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 magic in catan

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More Legacy Catan Design Musings

Jörg Baumgartner
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I just found the proof (in the German forum 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 (, but I agree with a complaint voiced by the people of Siedlerinsel ( 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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Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:04 pm
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Placing Magicians on the Hex Board

Jörg Baumgartner
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A while ago I posted an English translation of my rules draft for magicians in the board game. Revisiting that file, I noticed that I failed to provide at least examples for the development and progress cards for that expansion here on BGG, and that the German community didn't fare much better. It is one thing to scrawl a few notes on blanco cards for a concept test, but producing a finished product takes a lot more effort. Since I have way more ideas and concepts for Catan scenarios than I have time to produce classy looking gaming material and rules, the production side suffers quite a bit.

I have started to remedy this lack of material support, but this will take some time since I'm trying to do this quite right. Don't expect any fancy artwork, but I plan to use a few photographs of game situations and material to illustrate the rules.

Sample development card (translated to English)

I'm not at all talented at drawing, the best I can manage is a doodled magician's hat, which I combined with the landscape for that wizard (using German 1st edition hex fields).

This idea originally came from a much more complicated concept to convert Gloranthan magic to the Catan board game, with magician units tied to one of the Gloranthan runes, and each player's tribe allied to slightly different deities granting different rune magicians. (Don't get me started rambling about Glorantha...)

The variant I posted is a lot closer to the magicians in the card game - units placed on landscapes next to a citadel, earning magic when that landscape receives a resource. Apart from two variants directly using the card game components for the board game, I haven't found anything like this concept in board game variants - most variants I have seen use magic as a progress track in an expansion for Cities & Knights, powered by magical crystals (or similar) earned as commodity on certain hex types (most commonly hill hexes).

I may have gone a bit over-board with my tomes for reusable magic - that's the roleplayer expecting some continuity in the magic used by a (group of) magician(s). Meanwhile, I have encountered one other (also German language) C&K expansion which uses magical actions bought for magical energy, called Fischer, Feldherren und Fiskus (Fishermen, Strategists and Exchequer), strangely keeping silent in the title about the magic rules.

The German forum thread about this expansion can be found here:,10490,686dc6a63b4fcf0bf603...

Originally, my plans were to produce another C&K variant for magicians, but I realized that it didn't seem right (or fair) to use magicians against an entirely mundane threat like the ship-borne invasion in C&K. There also was the problem that I wanted to distribute the progress cards quite early in the game, and adding another type of progress card to the event die lowers the probability to draw a card of that type.

That's why I decided to start with an expansion that replaces C&K rather than adding to it. It keeps the focus on the magic and doesn't cause more confusion when there are two different threats to be fought. Ultimately, I plan to create a rules set which combines these wizards with C&K, but first I want to fine-tune this magic.

I did inherit the threat mechanics from C&K - activated units to fight a threat, a threat slowly advancing on the island depending on an event die which otherwise will grant new progress cards. I had to create a new threat, and one that would keep the family-friendly tone of the Catan games. Luckily, there lies a lot of horror in vaguely disturbing descriptions, so I simply called the invading magical foes shadow creatures.

The magical tomes (or spell books) are one type of progress card I wanted to use. Here is an example:

The card background is used for all progress cards (the development cards keep their white background unless someone feels inspired to produce an artistically more pleasing set of cards). The image of the book and the magical sparks are inherited from the card game, as are the other illustrations currently used on the progress cards I have so far (provided to me by "Bastelmaus", another poster on the German forum on who helped greatly in developing the idea to the point I would translate it to English).

There are two magic costs marked on the card. On the top, next to Tome, there is the cost for laying out this tome. Next to the book is the cost for activating the tome, putting the spell into effect.

I wanted to make the spells available again after some time, so I decided on a simple mechanic to reactivate a tome - the magic points for activating the spell are placed on the tome, which is turned upside down to indicate its deactivation. On the end of each following turn of this player he may remove one magic point from the tome. When there are no magic points left on this tome, it is active again. The more expensive (and powerful) the spell, the longer before it can be reused.

There is no limit how many spells may be activated on a player's turn (other than the magic points available), nor is there a limit how many magic development cards may be bought or held, or played - unless they were bought that turn. There is a limit to how many progress cards may be held (3, not counting tomes played out), and there is a limit how many tomes may be played - as many as the progress track has advanced.

Tome cards, dragon cards (other than black dragons) and magician cards are counted to determine the player with the greatest magical power, which is worth a 2 victory point card Greatest Magical Power - just like the Greatest Army VP card.

Another type of progress cards are magical actions - these too cost magic points to be played, but the effect is instant, and afterwards these cards are discarded.

I hope to be able to provide printable sets of game cards for both the German and English versions soon. The cards will be the small size of the German edition of Settlers of Catan.
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Thu Mar 7, 2013 4:06 am
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