Abenteuer Menschheit (The Adventure of Mankind) is the newest release by Kosmos in the Die Siedler von Catan (The Settlers of Catan) series. It is more than a historic scenario in that the boxed set comes ready to play -- independent of a Settlers base game, but more importantly, it is genuinely fun! The Kosmos Historic Scenarios have been worth playing for the interesting ways in which they manipulate the basic Settlers engine, but by and large, they're not actually good for replay value. Abenteur Menschheit is!

First, this game has been floating around the US in pretty limited quantities since Essen Spiel in October, but distributors like Funagain Games have been selling it and many of the people who want to play it, now have. If you have not yet purchased it and you're not a purist (like I am) you might want to wait until March of 2003 when Mayfair games will release the completely English version under the plainly insipid name, The Settlers of the Stone Age. Ugh!

This game has four commodities instead of five: Meat, Skins, Bone, and Flint.

You have five settlements and two nomads; there are no cities.

The game begins with each player taking turns (multiple switchback style) placing three settlements on the vertices in Africa with the black dots and then one nomad adjacent to one of their settlements. Each player also begins with one Skins and one Bones resource cards.

Settlements are not each worth a victory point in the normal sense, but every time you build one (after the initial three) you do receive one VP in the form of a circular token.

In order to build a settlement, your nomad must move to a space with a settlement token and then spend a Flint, a Skin, and a Bone to upgrade into a settlement. The nomad goes back to your stock.

Once you have five settlements, you want to keep building but you're out of wood bits. So you start removing settlements that are already on the board. This simulates your migration across the world. This is sometimes a hard decision because you may be decreasing your production, but you need to keep up the VP cash flow.

There are two "robbers" in this game, a Smiledon and a Neanderthal. The Smiledon can occupy hexes in the Americas and Australia while the Neanderthal can occupy hexes in Africa and Eurasia.

There are four technology tracks around the board that each player can climb. The green track increases the speed of your nomads from 2+0 to up to 2+5 spaces per Meat spent on movement. The pink track allows you to move either the Neanderthal or the Smiledon each time you move up. The black and white tracks represent technologies that allow you to cross certain passes on the game board; without the appropriate levels, your nomads may not pass. On each track, there is a one victory point card resting on the ultimate place. When a player reaches this fifth space on a track, he receives the VP and is the only player who can ever reach that spot. All other players are limited to the fourth space at most.

The four continental areas that you can move into are color coded (based presumably on the skin tone of the inhabitants): white for Europe, yellow for Asia, brown for Australia, and pink for the Americas.

There are a bunch of (18?) square counters that begin the game face down along the edges of the continents. These are coded by roman numerals so that those intended for Europe go where they belong, etc. These tokens always fall into one of three categories: move a "robber," take a victory point, or place a desert. Moving the Smiledon and the Neanderthal work just like moving the robber in Settlers -- it interdicts production from the hex on which it rests, and you take a resource at random from one of the surrounding players. Each continent has one of these counters that is a victory point. It is simply a circle of the color associated with that land and you are to take the equivalent one-VP card that is provided with the same symbol. As the game progresses, desert in Africa emerges. Each time a terrain type token is revealed, one of the hexes of that type back in Africa is covered with one of the included desert hexes, eliminating production for that space. This works out to be strong incentive to move out into the wider world.

There are two extra victory point cards in this game and each are worth two VPs. One is given to the player who first collects three of the square tokens and then stays with whoever has the most of those, much like the largest army card in The Settlers of Catan game. The other is awarded to the first player to build a settlement on each of the four continental regions (i.e. collect a settlement VP token of each of the four colors).

The winner of the game is the first person to accumulate ten victory points. In my experience, a typical winning assortment of points looks like: six settlement tokens, one of the two-VP cards and two of the one-VP cards.