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.
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.
19 Sep 2018
- [+] Dice rolls