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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Traders and Barbarians: Scenarios - Fishermen

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).

Concept

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.

Gameplay

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.

imageWhenever a fishing ground hex would produce a resource you take a random fish tile, each tile has 1, 2, or 3 fish on it. Fish may be spent in the following ways:

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.

Unboxed

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

Fun?

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.

Two Player

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.

Christmas

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.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Corruption has Begun…

I was very excited on Thursday when I got home from a stupid day at work to find a package waiting for me from Games Lore. However, after I ripped open the C5 envelope and pocketed the tiny package inside and dashed up to my room to open it and figured out the rather difficult locking mechanism on the pack and tore the plastic wrapping off the cards… I was a little disappointed…

Why I hear you cry…

Well…

I think I got too excited…

The only other CCG I’ve played is Star Wars TCG and I used to buy boxes of 36 packs of 11 cards for around £15-25, that’s 396 cards… Here I was, £8.36 later, holding just forty cards.

1 Dwarf unit, 1 Orc unit, 1 Empire unit and 1 Chaos unit and a tactic or attachment for each as well. Admittedly in real Warhammer adding a new unit can be a big deal, but it just felt like nothing when in card form.

The set contained no less than 3 different Dark Elf cards (7 in total), that’s not even a playable faction (and probably wont be for six months!) Same goes for the High Elves.

So that leaves six neutral units, 3 of which were the promised Skaven units, one Witch Hunter Hero and 2 support cards.

All in all, it felt flat and yes, I know I could have read the spoiler thread but that wouldn’t have stopped me buying the pack the day it was released in the UK and my feelings about this pack wont stop me ordered the next expansion either… The truth is I built this pack up in my mind to be the “core set mk II” when really I should have been looking at the pack as part of the six month cycle. Also, finally holding proof in my hands that “the other armies” will never be anything more than neutrals was disheartening, despite knowing about it, only seeing is believing…

I haven’t yet had chance to play with any of these shiny new units (in fact I haven’t even had chance to play Empire or Chaos from the core set yet) so maybe once I see what they add to the game I will feel better. I did think the cards felt a touch flimsy compared to the core set, but when I broke out the core set to check they felt almost identical… clearly I’ve been spoiled with my super deluxe, super thick Runebound cards of late…

Any way, that was enough of a moan… Some people drink, some people smoke, I, however, am addicted to German and American cardboard, British lead and laser discs from across the pond!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Munchkin

I got a couple of exciting emails today, letting me know that both Warhammer Invasion: Skavenblight Threat and Pandemic have both been dispatched! Very exciting.

But that is not what we are going to talk about today… Today is Steve Jackson’s turn to get the Unboxed treatment.

It is said that 70% of the profits made by SJG come from the sales of Munchkin related products and of all the games I’ve review thus far it is the only one you can buy in a non-specialist game shop, which I guess makes it the most “mainstream” game in my collection.

It is easy to see why Munchkin is sooooo popular but it is also easy to see why some people detest it. Lets take a look at the concept…

It’s a Role-Com-Card Game

Munchkin takes the most popular Role Playing Game ever (Dungeons and Dragons) and ridicules its many foibles and it does so with four pages of rules, instead of over a hundred 300 page rulebooks and just two decks of cards, a Door Deck and Treasure Deck.

In Munchkin you start play as a level 1 Human, as play progresses you can add or remove race cards and class cards in the pursuit of what matters most to a Munchkin, Power and Gold!

Like in a Role Playing Game you go up levels by killing monsters. You gain treasures by killing monsters too and those in turn help you defeat harder monsters. When you reach level 10 you win. It’s that simple.

Mechanics

Munchkin is basically a card game about numbers. You are represented by a number, your level. You have cards that give you bonuses to your number. If your number is higher than the number the monster has you win.

Boring as that sounds, that is the core of Munchkin. What makes the game more interesting (or possible more detestable for some players) is the fact that other players can chip in on your turn, making the monster more beefy, adding a new monster to the mix, cursing you, backstabbing you or helping you out in exchange for all the monster’s treasure.

On your turn you kick down a door, if it is a monster you fight it and either take treasure or face the consequences of loosing. If it is anything else you either resolve it, in the case of a curse, or put it in your hand. If you didn’t fight a monster you may either “look for trouble” or “search the room”.

If you look for trouble you play a monster from your hand and fight it. If you search the room you take a card from the Door deck face down and place it in your hand. If at the end of your turn you have more than 5 cards in your hand you must give the excess to the losing player.

Play proceeds in this way until one player reaches level 10.

I Hate Maths!

If the above statement is true, you probably wont like this game. You will constantly have to add numbers up or take them away as new items and abilities come into effect throughout the game.

I Hate Dungeons and Dragons…

Although a common statement, it is one that is generally made by the uninitiated, who have watched a few too many derogatory episodes of the Simpsons. Whatever the case, even if you are not an avid Role-Player, Munchkin is still a fun game and a hell of a lot lighter than D&D. However to really get a lot out of the game you probably need to have played it’s older, more serious brother and to get all the jokes in their entirety you probably should have been playing D&D since the first paper pamphlets were printed way back when.

It’s Only a Bit of Fun

Serious Role-players who cannot take a joke will spoil this game for you. As will players who don’t like spiteful or vengeful tactics. Players who suffer from analysis paralysis or who treat every game like it is Chess will ruin this for you too. What I am trying to say is… While anyone CAN play this game, that doesn't necessarily mean they should. However, Munchkin is best with a larger group, but beware some people who “love” Munchkin, don’t necessarily make good people to play with, if you know what I mean.

Unboxed

So what do you get for £19.49 (or £18.59 if you buy the Christmas special edition)?

  • 1 x 6 Sided Die
  • 1 x Rulebook
  • 168 Cards

Yes there really is that little in the box. SJG don’t even include a level counter (some 10 sided dice, or tokens or anything). The cards are good quality and the art work is great, but nearly £20? Really? Good news is you can pick it up on ebay cheaper but I shouldn’t really encourage that… Also, once you buy two expansions the game no longer fits in the box so be prepared to find extra storage.

Expansions

Munchkin is expanded with 6 additional decks of cards, although Demented Dungeons is a different type of expansion and More Good Cards really only duplicates some of the cards that get diluted by the addition of expansions, such as wandering monsters and wish rings.I would definitely recommend getting at least a few of the expansions… *cough ebay cough*

However all Munchkin games have the same mechanic which means they can all be combined. I have no intention of buying any of the other Munchkin lines to do this but the option is there if you want space aliens or pirates roaming the halls of your dungeon.

Waste of Money or Game of the Century?

Neither, especially if you pick it up cheaply enough. Yes there are quite a few people who either wont like the game or will make it dull and tedious for everyone involved, BUT… and this is the most important point of all… BUT if you find that perfect mix of friends, this game is electric. It’s fast, it’s furious, its fun, it’s funny, I’m running out of words beginning with F. Play it as a family game or play it on a break between D&D sessions and just enjoy it for what it is… Maths with a dungeon crawl theme.

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