Welcome to the first of the Traders and Barbarians: Scenarios posts. Over the course of the year I hope to get the opportunity to play all five scenarios included in the latest expansion to Settlers of Catan, in 2, 3 and 4 player games and when I do I’ll report back with my findings.
Working logically through the book we’ll start with the first scenario Fishermen of Catan. You can check out the rules for this scenario here (click the link or right click and “Save Target As” to download the PDF).
Like most of the scenarios in Catan expansions, Fishermen has some fluff about how fish were recently discovered to be a delicious change from Lamb and Bread. However what Fishermen is really about is adding a new resource to the game, but one that can only be used in certain ways.
I really like Fishermen, it’s a great scenario. It doesn’t feature excessive rules changes which makes it easy to implement for a change of pace. What it does do is change the non-producing hexes into resource hexes. The Desert becomes a lake which produces on a 2, 3, 11 and 12, meaning that it has a 1 in 6 chance of producing a resource, that’s like having a 7. It also adds 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 sea hexes, not only making the coast a viable place to build towards, but a good place to build one of your initial settlements.
2 fish - Move the robber off the board
3 fish - Steal a random resource card from another player.
4 fish - Take a resource of your choice from the bank.
5 fish - Build a free road (as per normal building rules).
7 fish - Draw a free development card.
As you can see fish are not as valuable as a standard resource unless you’re really lucky, but they also cannot be lost to the Robber when a 7 is rolled, nor can they be stolen (or traded) by other players.
The game is played to the usual 10 points, however amongst the fish tiles is an old boot that causes the winning player to need 11 victory points to win. This can lead to cunning players not taking the lead and gathering secret victory points (in the form of Development Cards) to avoid taking the boot.
The Fishermen scenario comes with some really nice components. I like the lake and the fish tiles and the reference cards are very helpful.
- 30 Fish Tokens (1 Old Boot)
- 1 Lake
- 6 Fishing Grounds
- 4 Reference Cards
Because this scenario doesn’t diverge too far from the feel of Vanilla Settlers as long as you like Settlers you will like this, probably a little bit more because it is fresh and the strategies involved are different. This is one of the easiest scenarios to use in other games too, such as a Seafarers or with the Harbour Master Variant. I really enjoy this scenario, it’s a nice change of pace and everything you need to know to play is printed on the reference card making it very easy to introduce to players who don’t like complex expansions. Of all the Scenarios in Traders and Barbarians this is easily the one I would recommend to anyone.
Fishermen of Catan makes a much better two player game than the official Two Player Variant (See my musing on that here). Firstly the trade tokens are replaced with fish, which instead of being an addition to the game are an integral part of it. Also in the Two Player variant you could only gain more trade tokens by disadvantaging yourself by building on the coast or the desert, which for the slight edge you gained over your opponent makes the tokens almost pointless.
The rules state that (like in the two-player variant) the losing player may use one less fish to perform an action. I would suggest not playing this rule, as Fishermen already encourages players to not go into the lead because then they will need an additional victory point, handicaping the leader further by allowing his opposition to stock up on cheap Development Cards becomes unbalancing quickly.
When my friend and I played this scenario he managed to keep his points below mine, so he could take advantage of the fewer fish deal, while leaving me with the boot. However he also had a bonus two points in the form of longest road that he could take at any time by simply placing a single road and joining up two shorter sections. He eventually won with 16 VPs, while I remained on 9 and still needed 11 because I STILL had the boot!
At the moment Fishermen is my favourite way to play Settlers of Catan two-player, but I have yet to try the others out so stay tuned for more Two Player antics.
I’m sorry to announce that this will be the last review until the new year as Unboxed will be officially on hiatus from tomorrow. However the good news is that I will be very very busy playing games in order to bring you new and exciting Reviews and Rambles. Please join me again in 2010 for more Unboxed Reviews.