I waited for this week's clarification of the fortress mechanic before writing this blog, since the fortresses are a major change that makes the third chapter different from the two previous ones.
First off, a detail that was omitted in describing the first two chapters. "In the third chapter, you can build metropolises again."
Sure, it makes little sense to build a metropolis in a territory that you are about to abandon, as in chapter one, and the victory point requirements can be met by overcoming conquerors or using the special set of blue progress cards altruistically. And I guess that researching the progress charts up to level 3 is still required to get mighty knights, and nobody wants to go without the aqueduct or the ability to trade unneeded commodities 2:1.
In chapter 2, I see less of a point for a no metropolis rule - after all, this time you are fighting to stay, not fighting to leave.
Another change (back): the third chapter is played with the normal set of blue progress cards. This means several VP options less available for altruistic behavior. And the robber is back, confident that the reconquista will work.
So, let's start with a look at the gaming table (in all its plastic glory) with mostly the final pieces:
A number of frame pieces still are in the prototype version, but we do get to see the coastal marsh (or dunes/heather?) hexes - eight of these,half of them occupied by a castle.
A thing I may have overlooked before: there are trading posts on land background rather than sea harbors available as lay-ons. Your future games of Catan don't have to be insular any more, now you have frames and trade posts to have peninsular (or if you combine with Legend of the Sea Robbers, almost completely land-locked) frames if the aesthetic of your theme asks for them. Having a VP counter on the frame cannot hurt in any case.
The image shows the set-up. 16 castles are placed (in a 4 player game, I suppose) and crewed with conqueror units. There is a demarkation line (in red) which shows where the set-up border is for the players. Four spots are marked (encircled in blue) where the players must set a starting settlement, leaving the hinterland for a second settlement. Only when both settlements have been placed and resources have been taken for the second settlement, each player upgrades one of his settlements to a city. (A rule which could be applied to a normal C&K game, too, making the set-up strategic choices a bit different.)
The turn sequence table has the final graphics already:
The weird item in the third field of the approach is a representation of a plastic road piece. This is a free military road each player gets to place north of the red demarkation line. The gratis wine and amber symbols should be obvious, and the red card symbol marks the opportunity to spend wine and amber for combat progress cards. The two-headed axe stands for the standard C&K plunderer arrival that will de-activate all your active knights (and reduce a city to a settlement if that number was insufficient).
The six swords mark the occasion of a sally of the besieged conquerors - the rest of the time they are sitting ducks in their fortresses, but on these occasions they attack any knights in their neighborhood, so you better don't place advance elements of your forces between three of those castles at these times.
The castles don't add to their combat strength. Their main game purpose is to provide a random reward for removing one of these castles, with a symbol on their back side (which probably comes as part of the sticker sheet): a removed castle will give a free road or a chip of amber or wine as plunder to the victorious players - one item for each participating player.
The mobile High Knight will probably play a big role in these sieges, as it can be put on intersections too risky for normal knights and return to the place of its origin, as illustrated in the 15th blog:
The game end is a bit more random than in the first two games: the two last fields of the ship approach route has red dice depicted on them. If the Black Ship event is coupled with a red die number shown on the table, the game ends. (City gate events don't end the game when that number is rolled.)
If the players don't manage to reduce the number of fortresses below the number of players, they all lose, and the reinforcements will spew forth even greater numbers of conquerors. Otherwise, the player with the most VP will win the game, with a number of tie breakers not detailed in the 15th blog post. As usual, a premature win will end the game, too - the player who manages to get eighteen VP wins the game. Since every player participating in a victory over a castle will gain one VP for that, quite a few of these hero VP will have been dealt out if the players even approach the "we don't lose" condition.
The combat resolution remains easier than that of Barbarian Attack, with losses inflicted only on unlucky players unable to send enough reinforcements to conquer a castle before the sally event comes (or left hanging by another player who had promised to send aid but reneges on that promise).
The High Knight can only intervene if he was activated before. However, the transfer mechanism for the high knight may mean that this role could be given to another knight after the first high knight has participated in a conquest. I have no idea whether there is a limit on how often that ability may be passed on (or the gunner ability to get that one extra point of strength).
I also have no idea whether the High Knight might be able to resolve two sieges at once if two neighboring castles become eligible for conquest from the changed situation after its placement. My guess is that the rules say "no" to that, the activation allows only one assault.
I have no idea yet how urgent that "we will all lose" mechanic is in this scenario. Unlike e.g. in AGoT Catan, this scenario doesn't have a winner in case of the cooperative defeat, removing that less altruistic strategy from the player choices. (Unless you house-rule it that this player becomes the chief collaborator of the new management...)
The announced sales date is now July... basically, that's a "in 2019, as early as we can manage" date.
The blog entry closes with a mysterious "How it continues after the third chapter I will tell you in next week's blog."
As it turns out, this is a little piece of closing fluff, and some considerations of Teuber how the world would be different if there was a roughly Ireland-sized island or archipelago somewhere in the neighborhood of the Azores.
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.
- [+] Dice rolls