Developed by: Klaus Teuber
Published by: Mayfair
Price: $20
Playing time: 90 minutes

Settlers of Catan Card Game is a 2 player, card + dice only game that borrows a handful of concepts from The Settlers of Catan, a few from the Cities and Knights expansion, and adds in a few of its own twists. Just as the board game, players roll dice to gather resources, trade, build settlements, roads, and cities, and gather armies for victory points. Unlike the board game, each player plays on their own version of Catan and its resources and each player uses various action (some one-time use, some persistent) cards to influence what their Catan is going to look like. The game is at the same time simpler and more complex than the board game, as there is less diplomacy and bargaining with other players, but more varied things can happen each turn due to the cards to make things interesting.

Setup

Each player receives their starting Catan cards. These consist of the central road (with useful gameplay reference hints), two settlements and six resources adjoining the settlements - these are laid out in front of each player as follows. These cards are the same, but the resources are drawn blindly from the setup deck so the resource layout will differ each game.

Note that each resource card (RR) is also resource storage - each side of it represents 0, 1, 2 or 3 of the resource. As you gain or use up the resource, rotate the card so that the appropriate number faces you. You do not hold resource cards in your hand, so the amount of resources each player owns is visible to both sides at all times as part of the "game board".

+---------+           +---------+           +---------+
|   3     |           |   3     |           |   3     |
|2  RR    |           |2  RR    |           |2  RR    |
|   RR    |           |   RR    |           |   RR    |
|   1     |           |   1     |           |   1     |
+---------+           +---------+           +---------+
           +---------++---------++---------+
           |         ||         ||         |
           |    SS   ||   RD    ||   SS    |
           |    SS   ||   RD    ||   SS    |
           |         ||         ||         |
           +---------++---------++---------+
+---------+           +---------+           +---------+
|   3     |           |   3     |           |   3     |
|2  RR    |           |2  RR    |           |2  RR    |
|   RR    |           |   RR    |           |   RR    |
|   1     |           |   1     |           |   1     |
+---------+           +---------+           +---------+

3 resources on top, settlement-road-settlement in the middle, 3 resources on the bottom. Each resource has a die on it - when you roll the number you receive the resource. As you expand, you'll build roads out of the settlements to either the left or right, and then build settlements at the terminating point of a road, as in Catan. When placing down a settlement you draw two random resources from the resource deck and add them to adjoin the new settlement. That's right, the card game actually requires more space (at least to each side) than the board game to play!

Once each player has set up their starting Catan, it's time to prepare the rest of the cards. There are going to be 10 more stacks - split the action cards as evenly as you can eyeball into 5 stacks and put them down; 1 stack for event cards; 1 stack for city, settlement and road each; a final stack for resource cards. All of these except the build cards should be shuffled.

Finally, rotate each resource card so that the side with 1 resource is facing you - each player starts the game with 1 of each resource (wood, brick, ore, sheep, wheat and gold). Draw 3 action cards from any stack; you can always draw to have 3 cards (unless modified), and play as many per turn as you have resources for.

Gameplay

Each turn starts out by rolling the dice. The event dice will roll an event - this happens first - and the resource die will grant each player the appropriate resource, as long as that resource card isn't already storing three resources. Since each card can only depict up to three resources, that is the maximum - it is also the ratio for trading with the bank.

After the event is processed and resource(s) are granted, the player whose turn it is may trade, build or deploy cards. This is the real meat of the game, as these act more like a CCG type cards, with one-time effects, city and settlement modifying effects, or world-affecting effects. Anyone even vaguely familiar with any CCG will recognize these mechanics instantly, but even those who won't should find the effect descriptions on them straightforward. Action cards are played once and are discarded back into the deck, but most cards stay on the board in the gaps between resources - each settlement can have 2 cards total, and each city 4 cards total. These cards range from knights, to resource-boosts, to bandit repellant, to pure points or gameplay modifiers - for example, the Abbey lets you hold an additional card in your hand for a total of 4.

Play continues until a player has reached 12 victory points (VPs). As in Catan, you get 1 VP for a settlement and 2 for a city. You also get 1 for the largest army - but only 1 knight is required to take control of the VP, not 3 knights. You also get a VP for having the most windmills, which are icons shown on certain cards - these usually have no other use except to increase your windmill total.

The turn ends with the player drawing to three cards in hand (unless modified by an Abbey).

Closing Thoughts

That's pretty much it. The balance of the game lies in the fact that you expand in several different ways - you have to build roads to get settlements and more resources, and you must upgrade settlements into cities to increase your pool of city structures. Since cities do not grant double resources as in the board game, will you slot in a resource-doubling building, or perhaps a 2:1 trade port? Will you protect a resource by hiding it from the robber in a granary, or deploy a knight to improve your chances in a tournament?

Considering that there only 2 players there is a pleasantly dynamic feel to the game, and not having to keep track of any additional tokens, notes or scores is a bonus as well. While requiring a goodly amount of table space to actually play, the game is easily portable, consisting of only 2 sets of cards and 2 dice.

There is also a 205 card expansion set which consists of 6 themed decks of expansion cards (wizards and magic or technology and seafaring, for example) any of which can be thrown into the base set. That will have to be another node however, as I have not played it.

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