The Rivals for Catan Review

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Overview:

The story:

Colonize, explore, expand and fight for your people in the land of Catan.

What you get for your money:

You get 94 basic, 27 Era of Gold, 28 Era of Turmoil and 31 Era of Progress cards. In addition to the cards you get 1 hero token, 1 trade token, 1 production die, 1 event die and the rules.

How do you play the game:

The Rivals for Catan is a two player card game set in the world of Catan. Both players start with their own principality with six different regions in a predetermined arrangement and two settlements connected by a road. Regions are cards with a number from one to six and a resource type (gold, lumber, wool, brick, ore and grain). Settlements are needed to gain extra resources, to build expansions and they can be upgraded into a city later on. A settlement is worth one victory point, a city two. Cities and settlements can only be built if they are connected by a road.

In the middle of the table, at the start of the game, you can find a couple of card stacks. The streets, settlements, cities and regions you discover throughout the game are put there and you can find four stacks of basic cards and one stack of event cards there. Both players draw three basic cards from one stack and the game can begin.

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Players take turns and during their turn they first roll the dice. The production die tells the players which resource they get. They rotate the region with the same number as the die value ninety degrees counter-clockwise. The event die has five different symbols: a Plentiful harvest (one resource of your choice), Celebration (the most skill, one resource), Trade (trade advantage, one resource from your opponent), Brigand Arrack (more than 7 resources, lose all gold and wool) or an Event (draw an event card).

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Event cards can give you resources if you have the most of something or make you take resources from your opponent. After the two dice are taken care of, the action phase starts. You may play cards from your hand, like action cards or settlement expansions or you can buy a street, settlement or city. Expansions can be heroes, buildings or trade ships, all with different powers. When you buy a settlement you must place two random new regions next to it to expand your principality. To buy these settlement, streets and expansion, you have to pay with resources. During the action phase you can always exchange resources with an exchange rate of 3:1.

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After the action phase you check if you have more or less then three cards in you hand. When you have more, discard some, if you have less, draw some until you have three again. After that you may exchange one of you hand cards with one from the middle of the table.

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All the cards you can buy and build have a cost, an ability and some (like Gwyneth here) have one or more symbols. There are four symbols in the game. The first one one is the strength symbol; when you have the most you can get certain advantages throughout the game and when you have three or more (and the most) you get the hero token ( 1 point). Another symbol is the commerce symbol; this also gives you some advantages and when you have three or more (and most), you get the trade token (1 point). The next one: the skill symbol, this one gives you an advantage when someone rolls the ‘Celebration’ event. The last symbol: progress, expands your hand limit.

The game ends when one player has seven or more points, that player wins the The Rivals for Catan.

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This game comes with three expansions in the box. You can add the Era of Gold cards to make trade and gold more important, Era of Turmoil cards to make strength more important and increases the opportunities to harass each other or you can add the Era of Progress cards to get better buildings, but unfortunately the plague is also threatening Catan when you add this expansion.

Review:

Gameplay

The base game is really easy to play and easy to teach. This basic version actually makes me feel like Settlers of Catan the card game, you expand by building roads, build settlement along these roads and the landscapes you pass through gives you resources if you roll the right number. Yes, you still have a resource die, so luck is still a big thing here, maybe even more because you also have the luck of the draw. But I like this better. You know why? Because you can’t get cut off and at the beginning of the game you have a similar set-up with the same numbers, however these numbers are on different landscapes. Equal opportunities.

There are two other major differences. First of all, there’s no trading, which is a good thing. Trading in a two player game makes no sense, you need at least one more player for that mechanism to work. The other major difference is the way you interact with one another, here you have no robber and, like I already said, you can’t get in each others way, you have your own tableau, with you own little world. You interact with each other by drawing event cards and playing action cards. These cards might tell you that your opponent must remove a building or that you must take a resource from him when you have the most of something.¬† The base game is a very soft game, if your are a bit lucky with the dice rolls and with the cards you draw, you can always do something nice and no one really bugs you. It’s almost too soft.

The different expansion within the box change this a lot and they make the game much more exciting. The different sets focus on different aspects of the game, like I already mentioned above. There are more cards that make you interact with (take stuff from) the other player and there are more interesting card combinations (like, you must have that to build this or this prevents that from happening to you). Nothing revolutionary, it’s not that you can build an engine, but there are more ways to go, more choices, more tactical play and this all increases the replay value a lot.

This is totally reflected in the ‘Duel of Princes’. Here you use all three expansions decks and the base cards and when you play, you really can choose the path you want to take.

OK, I must not exaggerate, you can only have three cards in your hand, not twenty, but there are many potential possibilities, always the hope you draw that nice card you want.

Theme

Rivals brings this nice ancient or medieval Catan theme. The function of the cards, their abilities and the illustrations match and I like that in a game. One thing that does not make sense are the resources you need for most of the cards.

A nice flavour, a decent theme.

Looks

The illustration of the cards are very nice, very flavourful. It’s Michael Menzel and he is just a very good artist.

I’m not very impressed with the look at the end of the game, it just looks a bit messy and it doesn’t look like a whole. It’s not like its big daddy where you can see your great ’empire’ with settlements, cities and roads on the board.

Quality of the game parts

Just decent. The dice feel a bit light, the cards are OK. Yep, decent, nothing more.

Fun

I like this game. The base game is OK for your first or second play, but the expansions are the fun part. They are not really expansions, they make the game. Without it, the game’s a bit bland and with them it’s a very nice two player game. It has just the right length, the rules are simple and the various cards and possibilities make every game feel a bit different. There’s still a lot of randomness, because of the dice (and cards), but that randomness does not allow that I’m eliminated from the game (without actually being eliminated) prematurely.

If you like Settlers, go buy. If you don’t like Settlers, still go buy, the Rivals for Catan.

 

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