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.

Archive for E&P variants

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Oversea Trading Cities Prototype Cards

Jörg Baumgartner
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I have explored the idea of Oversea Trading Cities scenario/variant for Explorers and Pirates with C&K in this forum thread and in this comment to my own blog.

I managed to work a bit on my expansion idea for the trade certificates, and have completed some playtest card sheets for trading.

The card above allows a player with a ship pointing to an intersection on any of the three overseas cities to buy as many books as he can afford for 4 gold each.

Not quite finished, but well along are production certificates.

The card above allows a player with a ship pointing to an intersection on the city of the scientists to produce as many circle items as he can pay for with wood and ore, selling them for 3 gold each.

The travel cards still are in a concept stage.

The card above can be played by a player with a ship pointing to an intersection on the city of the diplomats. Once the player manages to place a ship pointing to the council island and pays two coins commodity cards, this card will count as a friendship point for the diplomats and laid out with victory point cards etc. - the first player to get 3 matching friendship cards and afterwards the player with the most cards of that city receives the friend of the ... (in this case diplomats) card worth 2 bonus victory points.

This scenario hasn't been playtested yet (the announced street date for the German expansion is coming Friday), but I would like to get some feedback what you would like to be able to do in such a game.
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Mon Mar 18, 2013 12:16 am
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Salt Marshes and Storm Floods

Jörg Baumgartner
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Salt from the Fens

For centuries salt has been produced in the fens and wadden areas of the North Sea by harvesting salt peat, drying and burning it. The salty ash would be dissolved in sea water, filtrated and the water boiled off over a peat fire. This salt was a sought after commodity and led to the rise of trading towns and even metropolises along the coast.

Harvesting the salt had adverse effects on environment – the coastal country started to sink. When the sinking areas were enclosed with dams and embankments the maximum height of storm floods increased since the water couldn't spread out any more.

Purpose of the Scenario

For my taste the topic of oil springs is a bit too modern for the otherwise medieval Catan. I also am in the process of reading up on the development of the wadden sea, Rungholt and the Grote Mandrenke.

This scenario is meant as an expansion to Explorers and Pirates or Seafarers, but with the focus on recovering and even winning new land from the wadden seas, and (in combination with another scenario theme, Merchants and Trading Licenses) on trading.

The Rules

The rules of Catan Scenarios: Oil Springs apply for the salt harvesting in the fens, using the same material. The main difference is that only the fen areas are affected by the catastrophes, and that there is a way to protect or even repair lost productivity by building embankments.

A salt chit can be exchanged in two resource cards of any one kind.

Salt chits can be used for building a metropolis.

Salt chits also can be taken out of the game by storing them as a state treasure (flipping them). Each stored salt chit moves you on the mission bar “greatest salt treasure”.

The catastrophes can be either dam breaks leading to floodings of single hex fields (if their number is rolled), resulting in the number chit being flipped, or a great flood that affects all coastal fen hexes, destroying all hexes without embankments, removing all settlements adjacent to fen hexes (not counting wadden sea or open sea hexes) without embankments and reducing all cities or trade settlements in such locations to settlements, then removing all embankments from the protected hexes.

Whether single hexes or entire coastal stretches were lost, the lost areas become wadden sea and are navigable by ships.

The flipped number chits can be flipped back to active by recovering the land through new embankments.

Building Dams

An embankment for protecting a dry section of fen land costs 1 brick and 1 sheep. The embankments don't inter fere with that hex field's productivity (unlike in the storm flood scenario in Das Buch).

An embankment for recovering an area of wadden sea for production costs 2 bricks, 1 sheep and 1 grain – more effort and more material has to be poured into the project.

Only hex fields that are directly adjacent to a dry hex field may be recovered. The council island doesn't count in this regard.

Land Reclamation

In order to reclaim a wadden sea hex, the active player has to place two units on the wadden sea hex (by ship), then pay the price for the reclamation (2 brick 1 sheep 1 grain). The units may then be carried away by that ship.

Wadden Sea areas are shallow sea hexes for purposes of ship travel. A ship traveling through wadden sea areas has to pay 2 movement points per edge, since the area is only navigable at high tide.

Once a wadden sea area has received a reclamation embankment, it counts as dry land. If a ship got trapped inland by land reclamation, the owner may place it on an edge seaward of the reclaimed land. Ships carrying colonists may remain if trapped inland in wadden sea or inland sea areas if there is at least one intersection where the ship may land the colonist.

A harbor settlement trapped inland by land reclamation basically becomes useless, the owning player may not build ships, colonists or units at these sites. He also loses the extra victory point for the harbor settlement, but may regain it if the harbor settlement gets reconnected to the open sea, whether directly over newly sunk areas of wadden sea, or whether by canals built using the canal variant. The owning player may also exchange the harbor settlement for a normal settlement if he wants to build one on a different shore site.

Variant: Canal Building
(taken from the scenario The Great Canal in Die Siedler von Catan: Schätze, Drachen & Entdecker)
If the river is blocked by reclamation of the wadden sea hexes or if a harbor settlement is cut off from the open sea by reclamation, the owner may choose to start building a canal to regain access to the sea, laying a track of markers across the intermittent hex fields. By placing and deactivating knights on intersections adjacent to those hexes, a canal piece is placed (dry side up) in the hex. On the sea side, units may be placed instead, these require payment of 1 grain per unit. After the canal section has been built, the unit may be collected by ship – knights are moved according to the C&K rules.

Metropolis Building

A metropolis is a center of commerce. When the number of an adjacent hex tile is rolled, the owner of the metropolis receives two resource cards or one resource card plus one commodity card as appropriate to that tile. In addition, the owner gains one gold.

A distinction is made between Catan: Cities & Knights metropolises for being the first on step four on the research track (worth 2 victory points, and may have to be transferred to another player if that player manages to get to step five) and a metropolis without this claim to fame. The latter, player built variety can be marked either by a metropolis chit from Oil Springs or a metropolis piece in player colors.

There are three ways to build a metropolis:

A city may be expanded to a metropolis by spending 2 salt, 1 brick, 1 ore and 1 grain. The player should have at least one C&K research track at level 3.

As per C&K rules, a special metropolis is gained by the first player reaching step 4 on the research track. This metropolis is worth 2 victory points, but may be lost to another player. If lost, the previous owner may replace it with an ordinary metropolis worth 1 victory point.
If a player reaching step 4 on the research track has a metropolis of the first kind and no free city, he may upgrade that metropolis to a special metropolis.

A player may spend 5 commodity cards of one kind to receive a metropolis in his own color when the special metropolis for that track has already been built. The first time he does so also completes his research track.

A metropolis on the sea shore, on a canal or on a wadden sea tile may be expanded by a harbor basin for 2 ore and 1 grain in order to function like harbor settlement as well. (Cities cannot be upgraded like this.)

If a player who would lose a city to a barbarian attack only has metropolises of the 1 VP variety, one of those metropolises of his choice is reduced to a city. The special metropolises remain immune to the barbarian attack. If the lost metropolis had a harbor basin, that is lost, too.

One might allow the upgrade of a harbor settlement to a metropolis if the player has a city piece to replace the harbor settlement and if he manages to pay both the upgrade to city and the upgrade to metropolis in the same turn. Such a metropolis retains its harbor basin. This method may also be used to create a city for receiving one of the special metropolises.

Ships from Catan: Explorers & Pirates

Northern Frisia was settled between the seventh and eleventh centuries by Frisians from the Frisian lands between the Rhine delta and the river Weser. Other than the scenario I suggested below (as starting island with fen and wadden sea areas) it is as possible to place the fen area at the far side of the exploration area, making the need for salt the driving force behind this colonization.


This is just a first idea how to set up a game with this theme. From the right a wide river mouth emerges between two chunks of higher ground (reddish or mountain hexes – one or two less mountain hexes would probably work, too, making the need for oversea iron greater) into a lowland region that is subject to floodings if adjacent to sea or wadden sea hexes. I suggest that at the start of the game, each player places a harbor settlement on the seaward side of the lowlands and a city on the upland.

The wadden sea (light blue) tiles can be treated like discovery tiles, with possible results being salt desert (twice), pasture and fields.

The 11 lowland (light brown) tiles should be 2 forest, 2 hills, 2 fields, 3 pastures and the two salt hexes (oil springs) from Oil Springs (on an additional forest and pasture tile each, but any tile will do). Those salt hexes should not be adjacent to the open sea.

The 8 other upland tiles should be 2 hills, 2 forests, 2 fields and 1 pasture.

Use the number chits from the basic settlers and add the numbers 3, 4, 10, 11 and 12, and reserve two random numbers for the wadden sea pasture and fields (the salt deserts come with the numbers 5 and 9).

I used the T&B castle since the Catan mapping software I use doesn't support the council island yet.

Required Expansions

You will need the basic game, C&K, E&P and for extra sea, external frame and desert tiles the Seafarers. (The desert also can be taken from the 5-6 players extension, especially if you have the old basic game with water tiles instead of a frame).

I have been lazy and suggested simply to use the material and graphics from Oil Springs. When I get around to it, I'll lift the salt garden hexes and salt cards from Merchants of Europe instead (which would have to be attached to fitting backs, and in case of the larger Mayfair cards, also enlarged).

Metropolis pieces for the wood editions are available from game accessory shops on the internet. If you are unlucky enough to be in the plastic line of Catan, you'll have to make do with metropolis plates from Oil Springs.

Embankment pieces are available from Das Buch or the Atlantis Box for the Storm Flood scenario, but any carton wedge covering two edges will do, or street pieces of an unused color placed in an angle around the number chit.

Lowland fen hexes are ordinary land hexes (unless flooded as wadden sea hexes). If you have hex fields from different editions, using a different graphic style for the lowland hexes makes sense.

If you object to massing all the continental iron on the uplands, you can use the method used in De Kolonisten van Catan: De drie Handelsteden van Noord-Nederland and make all iron on the starting island bog iron, or at least all lowland iron. These bogs could be represented by the gold rivers of the Seafarers edition (which aren't used in this scenario and have different looks from the pirate lair gold hexes), or overlook the incongruity and place mountain hexes in the lowlands. Otherwise, the design of the marsh hexes at the mouths of the rivers in T&B would do fine for bog hexes.

Wadden sea areas (at least those caused by flooding) can be represented simply by flipping the number chit to inactive. Since such hex fields can be traveled by ship, having an overlay indicating water ways and sand banks would be nice, but I haven't got around to that yet, either. If anybody feels inspired to design such hexes – you're welcome.

Comments and Input

This is not a finished scenario, so I ask for input, including (constructive) criticism and additional ideas. Feel free to expand from these ideas.

I ought to provide links to other scenarios using land reclamation from the wadden sea, but I wanted to get this text written first (and then translated) in order to get feedback. The combination of land reclamation and salt harvesting is – to my knowledge – new.

If anybody has a web link to the historical activities of salt harvesting in the marches, I'd appreciate that – most of my research links are in German or Danish.

Edit: Here's one of the links I wanted to add:
The Netherlands scenario uses wind mill powered pumping to drain and reclaim wadden areas.
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Sun Feb 24, 2013 11:15 am
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Combining Explorers&Pirates with Seafarers of Catan

Jörg Baumgartner
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Reactions to comments on the blogs on and said that this expansion would not be compatible with Seafarers of Catan.

That sort of baffles me...

The game material (at least using the most recent editions) ought to be compatible - hexes and frame parts should combine just fine, and with the extra water and land hexes, much expanded boards are possible.

If you insist on connecting the inner frame parts with the external frame, it appears you are limited to 7 or maybe 9 hexes vertically. However, it ought to be possible to insert the internal frames even into outer frames from earlier editions of Seafarers (assuming that hex size was not changed between editions), just not anchored to that frame. Hex design will be different, of course.

The Seafarer expansion scenarios may not be directly playable in combination with the E&P scenarios. To be honest, nobody would expect them to be - when introducing new areas or quests, one would have to include those areas into a map, altering it in the process.

The concept of ship lines and that of moveable ships is not compatible - at first glance, at least.

However, one might build scenarios which make a distinction between coastal sailing and overseas sailing. This would allow to create a "home island" region that would be better described as "home islands", and a distinct overseas region where ship lines just cannot be built. (Depending on the scenario, once beyond the separating ocean there might be ship lines again.)

If allowing both coastal ship lines and ocean-going moveable units, there is only the question whether moveable ships may use edges occupied by ship lines.

Let's call the new ship type from E&P transport ships.

To find a precedent, let's have a look at Traders and Barbarians, the Traders scenario with the wagon. The wagon may move overland on edges without roads as well as on edges occupied by roads - if these roads belong to another player, the wagon owner has to pay road toll in gold.

Now, how does a moveable transport ship differ from a wagon? It is not amphibious. In the combination notes for T&B and Seafarers, the wagon may be moved across water along ship lines as if they were roads, or along water edges without ship lines for 2 movement points per edge. Although the point could be made that in Viking times, ships were ported across land bridges or between rivers.

Anyway, a transport ship might be asked to pay for its passage through patrolled waters (i.e. edges with ships from a ship line). In fact, a similar rule already exists for a ship buying passage past a pirate controlled by another player (when the attempt to chase the pirate away failed).

So, where else might the rules clash?

The pirate behaves differently. Where there is a neutral pirate ship harrassing the ship lines in Seafarers, we now get a privateer in player colors that may be bribed for passage.

I suggested above that ship lines would be restricted to coastal waters. The traditional pirate from seafarers preying on these ship lines would be subject to the same limitations, if only for the reason that a predator follows its prey.

Seafarers states that on a roll of 7, the active player gets to choose to move either the pirate or the robber. Both robber and pirate can be moved as the result of knight activity (either when a knight development card is played, or when a C&K knight is used to chase off the offending black figure).

E&P gives each transport ship a 1 in 6 chance to chase off another player's privateer ship once it moves onto an edge that causes its bow or stern to point towards the sea hex occupied by the privateer.

Again, this is reminiscent of the wagon in the T&B Traders scenario. If anything, the wagon in that scenario is more versatile than the E&P transport ship with the wagon cards that can be bought to improve its performance.

At this point, comparison with the other Catan game with moveable ships is inevitable: Starfarers of Catan. There are obvious parallels: a player may have up to three ships on the board, a colony ship gets transformed into a colony using up the ship, and port settlements do get the extra VP but don't get any extra resources from the neighboring hexes.

Like the wagon in T&B, the mothership in Starfarers can be improved. Unlike the wagon, the improvements to the mothership (and thereby the entire fleet of the player) is distributed to three aspects: guns, engines, and cargo space, and can be built up according to player preferences and resource availability. The fame rings might be regarded as a fourth aspect.

There are differences: movement rate in Starfarers is semi-randomized and half of the time interrupted by encounters. Or, in other mechanics with the same outcome, before movement an event die is rolled. Three faces indicate an encounter, and the other three faces add 0, 1 or 2 to the basic movement rate of 3 plus number of engines. E&P ships have a flat movement rate of 4, plus 2 if the player expends a sheep resource card.

The pirate acts as an encounter element in Starfarers. All encounter obstacles have the same strength as one of the fellow players' mother ships - which fellow player is indicated in the quest. However, to win the active player only has to match the result of the obstacle, pushing the odds into his favor. Defeating a pirate may result in nothing more than reputation gain, but may also yield a ship or resources - similar with non-pirate encounters with obstacles. There is another type of encounter which I would call diplomatic and which usually involves the exchange of gifts.

Starship Catan (the 2-player game set in the Starfarers universe consisting basically of encounters, most of which are trading opportunities, no hex map involved) has simple quests tied to the destination planets. Sometimes you just have to go there, sometimes you have to deliver some key resource or commodity (knowledge) to achieve the quest. Pirates appear as encounters with fixed combat strength that have to be overcome with the player's guns plus the travel/conflict die (basically the outcomes of 2d3 on a single 6-sided die). Quests and defeated pirates yield reputation points.

E&P announces quests: from the look of the 4th blog about the Pirate Lairs, these are tied to destination hexes - gold rivers for pirate lairs, fish grounds for the high sea fishery, and spice islands for the spice trade. Judging from the mechanic of the pirate lair quests, one or more players tackle a quest obstacle and are rewarded by gold, advance on the quest achievement bar (which results in victory point gains about half of the time, up to 3) and the chance for leadership in that type of quest (worth another 2 victory points).

Another major difference in Starfarers is that the planets of origin are left unchanged after set-up, while E&P clearly allows the development of the starting island - so we have a less clear focus of play in the new colonies.

What makes Starfarers (and its companion game Starship Catan) memorable are the five quirky alien races - the knowing folk (resembling chimps), the green folk (somewhat similar to the Roswell aliens, but green-skinned), the merchants (resembling something like Orang Utans or Gorillas) with their quaint "a gift before trading" custom, the reptile-like diplomats and the hooded ancient wandering folk.

Getting the aid of specialists of these races is a secondary source of contest in Starfarers, by landing trade stations on the contact docks of these races. Up to five trade stations may be landed. In order to land a trade station, the mother ship must have one freight ring more than there are stations docked. Each race provides five specialists to the visitors that provide certain benefits.

The mediaeval Catan doesn't have these colorful allies. The closest approximations are the Helpers of Catan and the three islands of the Rivals of Catan explorers theme set: the islands of bards, sages and traders (and the lost tribe), plus three named pirates that are more memorable than the islanders.

E&P doesn't appear to have anything like this. Neither does Seafarers, to be fair, not even in Die Siedler von Catan: Das Buch zum Spielen, the ultimate companion to the Seafarers expansion.

In all fairness, I draw probably half the appeal of the Seafarers expansion from the additional possibilities offered by Das Buch zum Spielen or the fan-set Die Siedler von Catan: Schätze, Drachen & Entdecker. I guess that there is going to be an equivalent set of variations to the E&P expansion with fan-created additions and tweaks.
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Wed Jan 2, 2013 10:24 am
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Oversea Trading Cities

Jörg Baumgartner
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I am thinking about a Hanseatic League themed variable game - a combination of the upcoming Catan: Explorers & Pirates ship mechanism with a mechanic from Die Siedler von Nürnberg - the players produce export goods in the homelands and sell them for gold in (NPC) oversea port cities (much like Frankfurt, Venice and Prague in the Nürnberg game, but represented as actual locations). Access to the port cities is through rivers, in order to sail a river, one has to place at least 1 river patrol (a ship from the Seafarers expansion) on the approach to that city. The player with the most patrol ships on that approach controls the toll (a victory card, and a source of gold income whenever another player sells export goods in that city).

These approach tracks could be made as a separate approach route, or possibly as a small surrounding lands set of hex tiles with rivers and landscapes, that might even be settled (Nürnberg-style) from these cities.
The cost for these patrol boats might be the traditional wood and sheep, or wood and ore (like in Merchants of Europe), or even wood, sheep and ore.

The demand for export goods could be static (as in Nürnberg), or one could adopt the mechanic from the Candamir game and provide demand lists. In the easiest case, a player would use wooden cubes or other meeples to fill that list.
(Wooden cubes in the player colours, directly taken as influence tokens? That would imply an immediate transport of the goods to those cities.
Or wooden cubes in the colours of the product (categories), rewarded with influence tokens for that city.)
Alternatively, the produced goods could be represented by cardboard tokens like those in "The Colonies" or the transport goods from "Traders and Barbarians"-scenario.
The city influence might be measured in tokens or like a victory point track for each overseas trade city.

The pirates theme fits with the interference the Hanseatic League experienced, both with home-grown pirates like Claus Stoertebeker and with the Merchant Adventurers from England.

I'm undecided whether to include typical Hanseatic trade commodities like wine and salt.

Some of the colonial aspects could be the fish grounds, and maybe import of some resource that is mostly unavailable in the homelands (like ore).

I'm inclined to add a military variant - either C&K, depicting the conflict between the Hanseatic League and Waldemar Atterdag of Denmark, or possibly just anti-pirating action using the pirate nests of E&P or the T&B Barbarian scenario, possibly restricted to the colonial settlements.
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Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:56 pm
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