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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