What’s this another review so soon? Has Unboxed finally gone weekly… well… erm… no. Basically next Wednesday marks the start of the Unboxed Awards, so I brought this review forward a week to make space. Hurray!
This is the fifth and final review in the Catan: Traders and Barbarians series. So far we’ve had:
But now we come to the titular scenario, the one with the most components and the biggest section in the rulebook and I think, my favourite too.
The barbarians have been driven off, and peace is returning. The destruction the barbarians left in their wake is being repaired as fast as possible. The castle where the Council of Catan holds session suffered particularly severe damage, but the restoration efforts are making real progress. Now, the craftsmen need to finish the stained glass windows and the new marble statues. Marble must be transported from the quarry, sand must be brought to the glassworks, glass must be delivered to the Castle, and tools are needed as well.
The roads of Catan are bustling with traffic. Of course you are involved; the Council pays for transport in solid gold. Only some scattered barbarians are getting in the way—they’re waiting. For you!
I like the way the scenario links to the one before, although there is no “campaign” method of playing. This scenario basically turns Catan into a pickup and deliver game. You must build up a network of roads to transport goods across the island. Like the previous scenario, the absence of the robber makes the scenario a little less cutthroat (more fun) than vanilla Settlers. Lets take a look at the components.
The components for this scenario include:
- 2 Sea Frame Pieces
- 3 Terrain Hexes
- 36 Commodity Tiles
- 4 Wagons
- 40 Gold Coins
- 3 Barbarians
- 20 Baggage Train Cards
- 25 Development Cards
You will also need:
- All hexes except 1 Desert, 1 Field, 1 Pasture
- No Development Cards or Longest Road Card
- No Robber
- All other components from the base game
The components for this scenario are really good. I like the new terrain hexes and they fit well with the ones from the original set. The Wagons are a little featureless but that’s the problem with wood. Again the Barbarian’s are gold which is still a bizarre colour!
I really like the way the Baggage Train works. You place your deck of 5 wagons with the first card face up and the rest in order (2-5) face down. The cost for upgrading to the next wagon is printed on the back of the top face down card, no need for additional player aids (thumbs up Mayfair).
I also like the way the Tokens work. Each stack of tokens belongs to one of the 3 new terrain hexes (Quarry, Glassmakers Workshop or Castle) On the backs of those tokens are one of two resources that must be transported to one of the other two terrain hexes. Although this is an obvious mechanic it seemed really clever to me.
Again the only fault I have with the components is the unnecessary inclusion of Sea Frame tiles. Yes, they make the map look a tiny bit prettier but I can’t help feel something better could have gone into the box instead. (I don’t know what) Perhaps a better insert designed to hold the actual components from this expansion rather than the same insert that was in the original game.
Trading (and Barbar-ering?)
This game plays exactly like Settlers but with a few additional rules.
To set up the game place the three new trade hexes so that they are equidistant from each other. Then place the rest of the tiles as normal. Again, place the number chits as normal, removing the 2 and 12 from the game entirely, rerolling any 2’s or 12’s during the game. Place the corresponding commodity tokens near the correct trade hexes. Finally add a Barbarian on one of the two inland paths that connects to each Trade Hex.
Each player begins the game with a settlement and a city (placing the city second) their wagon begins at the City and they place their number 1 wagon card face up in front of them. They also receive 5 gold.
All of the basic rules from Settlers are followed during the first part of a players turn, except:
- You may (and should) build roads on the 4 paths shown on each Trade Hex
- There is no Robber or Longest Road Card
- When a 7 is rolled all standard rules apply but in addition you must move one Barbarian to an unoccupied Road and take a resource from the owner.
- Gold is not a resource and can be traded on your turn with the bank 2:1 for the first two transactions and then 4:1 for any further transactions that turn. Gold may be traded with other players.
When you finish your turn you may move your Wagon. Each wagon has a movement value (between 4 and 7) as shown on your current Wagon Card. Depending on how you move your wagon you must spend Movement Points and/or Gold. You may spend 1 Wheat to get an additional 2 movement points but only once per turn.
- The MP cost is 2 if the path does not have a road.
- The MP cost is 1 if the path has one of your own roads.
- The MP cost is 1 if the path has another player’s road,
but you must also pay 1 gold to that player.
- The MP cost is increased by an additional +2 if there is
a barbarian on the path
As you can see, controlling the roads on the island is a huge advantage in this game and is certainly worth more victory points than can be gained through settlements or cities.
And how do you score Victory Points? Each delivered Commodity token is worth 1 VP. In addition your 5th and final Wagon upgrade is also worth 1 VP. When your wagon moves onto the intersection in the middle of a Trade Hex, you take the top Commodity Token and turn it face up. It will show a particular good that must be delivered by moving your wagon to the corresponding Trade Hex. When delivered you score a certain amount of gold (based on upgrades to your wagon) and a Victory Point. You may only have 1 Commodity token at a time.
The game is played until one player scores 13 Victory Points.
I like this scenario, a lot. It’s not Settlers in anyway really, which is good for those who have gotten a little jaded with the game. It is possible to win this scenario by concentrating solely on the delivery of goods and the construction of a good road network.
In fact victory is dependant on the construction of a good functioning network. With the fastest Wagon you can deliver one Commodity token every turn, that’s 1 VP every turn, that’s huge!
Although there is no Robber as such in the game, this scenario has plenty of player interaction. You can use the Barbarians to slow players movement early in the game (later on the Barbarians become less useful) but you can also place roads in prime locations, such as in and out of the Trade Hexes to score extra gold from players. Gold is a hugely valuable resource in the game too, if you can get enough of it you can ignore settlement development entirely. I managed to romp home to victory with only 2 cities, one of which I started the game with.
Despite the 4 pages of rules on this scenario, it’s actually pretty simple. As I said earlier the additional Wagon Upgrades are printed on the cards, the Commodity Tokens show clearly where they need to be delivered and the Wagon Cards tell you in simple terms how far to move and what rewards you get on delivering goods.
If you are looking for a scenario to really change Settlers up and make it fun again for you then I highly recommend Traders and Barbarians. In fact, I recommend this whole expansion. The Caravan is a little bit of a let down, but you do have some Golden Camel animeeples for use in some other game. 2 Player Settlers is again, ok, but nothing spectacular and because the rules are online you don’t need this expansion to use that variant. But everything else is great.
There is more in this box than any previous Catan expansion and if Mayfair is planning to do any more Catan then I’d much prefer more mini-expansions like in Traders and Barbarians than a full blown big expansion like Seafarers and Cities and Knights. Traders and Barbarians does a great job of making Settlers feel like a different game every time and for a game that has seen so much play in the last few years, it needs to feel fresh and that’s exactly what T&B does for me.
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The Unboxed Awards
Get your voting finger ready, this time next week the Unboxed Awards will go live. You, the general (and may I say, very discerning) public will get to vote on which games We (that would be my panel of discerning contributors) bought and played in 2010 are the very very best.
And until next week, have fun gaming!