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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!




 
News
Is open for business...
 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Stellar Empire Re-United ***

Celebrations were held across the vast territories of the Stellar Empire as the two-halves represented by the governments of the Imperials and Caliphate determined to unite. This followed almost inevitably from the assassination of the Caliph, a crime that has gone mysteriously unresolved. The old Caliphate ministers were ‘retired’ and at first it seemed the Imperials had managed what had alluded them for decades.

However, just as orders to claim systems for the IMP went in some places, conflicting orders to claim for the CIA came from Laton. In other systems, it seems overwhelming civilian support lies with the defunct CAL government and there are a number of CIV and CAL bases that seem to have not heeded the CIA nor IMP orders. With all the Caliphate's armaments now in the CIA’s hand and no political leadership in the old government, it seems inevitable that the civilians will be dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

A muted and cautious response from the rest of the galaxy was only to be expected given the formation of a new unrivalled superpower. The chilling effect on public discourse as the Imperial war machine taps into the substantial, if stunted, economies of the former Caliphate will surely be felt for years to come. Does this mark the 'end of history' as we know it?

More on this story inside this issue of the SSS along with: * KAS v IMP/GTT v FLZ * DEN v MRC * FOCed by IMP * BHD v DEN * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Imperials Declare War Against Flagritz ***

A declaration of war came last week after an unsatisfactory reply to Imperial ultimatums that the FLZ accept resolution of the previous war. J. Jones issued the following proclamation, "We hope this reminder will prompt them to rethink the status they removed them selves from and come back to more peaceful co-existence.” Doublegood, Viceroy, doublegood!

More on this story inside this issue of the SSS along with: * Species Guide * FEL Barter With GIants * High Times &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Orion Spur Special Edition ***

Explorers of the galaxy rejoiced as knowledge of a new periphery became common knowledge, revealing charts to forty star systems. The Orion Spur is connected to the massive Coreward Arm with rumours that the locals of the Monument system at the heart of this new periphery may have been responsible for the collapse of the HarCorp civilisation.

We have in-depth analysis and information about the new periphery inside this special issue of the SSS.

Also inside this issue of the SSS: * Naplian Liberation Front Reality Show * FLZ v FEL * Mercs in Graydown * DOM Scare Stories * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Hoedown in Graydown ***

Wimbles in the Graydown system have come under repeated attacks by mercenaries. The Wimbles having already lost two outposts have had their ships come under attack by boarders. The Wimbles are pointing a hairy finger at the GTT whilst the DEN are itching to get their paws in.

Pleasantly rotund Wolf Lord Lyceum reported the destruction of one mercenary ship, a Corsair class explorer called "Eye of the Chosen" which had earlier dropped off ground forces flying the banner of "God Hates Wimbles.” Which God and why he or she hates Wimbles has yet to be revealed. We suspect its corporation-loving Mammon.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Sargasso Update * Wakerians * Naplian Liberation Front * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Breaking News: Caliph Samuel Assassinated ***

The nominal head of the Caliphate, Samuel has been murdered in broad daylight at the starbase CAL Sidon in the Fortress system. The allegedly mad zealot was on his way to meet representatives of various civilian factions when a shadowy figure *cough*CIA agent*cough* shot him dead.

The CIA issued the following statement to the SSS with a customary nudge and a wink: "In these difficult times, as we come to terms with the loss of Samuel, we are taking things one day at a time.

"Samuel was not only our Caliph, but our leader during the Second Civil War which laid the foundations for the Confederacy after he left the Human Empire and settled in the Darkfold. It is truly a sad day and one that will be marked in history as one of many great leaders who were cut down in their prime.

"We will strive now to look to the future, whilst remembering our past”

Speculation is rife that this is the first step towards a unification of the two-halves of the Stellar Empire. Others are more hopeful this is a return to the Confederacy or the mark of greater separation with the Imperial bloc. Time will tell what nebulous motives the shadowy puppet-master Laton turned out to have had and which alien faction will be blamed for the Caliph’s murder.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * HEX / FET Invade Sargasso * Magnus v Nevets Fight! * Dewiek Black Hole Disaster * FLZ Correction * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** STOP PRESS: Felini Victory ***

In an unexpected development, the FEL have scored a decisive victory against the FLZ. Destroying or maiming some 20 Flagritz Baseships in the Onwards system.

What is more remarkable than the victory was there was no subsequent comment by Crazy Uncle Flagritz. We might need to have a lie down now.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * DEN and FEL * Valhalla Fighting Pits * RIP smacked * &etc


 
***** Christmas Special Edition *****

*** Ho Ho Ho ***

Welcome to the SSS Christmas Special Edition! We the Editors have put together a nostalgic pudding treat intended to delight and tickle even the scroogiest megacorp executive. So gather your cubs, squidlets and larvae for some silliness and song. Time to catch up with some classics from years gone by, raise your glasses and drink your gluttony and shame away!

Wishing you all a merry Christmas free from Krampus Jones's invading armies!

The Editors


 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Claws Out in Valhalla ***

In a bold rebuke of Crazy Uncle Flagritz’s attacks in the Avalon system, the cunning Felini Nevets ordered a hit on a FLZ outpost in the Valhalla system. Claiming miscommunication with his warships, the mischevious Avatar cocked a snook at the washed-out Dewiek warrior in charge of the system whilst claiming an important victory in the often one-sided conflict against the FLZ.

This isn’t the first time the foxy Feline has masked daring-do in the shroud of incompetence. It remains to be seen whether this turns out as disastrously as the time when the FEL had to pay the costs of a war started by Prince-turned-meklan LiQuan.

Meower-in-chief Chamiah apologised for the incident in a public address laced with snickering subtext and unconcealed laughter when she got to the bit about the unfortunate loss of “5 FLZ Warships in Onwards.”

A second incident in Valhalla was reported the next day with mardy Magnus complaining he wasn’t getting his claws in on the action. Could this be the pithy ploy that puts the cat on the mat?

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Merc-y Wimbles * Valhalla Fighting Pits Get Weird * Profile of Lyceum Amaguk * &etc


 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Nun on the Run ***

Alleged cosplayer Carmilla D’Morenta got the vicars in the Brotherhood all hot and bothered when she made a run for it. Possibly tired of being tied up by the reverends and denied the love that dare not howl its name. With a sizeable, almost unbelievable, bounty on her head, the barking sister took refuge with the Dewiek Elder Nation.

In possibly the shortest chase in history, the BHD managed to strike a blow for oppressed collars everywhere when they squared off with the naughty doggy-wannabe at the Valhalla stargate. The cheeky chaplains blew their hyperdrive at close range and both the BHD and DEN flagged ships were reported to be lost in space.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * DEN Ban BHD * Ulian * FLZ in Avalon * Valhalla Fighting Pits * Interview with Carmilla * And more


 

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