers offer the same abilities, but without the VP attached.

Farmers: Build settlements in all sectors.
No such thing as sectors in a game of Catan, but I have played variants which had three distinct islands (Transport Settlers), and derivatives thereof, so this could be pointing to an idea for one of the bigger games I like to play. (Those games may end up less short-term competitive than the ones preferred by people who complain about the game length of Catan, but those players aren't exactly my target group for this kind of campaign play.) The rest of that card's text doesn't make that much sense.

Citizens: Create a large settlement area.
Get a bonus for your largest road network. Ok, once more this relies on having non-contiguous settlement areas, created by moveable ships or land units carrying settlers or outposts.

Lords: Build the most settlements in each sector.
This works fine on distributed islands.

Merchants: Connect location and castle hexes.
Such hexes exist in the Traders and Barbarians scenario from the T&B box, which offers other such location hexes, too. Other variants have special locations like the council island in E&P, too, and in C&K the three metropolises can act like locations.
So, how to connect them? E.g. by creating public highways - a variant I am working on, taking the Nürnberg concept of toll roads and the Merchants of Europe trade routes to a variable hex game.

Workers: Build settlements next to location or castle hexes.
Use "locations" like for the merchants above, and define "next to" as a maximum number of edges away from the locations (or offer less of a reward the further away you are), and you're ready to go.

Hermits: Create many settlement areas.
The opposite of citizens. Manageable with mobile units able to found new settlements.
An alternative reading might be "gain points for settlements (rather than cities or other upgrades) on the board."

Knights and Discoverers both are quite specific to Kingdom Builder, but are easily replaced by activities typical for Catan.


The score cards work differently from the specialist cards. You don't have to be the best at the task printed on them, but you will be rewarded by how good you performed completing these tasks. And not everybody will have access to these, but you may have two or three of these influence groups powerful in your faction to reward you for those activities.

And that's exactly what a legacy mechanism in a campaign of Catan games is meant to provide - individualized factions, able to play the same game as the other players, working both to the goals and inside the restrictions of the scenario, but also fulfilling some personal agenda.

Do these individually held score cards promote "playing their own solo game on the same board while the others are playing a competitive game" (quoted from Phil Fleischmann's comment in Re: The Settlers of Hyrule , and a valid criticism of such game design)?

Yes, to a certain extent. But other variants or scenarios have similarly individualized projects, like e.g. Seafarers' Wonders of Catan scenario, or in the various variants named "Nations of Catan", "Civilizations of Catan", "Battle of the Nations (Völkerschlacht)", or the various Fantasy Settlers.


Looking at the Legacy mechanism used in Legend of the Sea Robbers, a helper card may be used only two times in any "chapter" of the campaign, and "Legend of the Sea Robbers" is the only implementation of Helper cards that allows a player to have more than one helper card in play at the same time, and only allows use of a single helper (or friend) card in the same turn. That is a maximum of 8 possible uses of a friendship card in chapter 4 (provided you managed to get the extra friendship card in chapter 2).

The Friend effects in Starfarers are as a rule a lot more powerful, lasting for the rest of the game. They do require activation through docking to the respective trade harbors, which is a race for the cheapest position. Only the Diplomats and the Wandering Folk (from the 5-6 player game) have one use cards which feel a bit like losing out.

Such abilities may be too strong to inherit actively from the beginning. The faction may still be able to activate such an ability, but that should require some effort and accomplishment.


Score cards like the ones from Kingdom Builder are a lot more subtle. They provide extra victory points or legend points at the end of the chapter without providing a power during the game. They may decide which strategy a faction might favor in a given chapter scenario, though.

Story-wise, these cards reflect the satisfaction of certain influence groups within your faction. In order to be able to play them as bonus options for a chapter, your faction must have fulfilled some minimum requirement to obtain this card in a previous chapter.

These cards might come in different levels of achievement, and their requirements might rise over the course of the campaign, but so might their reward.

There could be a limit to how many score cards a faction may use in any given chapter. Some interest groups might be totally unsuited for a given scenario - like e.g. fishermen in a scenario about finding and colonizing oases in a vast desert. The exact mechanics for including these cards need some further thought, as do their exact requirements and rewards, possibly adapted for each step, and possibly modified by the chapter scenario.

There might be a game mechanism that allows to play a second or even third score card at some later point in the game, allowing the player to adapt to his situation on the board, or to further a legacy component rather than the primary goal of the chapter. Similar rules could exist for other legacy elements in a given chapter. These events could be tied to an achievement either by all players (cooperative), by a leading player (competitive but unlocking for all players), or by individual activation.


More on competitive vs. solo game on common board:
While the chapters are supposed to be competitive, there should also be some minimum chapter achievement reached in the chapter in order to allow the factions to gain legacy elements from this play of the chapter. A failed chapter might be reprised later in the campaign, somewhat modified, especially if there are legacy elements in the chapter which are later built upon.


How has Klaus Teuber handled such ideas in his Catan games?

The Rivals for Catan: Age of Enlightenment has a scenario "The Era of Prosperity" which tracks the satisfaction of the two principalities. The satisfaction of the populace is measured in stars (which might trigger some pre-school memories for people), which act as a currency and thereby as a prerequisite to use certain abilities.

The card games usually rely on discrete settlement expansions or city expansions to earn special abilities or victory, economy or military points. The old card game introduced magical power, the Rivals have owls (for wisdom) and stars (for prosperity/satisfaction).

In keeping with my post about legacy cards with both positive and negative effects, a variant where negative satisfaction points must be reduced in order to be able to end the game is possible.
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Sun Dec 17, 2017 3:50 pm
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More Legacy Catan Design Musings

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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I just found the proof (in the German forum siedeln.de) that I discussed a campaign game for Catan back in 2013, using Helpers and other elements, long before Legend of the Sea Robbers was presented, so please believe me that I am not just riding the production of that 20 years anniversary game with these thoughts.

I do admit that the way the Teubers managed the Campaign or Legend in their variant has overtaken my still quite vague ideas, mainly because of the concentration on a manageable episode in their timeline of Catan (as per the expansions in Rivals for Catan). Splitting the chapters into short separate games certainly is an alternative to convoluted and complex scenarios similar to the concept behind Timelines of Catan (https://timelinesofcatan.com/), but I agree with a complaint voiced by the people of Siedlerinsel (https://siedlerinsel.wordpress.com/) that the recent big publications are dumbed down for the mass market rather than building on the package of C&K plus Seafarers plus additional elements (which have seen official support only in Die Siedler von Catan: Schätze, Drachen & Entdecker.

So, how to proceed with my wild ideal to play through the history of my alternative Catan using all the history and thematic variants, official, from other fans, or out of my own weird imagination?

I guess I will go for "smaller scale episodes" like in Legend of the Sea Robbers, and return to my ideas for taking the concept of The Settlers of the Stone Age to a variable Catan game playing this in small steps.
Starting with this theme also helps me "break" the Catan games as they are now to re-assemble them the way I would like to do my campaign game. Settlers of the Stone Age has only four types of usable terrain, plus a few variations of terrain that doesn't produce any resources.

Settlers of the Stone Age offers quite a few complexities, some of which I don't want to re-create (like diversification into the four out-of-Africa phenotypes presented in the standalone game), but retaining the expeditions of hunters to collect "been there done that" experience chits.

The episodes should go like this:
Immigration into a fertile lowland away from the ancestral lands to develop new hunting grounds as initial, all basic scenario.
Follow the herds as you deplete them in your hunting grounds. I guess I will add a mechanism stealing from Fishermen of Catan and AGoT, where different kinds of beasts need to be hunted, after learning the technologies for that. Possibly including the domestication of the wolf. Probably with limited numbers of prey chits for the hunting grounds. Possibly coupled with shamanic spirit quests, or possibly with a similar scenario about shamanic magic.
Rising Sea levels - leave your coastal settlements, just as you discover semi-sedentary life as fishers.
Discover farming and clearing the land - still using the four original landscapes, using production facilities next to their camps or settlements.
Stone Age Monuments - megalithic tombs and observatories, the Wonders of the Neolithicum, or a race for various monuments as in Catan: Germany or Catan: The Netherlands.
Entering the Age of Metals - and possibly some aggressive migration or early empire building.
Some sort of Friendship cards and development of hero characters (as in Candamir: The First Settlers to be built in, so that your tribal identity can grow up.

And so this mini-campaign would end in the period leading to Cheops/Ancient Egypt (and I really ought to have an episode where a group of guests in Egypt gets involved in pyramid building) and the Classic Age represented by Alexander or Struggle for Rome, and a few inofficial theme sets for the old Card Game found on the Leinhaus. But that's another story arc, with different and new types of terrain, leading over into the Migration/Iron Age/Viking Age where the "Rivals of Catan" history of Klaus Teuber's Catan starts.
I mean to bring in quite a few of my magic concepts, and also to explore the early grand feats of engineering of Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople and Baghdad/Cordoba, and the founding of the great religions, and their early schisms. This might mean stealing from KGR and similar C&K variants.
Military themes are a must here, too (as well as for the later iterations).

There will be empires, and empires collapsing or self-destructing. The story lines will cover both the inside and the outside of those empires.


One thing I hope to establish with the different terrain types inherited from Settlers of the Stone Age and Ancien Egypt is to lead the players and the game to leave the five plus a few productive terrain types and maybe establish a number of less random methods for generating income. I probably will keep the production die rolls and a healthy dose of unexpected resource income, but I want to add other, at least short range reliable ways of getting the required resources, and possibly suffering from overexploiting the resources, like in the premise for the Greater Catan scenario (originally from Seafarers, now part of Schätze Drachen Entdecker).

I plan to join a number of story-lines, through inherited friends or deities from the past, technologies adapting to new challenges, and creating tribal identity from fusing a new people from quite diverse origins. Maybe that's my idealistic premise, not all idyllic, but strength through acceptance of diversity.

Anyway, so back to work. I have new terrain types or terrain variants to design, possibly creating my own artwork.

For the migration and testing of the borders, I need a somewhat variable setup which channels exploration and gaining insights from the edge of the explorable world. There can be different rules for heroic exploration and for tribal migrations. There might be hooks for future scenarios from leaving portions of the tribe behind while the story focus group wanders on. There is a BBC production available on Youtube which creates a heredity of its story through a similar concept, and I will definitely steal that idea. It also fits my Gloranthan vibes of interconnection and ancient ties between unlikely allies. I have been wanting to tell such a story through games for quite a while.


So, how to channel settlement and exploration? If you look at the Geographies series, these have limited choice for where to settle, much like Settlers of the Stone Age has with its diversity point chits spread over four continents. I want there to be some sites too good not to occupy, but also the freedom to spread otherwise and grow just like in a freeform settlers game.

One device to get there is a concept an expansion idea by Franke Broersma has inspired - providing a smaller cardboard piece to place on intersections where a settlement is built or expanded, to house additional markers for village or city expansions as in the card game. These could be spirit sites (like thermal springs), joker opportunities like salt licks (attracting more huntable game than to be expected from the production numbers), or struggling native residents or abandoned nomad sites where the player tribes interact with others, and possibly gain new inheritable features.

I plan to give up on the city calendar model from C&K reimplemented by Settlers of the Stone Age with its pre-determined sequence of improvements that decide upon cultural advancement, and instead use a choice of concrete game applications which, when collected, become a measure for the cultural advance. This means stealing the concept of rituals from Cthulhu Wars or heroquests from Gods War (same concept, slightly different realisation). Stacking these in different sequence to complete a cultural advancement scheme might result in different side effects even when two players have the same building stones, only in different sequence.


I also want to show how the central places of a region (defined by the intersection with a settlement, camp, city or whatever) are mostly self-sufficient (at least in their initial, small stages), how building them up to greater complexes might need trading connections with other central places through caravan routes (naval as in ship lines, or overland) or roads, possibly shared road complexes with a side order of the Frenemies incitements. It should be possible to go into debt of some aspects with calculated detrimental effects on some locations in your realm sacrificed for a greater goal. Famine or other scarcity striking situations resulting in downgrades or at least imposed zero growth in some regions might be a necessary prerequisite to achieve a bigger goal.



I have an idea about using non-regenerating, limited amount resources like the bog iron chits used in Legend of the Sea Robbers chapter two. Especially when migration is an overarching theme, this is a good concept to get the player moving his assets without railroading him into this, and leaving a healthy and strong community behind when emigration is the main theme of the scenario might have positive repercussions in later scenarios when other branches of the lineage get the spotlight.

Another idea is to use the concept of different value of the income, giving a good chance to draw at least minimum income of all necessary resources in a turn, but the chance to strike bigger luck with some. There is a hint of this in the Fishermen of Catan fish chits which have values from 1 to 3, and again in the recent Hawaii Geography, which I want to expand to other resources - especially when it comes to hunting, and possibly in a later, pastoral game, herding, too.

For a Stone Age game, there might be hunting and gathering results which mix in bonus yields of material expected from other landscapes with a slight draw-back in the primary resource expected there.

All of this takes quite a lot of preparation just to prototype this for a test game, so don't expect quick updates.

Comments and suggestions welcome, as always.
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3 Comments
Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:04 pm
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Playing a campaign part 1: Earliest Settlers

Jörg Baumgartner
Germany
Kiel
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When I played the Catan computer game, I liked the way the scenarios were strung into a campaign. This appeals to the storyteller in me.

With Rivals of Catan, Klaus Teuber and his team provided their history of the fictional island(s) in the region between the Azore archipelago and Iceland settled by Vikings. Now, as a storyteller, I am inclined to tell my own epic of the settlers - set on an island in a fictional interior sea somewhere merging the Baltic with the Mediterranean.

I'll still have to decide how much of each phase to put into a scenario. The CD has comparably short scenarios, but lots of these, and it does all the setup that the boardgame variant would have to do manually.


Earliest Settlers:

Basically an attempt to port The Settlers of the Stone Age to a variable game.

Thus, there will be hunters moving around fueled by meat harvested by the tribes, passages that require some minimum achievements on one or more of the progress tracks, claiming of prestige chips for discovery, and regions only temporarily settled.

Rules challenges to overcome:

Stone Age has predefined paths, excluding certain hex edges for the hunter groups. In a more or less variable layout, there have to be forbidden passages.

Stone Age also has predefined sites in which to settle, which provide the victory points even after a tribe has moved on.

Stone Age knows only 4 of the 5 standard territories of regular Catan: forest, plains (pasture), hills, and mountains. The cultivation of grain fields and possibly salt, gold and amber mines might be part of this scenario or the sequel.

Additional hex types might be used. Deserts appear in Stone Age as desertification markers - a development rather than original fields. Other types of wasteland might include jungle (it is available from a number of expansions), volcanoes, wetlands (the coastal hexes of the Rivers in T&B) and glaciers. Merchants of Europe offers mountain pastures and mountain forests as graphics variant for mountainous territory.

Game material:

wooden pieces for hunters and campsites
I suggest C&K knights strength 1 (Viking edition if available) for the hunters and standard wooden settlements for the camps.

resource cards
If available, the Stone Age cards will be fine. If not, use the standard cards. If you want a permanent solution, modify the center of the cards with the appropriate symbol from Stone Age.

progress tracks
These can be printed and glued on cardboard. For progress markers wooden cubes in player colors (like those in Stone Age or Candamir) will serve nicely.
Stone Age has four separate tracks, where all players place a progress marker in their color. An alternative would be to give each player a track card with all tracks.

building cost cards
integrated in the board of Stone Age - would have to be printed out for each player (and possibly expanded for other building options or actions)

desertification markers
available in Stone Age to cover all 12 starting hexes of Africa

obstacle or discovery markers
These are board elements in Stone Age that have to be brought into a semi-variable layout.
One variation might be to make them herds of large beasts of prey, like mammoths, whoolly rhinos, bisons, giant elk or aurochs, or possibly reindeer and seals. Once these have been hunted to extinction, the land may start to be exhausted. On the other hand, having hunted a collection of these might be the key to the next islands or valleys.

robber figures
I'll probably use the standard robber rather than fancy cardboard ones


Reasons to keep migrating:

The players start with hunter groups entering the board from a region of origin that is going to be faced with starvation. On their migration they will find temporary shelter on other lands, each of which will face its own form of inhospitability.

Catan knows various methods to render a portion of the map uninhabitable. I plan to use different types for different stages of the enforced migration.

Desertification - the method in Stone Age.

Flooding - both the Atlantis variant and the Storm Flood scenario in Die Siedler von Catan: Das Buch zum Spielen or the Atlantis box and most lately Catan Scenarios: Oil Springs have rules to replace productive land hexes with sea hexes.

Occupation by hostiles - in various variations: desert riders from Das Buch or desert dragons from Die Siedler von Catan: Schätze, Drachen & Entdecker, barbarians from T&B, or mongols in Die Siedler von Catan: Historische Szenarien II. All these variations have in common that they are reversible, but in this context the means to reverse them first have to be discovered.

Volcanic Eruptions - usually these just lay waste to adjacent settlements, but in some variants larger blasts affect the hex fields themselves.

Exhausted Land - some scenarios create a lack of number chips as new areas are opened up, such as Great Catan in SDE or Discoverers in Das Buch, or the variable number chits in Catan Histories: Merchants of Europe.



The starting lands should probably be to the southeast. A rather narrow land bridge leads into mostly lowlands and lakes which offer room for new tribes.

This part should be rather rules light, in order to have a learning scenario for these mechanics. It might even have pre-defined terrain and camp sites providing victory points.
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Wed Jan 2, 2013 1:53 pm
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