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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 *****

Crowe Coups Self

The IMP Viceroy Tiberius Crowe has finally achieved something in his unremarkable tenure by relinquishing even the semblance of wearing big boy pants and instead, appointed Jack Jones as Patrol Commissioner, salty spokesperson and policy maker for the Empire. Crowe will now join CIA Director Laton in riding the special bus to work where the two of them will enjoy long pleasant afternoons sipping cups of tea. Actually, just tepid fruit-scented water as neither of them can be fully trusted with a hot kettle. Occasionally, they might be visited by equally dynamic war “veteran” Admiral Bridge to enjoy mimes presenting the latest comics from the Howl. Meanwhile, Jones is putting pressure on the FET and will soon no doubt find a pretext to deploy his vast mercenary forces against anyone else who is seen working too closely with his most hated of enemies, the HEX.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Highlord Aadolf Loses Control As Dewiek Break Peace Treaty

Around one hundred DEN warships have launched an attack on a small GTT destroyer squadron of forty ships in the Daggern system. Two GTT ships were destroyed and another fifteen suffered noticeable damage. CEO Xavier Fox issued a restrained but angry statement demanding the DEN explain themselves. Highlord Aadolf’s buffoon-like response amounted to “Dewiek be Dewiek, let’s drink and forget about it.” Cold comfort for the dead crew onboard the GTT ships and their families. Especially, as seems likely at this time, the Empire will settle for some bloody money instead of retribution.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

The Worm Turns

The FET have reduced relations with the IMP to neutral. Sneezy boss Cu Chulainn took the bold step of putting 1 and 1 together by linking recent mercenary attacks in their systems with the IMP scouts seen loitering for some time and refusing to move. Even bolder, hints that they believe “a certain Imperial citizen” is responsible for Edward Lowe’s entire underhand operation were voiced loudly enough that the handsome but hard of hearing Tiberius Crowe had to take note. He was seen grappling in trademark fashion with his skin tight jacket, pulling it down over his partially concealed middle-aged girth, as he sat to issue a terse public statement. Exactly who this citizen may be was left unnamed and no news channel subject to Imperial laws would dare unmask the villain. Luckily dear readers, we are not subject to phony Imperial laws. It’s Jack Jones everybody. Jack Jones, butcher of Naplians and fancier of silver long johns.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

”Necessity hath no law”

Lord Cromwell of the DOM slapped a fleet of privateers, on charges of "knavery", "bad manners" and "poor sportsmanship." Such offences carry the death sentence in the Dominion, a nebulous territory neither part of the Empire nor apart from it. At least thirteen Armadillo class ships, typically sold by the DOM, were destroyed at a location Cromwell was unwilling to disclose publicly. Bloodthirsty Dewiek as well as "prince of peace" Yahn Wodenzoon were quick to congratulate the DOM for their merciless carnage. It seems the consensus in the galaxy’s ruling class is that not presenting valid identification is a crime worthy of the murder of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of unfortunate crewmen. This is all just another indicator that the political elite are far removed from the lives of ordinary people who are seen as little more than meat inventory. It is telling so-called “man of the people and the downtrodden” Wodenzoon so readily aligns himself with this grisly concord. Meanwhile, the archaic elocutionist Cromwell further establishes the recent trend of mild exertions of power by the cold-blooded DOM.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Return of the Fox

The galaxy is still digesting news of the return of Xavier Fox to the boardroom of the GTT. The ailing corporation's share price began a sharp rally after a six month downward spiral under Ike Krieger, credited with being the worst CEO in the megacorporation's history. The only surviving board member from Fox's initial tenure as CEO, and perhaps across the entire GTT board, is Antt Tilton the Research Director. The reclusive Tilton is the brains behind the ascension of GTT technology, particularly in the field of antimatter weapons and super-heavy dreadnought size ships, Tilton offers a small measure of continuity during this tumultuous time. Mr. Fox has therefore resorted to a broad appeal for new blood to join the ailing firm. So far, the result has been a number of two-dimensional "Yes" persons being promoted to the C-suite. Still, key stakeholders were upbeat with one commenting, "Fox is the man to turn this bloody disaster around. He knows how to put a great team together and where to bury the bodies of the non-performers."


 
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Welcome to the latest version of ESNN, giving the news and views from the ESNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite unbiased publication in the known universe,

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As part of the update outlined in the 7th February post, turn fees have been increased as from today.

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Welcome to the new version of ESNN (formally CSNN), giving the news and views from the former CSNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite unbiased publication in the known universe,

And so with the news,
 

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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).
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