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Reference Link: Settlers of Catan
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In the original game you collect your resources and build on your turn and the game can usually be won in a reasonable amount of time. Someone back at headquarters noticed that sometimes you don’t get the resources you want and that the resources you don’t want are too close to you. To combat this they invented Catan: Seafarers, where you now have magical gold spots that will give you any resource you desire, but you usually have to travel by ship to get there. This game was also invented because the manufacturers had a huge surplus of water hexagons.
Seafarers was a success, so back to the think tank. Weary with games comprised of a reasonable amount of variables and short time the makers decided something needed to change. And so they invented Catan: Cities and Knights. They probably were thinking "a little Catan is good, a lot of Catan is AMAZING!!!" I'm assuming three exclamation points here. Now rather than having to think about resource cards and the occasional development card, you have to think about wool, coins, books, upgrade tracks, a pirate, knights, and progress cards. Instead of collecting your cards and waiting your turn, now you have to watch as others receive special cards and upgrades while you stress about having your cities mercilessly destroyed. An added bonus is the game now takes longer to play.
I recently played a game of Catan: Cities and Knights and I was reminded why I don’t much care for the expanded versions of Settlers of Catan. This had nothing to do with the fact that 5 came up roughly 33% in a game that lasted two hours while 9 only came up four times, and I wasn’t touching a 5. I just happen to prefer the original version. No magic hexagons, no silly pirates, just an economic strategy game. I don’t care for the added variables of 3 new resources and 3 times as many development cards. I don’t like throwing away resources on knights to protect my cities from destruction. Just give me the basic board game; this is the game I am actually good at.
If I had to change one thing about the original game experience, it would be the propensity for people who are clearly going to lose just handing all their resource cards to another player so that person can win instead of you. This has happened to me and others, and I greatly disapprove of it. A person deserves to win through skill or luck (depending on the role of the dice), but not through the shady end-of-the-game trades such as “I’ll give you eleven cards for a sheep.” When people do this, it makes me not want to play with them anymore.
Depending on where I fall in terms of placing my settlements I usually try to go for a city building economy. I am less concerned with building roads and settlements than I am in upgrading my existing ones. Since I like my economy to be heavy on stone and wheat, it is usually easy to pick up a sheep along the ways and get development cards as well. When I do win, it is usually with four cities, and either the largest army or a couple of victory point cards.
I’ve used this strategy for years, and I’ve typically done well. However, a few years ago I played a few games against a guy who appeared to have no placement strategy. He would get cards and then wheel and deal his way through every turn trading this and that and everything. He ended up destroying everyone. I asked him about his strategy. He said his focus was on trading for resources he didn’t have. He was willing to pay, and even pay extra, for any resource he wasn’t able to collect or hadn’t collected in awhile. He maximized the trading aspect of the game, while I didn’t. In recent games I’ve tried to develop more of a trading aspect. I usually try to get two cards for every one I give though, that has at times made people resent me.