Monday, March 24, 2008

Catan Card Game

Catan Card Game (aka The Settlers of Catan Card Game) is a 2 player card game based on the Settlers of Catan board game.

The Giggling One and I are big fans of Settlers of Catan, and when she spotted it in Mind Games while we were perusing the shops of Melbourne's CBD she was unable to resist.

One of the main attractions to this game is that it is a 2 player game. It's easy to carry around, and if we're unable to drum up extra players for the board game version, we can always play this.

The basic concepts of the card game are similar to its more well known hexagonal island counterpart. Players have cards laid out in front of them representing settlements and cities, roads, and six different resources (brick, wood, sheep, ore, wheat, and gold). Each resource card has a number on it from 1 to 6, and when the dice is rolled, the resulting number generates one of that resource.

It's deliberately arranged so that each player starts with one of each resource, as well as one of every die number, so you will always produce something on a roll (well, unless you've maxed out that resource card).

You keep track of resources by rotating each resource card so that the number at the bottom of the card is equal to the number of resources you have. It's a nice mechanic and means that you can always see exactly how much of every resource your opponent has.

As each card is square, and thus has only 4 sides, the most resources you can store per card is 3 (each side of the card represents 0, 1, 2 or 3 of that given resource when rotated to face you). If you have 3 of a resource and that number is rolled again, you don't get anything for it.

There is therefore an inherent incentive to spend your resources before they are wasted. Additionally, like in the board game, if there's a brigand attack (equivalent to the robber) and you have more than 7 resources, you'll lose some.

Each player starts with two settlement cards separated by a road card. Each settlement has 4 resources diagonally adjacent. To extend your little piece of Catan, you need to buy roads and settlements and expand sideways.

Whenever you place a new settlement you draw 2 new resource cards to make up the 4 required (the new settlement will already share 2 resources with the previous settlement).

There are, of course, other cards you can have that assist your colony. You can play knights to protect you, fleets to assist with trading, factories to double production, and other beneficial cards. When you upgrade settlements to cities, even more cards become available.

All of these cards are placed directly above or below your settlement or city. Some of them may only benefit that particular town while others will benefit your whole colony.

There are also action cards that allow you to take a swipe at your opponent. In our first game, The Giggling One pretty much had a swipe-fest. I can say from experience that it gets rather frustrating after a while to have your strong knights and beneficial buildings removed all the time.

The Giggling One and I have played this twice now, for 1 win each. Our first game wasn't helped by the fact that once we got home (well, to Jason's home where we were staying) and opened the box, we found two cards were missing and another was duplicated.

Rather more bemused than amused by this, we stopped by Mind Games on our way to the airport the next morning and swapped the box for a new one. We decided to make sure the new version had all the cards and opened it up in the shop to count them.

Sure enough, this second set wasn't complete either. This one had an extra city and one missing road, so we switched the city for a road from the first set, and finally left complete.

The Catan Card Game is enjoyable, and has room for a nice amount of strategy. We've only got the base game, and I understand the expansions add a nice degree of extra strategy (more on that if - or rather when - we buy an expansion).

What I don't understand is why they haven't produced expansions for more players. After 6 or so expansions, it's still only a 2 player game.

Neither I nor The Giggling One can see why this game wouldn't translate well to a 3 or 4 player game, just like its board game cousin. Having more players would make inter-player trading a much more viable option as well. We've had a grand total of 1 trade between us in our 2 games, with all other trading being with the "bank".

If you're a Settlers fan and have that special someone who enjoys the game as well, then this is a worthy consideration of your hard earned moolah.

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