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Settlers of Catan - Cities and Knights

Settlers of Catan - Cities and Knights

I have been looking forward to playing this expansion to Settlers of Catan for some time, so the fact that the only time I was able to squeeze it into my (and others’) busy schedule meant that it clashed with Brownies. While the board was being set up, children including various nieces were being mustered for the walk up the road. Unfortunately some decided that they were now too old for Brownies and returned to mooch around the table and generally distract game play.



So, the game started with half-assed knowledge of the new rules with bits that were well and truly embedded as paragraphs were repeated due to interruptions while others were encountered only when they were applied. Honestly, not the most auspicious start to the game. Oh for the old days when the only disruption was my mate’s mum bringing in butties and tea.

Anyway, after shuffling the board and pieces to ensure sufficient room for condensation drips from beer and wine we were ready to start. Before going into detail on the expansion, I will start by giving a really terse explanation of the basic game.

Basic Game
The game is an island composed of hexagons that represent land types. The island consists of 36 hexagon terrain tiles forming a larger hexagon. Players construct settlements at the corners of these terrain tiles. As such each settlement built inland will be adjacent to three terrain tiles while those built along the edge will be adjacent to either on one or two.

Each terrain tile has a number token on it. Each turn the active player begins by throwing two dice and the terrain tile corresponding to the number generates resources for all adjacent settlements, for example rock from the mountains terrain tile. As the number is generated by two dice the law of averages applies and as such the 6, 7 and 8 are the most common numbers generated. As seven represents the bandit and desert terrain (which generates no resources) the best places for settlements are adjacent to 6 and 8 (theoretically) while the worst are 2 and twelve.

The game consists of building roads from the initially placed settlements to new intersections and building new settlements. A player can only build settlements on his own roads (while lie along the edges of the terrain tiles) and only one road is allowed per terrain tile edge. As settlements must be two roads away, i.e. not on the adjacent point of the hexagon tile), there are tactics in where to build so as to maximise settlement growth and cut off rival players’ access to areas.

Building roads and settlements is achieved by expenditure of the resources generated by each player’s turn. As it is often the case that you do not have the resources to hand that you need, you can trade with other players or with the ‘bank’. In theory others also need resources you have so you can get better deals from them, turning to the ‘bank’ out of desperation or to deny them what they need.

Building things earns points and the game is over when somebody achieves the winning quantity.

The primary tactic is therefore the establish settlements that are adjacent to three terrain tiles with numbers closest to 7 but also having a mix of terrains so that all resources are accumulating without the need to continuously turn to trading. A secondary tactic is the build at a coastal space where trade with ‘bank’ is cheaper when trading a specific resource. This can be combined with building settlements in areas that produce gluts of the specific resource. There is also the tactic of ensuring that everybody is kept topped up with beer and wine (though this can fail when you include yourself).

The fun of the game is in cutting up your rivals and screwing them on deals – often made all the more entertaining when they have paid through the nose for a resource only to then get loads of it through normal play immediately afterwards. It’s a simple game, quick to understand and play and can be reasonably followed even after beers though eventually you are left wondering why you have just swapped all rock resources for wood and why your roads runs off into nowhere.

So, what’s new?
It’s a different game. The emphasis has shifted away from getting as many settlements down as possible to establishing fewer (at least that’s what I concluded) and safeguarding them from raiders and dirty tactics of other players through the purchase, placement and upgrade of knights. There is also the development of the cities, leading to the acquisition of development cards that can be played, more often than not against other players.

Raiders from the sea have been added. This is a ship counter that moves from its initial position along a track with an image of a burning city at the end. No prizes for what can happen when it gets there. The mechanics are straightforward though there is no benefit for being second when it comes to defending the realm. Not paying attention at the beginning meant that we all lost our starting city to raiders. It can really whip along the track and the more players, the faster is moves.

The movement of the raiders counter and the getting cards corresponding to types of city development is handled through a die with various icons on the faces. In the case of the development it is used in conjunction with one of the resource die to determine if a card is collected. It is all very straightforward.
While initially it looks a lot compared with the original game, compared with games like Android and Arkham Horror, it is not even close to approaching the basic game in either pieces or features. It is however a nice package and even if the designers envisioned this with the original design, releasing it as an upgrade undoubtedly allowed the game to be more successful due to its initial simplicity and playability.

What’s the same?
Winning the game is still about getting victory points though now there are other means of getting them such as through the use of development cards and being first to develop cities so far.

Gluts and dearth. Round four and I find myself with more wood than a man overdosing on Viagra but nothing else. Not to worry, here comes the bandit and half of it has gone. Then, when it is used, I have no wood ever again but more rock than Blackpool. Just to frustrate things further, the resources I have a glut of are also those others have in just the amounts they need, forcing trade at horrible costs ‘with the bank’. Nine bloody wheat resources it costs me just to get a knight and make him active to save my city from the rapidly approaching raiders. That a rival player uses a development card to have him desert so that the city falls anyway is just taking the Michael! I hate this game, well actually I hate that somebody did that to me before I was able to do it to somebody else.

Having not played Settlers of Catan in a couple of years and then only a couple of times, I had forgotten some of the basics, such as not placing my initial settlements directly opposite previously placed settlements on a terrain tile. This made for very limited expansion and ultimately proved my own downfall. The game was however entertaining so much so that utter failure on my part in no way made me critical of the game. That and playing spy which allowed me to take a card from another player – a card they had been goading us with for a few turns, just waiting for us to build up sufficiently for the pounce. It is moments like this when nobody knows what cards to expect that make playing a new game satisfying.

Overall
You can be as canny as you like, but there is some degree of luck – if you have nothing around tile 9 for example and this comes up more often than 6 and 8 put together early in the game, you are in for a rough ride. Sure there are now city upgrades in science that ensure that you always get a resource but generally speaking a few turns with no resources while others are stacking and building can really damage your chances of winning.



Finally I think that now that I have played the game with Knights and Cities, I doubt I would be looking to play the game without including the expansion unless it is replaced by another expansion where the two are incompatible or I was introducing a new player to the game. I would therefore argue that the expansion has diminished the original, making it seem less involved.

And as for our game – the shandy drinker won - meh!




 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Wimbles Crisis Solved ***

The Wimble Crisis of 217 has come to an end with the human Baron making way to the wimble Grandfather Paden Mastaak. Celebrations were held in Wimbledon upon the news with crack teams of Wimble security staff guarding all the pies.

It’s unclear how long the Wimbles will enjoy this new era of peace and self-determination.

Vocal Wimble Dinasha, one of Paden’s early backers, has chosen this precarious moment to bait Dewiek, Flagritz and humans who were initially disposed to be friendly to the new administration. Whilst the Wimbles' history with the former-slave-loving Flagritz could be understood, their animosity towards the Dewiek and humans was more mysterious. One insider alluded to a rise in the number of cases of foot-and-mouth across the herd as being a likely cause.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Storm in a Teacup *** Yahn Bares All * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door ***

The stargates are closed! Reports from multiple sources indicate at least three of the stargates, all within Dewiek controlled systems, have been closed.

Two different sources have indicated that the TCA have been spotted recently in a number of systems and may be behind this turn of events. A scan sent to the SSS indicated eight TCA ships were recently spotted first in the Faery system and later near the Kasmer stargate.

Another source, suspiciously put the blame on the ARC, suggesting the ARC and DEN were working together because they “need to trap [the TCA] and try and finish them off after the DEN bodged their operation to protect the ARC while they incinerated the MEK homeworld, which ended up with several ARC ships being destroyed and the job only being half done."

However, with no public statement from the Dewiek themselves, its hard to know whether these rumours are reliable.

Lord Igor of the Dominion and Erasmus Andersen of the Garcia Family both offered public apologies at the delay in meeting their trade commitments because of the recent closures. The not-so-subtle subtext being that someone will pay with blood for this interference in their business. Or at least with a stealthy price rise.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Wimble Civil Strife * Who Sniffs the Sniffers? * Largin’ It * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Videtis quantum scelus contra rem publicam vobis nuntiatum sit? ***

The Flagritz Empire is no more! The Flagritz Republic is reborn! Quick on the heel of the collapse of the Empire, the Fessin caste declared a new era of foreign and economic policy with a rapid withdrawal behind the Black Gate.

The new ecologically-friendly Prime Minister Kayxaer, asked for patience as “economic” reforms were undertaken. It remains to be seen whether there will be any price to pay for the dramatic changes being made by the reclusive Flagritzi or whether it will all be sunshine and rainbows going forward.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Large at Large * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Bravo for Freedom ***

Naplian Forces have attacked three human pirate outposts in the Morroglyph system. A spokesperson for Naplia HQ told the press that the plucky duct-tape loving free people would continue their war against slavers and pirates in their home periphery.

One salty Naplian libertarian told the SSS, “The people of the Naplian Home Periphery are sick and tired of human criminals coming here just because their homeworld is an overcrowded hell. It’s time for them to go back home.”

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Igor of Fang and Horns * Admiral Loves Dick Turpin * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

.What is It?
..a wOrmhOle?.
…No.. worse..
….the KANG singularity!…
…..It pulls us IN…..
……lOOks sO familiar……
…….yet so strange…….
……..what is……..
………that?……..

*** Flagritz Liberalise Economy ***

In good news for all the galaxy the Flagritzi have vowed to liberate all slaves across their Empire. Furthermore, the hectapods have given up eating other sentient species; taking up a strict diet of veganism and soy chai lattes. Sales of turtle neck sweaters and Forbidden Fruit laptops have skyrocketed.

The news was cautiously welcomed by the benevolent Felini Tyranny who looked forward to reducing the War phase of their daily Nap-Lick-Nap-War-Nap-Eat-Sleep cycle to a perfunctory forty winks.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Baron Womble * A Short History of the DPP * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Empire Strikes: Solo ***

A massive fleet of some 1600 warships, including large numbers of super-heavy capital 300 and 400 hullers, attacked the DEN in the Solo system, catching them with their metaphorical pants down. The DEN gate platform and some two hundred DEN freighters were subject to antimatter missiles amongst other high tech ordinance.

Jack the lad, Viceroy of the Empire, claimed a victory for freedom and the Imperial (right of) way leaving the sullen Dewiek unusually unresponsive.

With DOM platforms firing on CIA ships, will the IMP now demand the DOM add them to the Do Not Fire lists as well? And what exactly is the nature of the DOM and DEN alliance in light of the sustained attack from the Empire? And will the DEN’s alien friends stand idly by as the Empire fleet camps in the vital gate system of Solo? How will the DEN retaliate for this action or are they ready to roll over and have their bellies rubbed?

All this remains unknown. All that is certain is the “feel good” factor across the DTR has increased, with citizens reassured that for some time yet, they may continue in their slumber with the easy assurance that their number is not coming up anytime soon.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * New BHD Guy * DOM Statement * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** To Ur Is Dewiek ***

Dewiek forces had a hefty smackdown against the mysterious living ships known as the T’Cath (TCA). Seven adult TCA 400 hull capital ships, each firing eight of their notorious plasma cannons, were killed by a DEN and DOM fleet of some 700 ships.

Of the minimal losses suffered by the DEN / DOM, one-eyed Magnus and Nevets Motnhap of the FEL were amongst the dead.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Caribbean Congo Continues * Ur Witness Report * * Hive Briefing * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** The Long Quiet Season ***

Listen…
There’s no sound of anger or of annoyance,
There’re neither cruisers racing on the jump lanes
Nor there jump lanes for them to race on,
There’re neither monks chanting on the battlegrounds
Nor bells calling us to the True One.
There’s neither the lightning cracking of the sky
Nor the persistent Naplians pattering on my roof.
There’s no Dewiek arm in arm to admire the magnificent view
There’re no war drums to feed Human ears
Nor Hive sirens to steal the boredom away
There’s no unfamiliar wing creeping underneath the Falconian sun
Nor floods to enshroud the Aquaphid grounds
The land lies lonely out here
On this lazy summer’s day
There’s no pollution to poison the airs of Inversion
Nor forests to give them life
All I hear is the hushing sound of the wind
Assisting the sand to fall into beautiful undulations.

Whilst we’ve been away: * Operation Giantslayer * Naplian Liberation * Back in the DTTR * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Falconians Saved ***

The Imperials have cunningly saved the Falconian Republic from being consumed by the Dewiek Elder Nation and at no small cost to the DEN either. Whilst the new pro tem Consul crowed about the “victory”, all former FCN systems besides Acropolis have been taken over by the two warring Empires - Human and Flagritz.

Was it all worth it? For the IMP / GTT it clearly was, for the movement of a few hundred thousand troops is surely nothing to the cost they endured trying to and failing to knock the DEN out of Solo after the fact. The FCN now plucked off most of their navy and wider assets are a tiny nothing of their former self. The DEN may have resorted to some dirty namecalling but can the costs endured to save an enfeebled FCN have really been worth it? Time will tell.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * INDignation * FELicitous Caribbean * Nah Plan for Naplia * Mercs Trouble DEN * &etc

 

Free Ship when you sign-up
Complete missions for in game rewards
Control everything, up to an entire empire
Dedicated human moderators
Player and Moderator driven plotlines
Discover new worlds to explore, exploit & colonise
Over 20 years of content development
Persistent Browser-Based Game (PBBG)

I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).
-Zigic