Updated: Sep 18, 2019
As with a lot of people The Settlers of Catan was my gateway into the hobby and I have always retained a soft spot for everything Catan. I own most of the expansions, plus I own two different digital versions and the original card game. When Rivals came along I tried to hold out on buying it, after all I already owned the Settlers the Card Game, which, while fun, suffered from stilted mechanics, but Rivals looked so pretty and after playing it once I retired my copy of Settlers The Card Game and Rivals for Catan took it’s place. In fact when it comes to Civilization style games, this is my one of choice.
Rivals for Catan is a two player card game set on the island of Catan. In the game players are building roads, settlements and cities, along with buildings and units which enhance their settlements/cities with the aim of being the first to score 12 points. Rivals features several improvements, including streamlined rules and a faster playing time. Rivals is deeper than it’s board game counterpart but it is limited to two players, takes up a lot of playing space and takes a little longer to play.
But what does Age of Enlightenment add to the base set? Three new scenarios. Each of these has their own theme and mechanics. First up The Era of Explorers, which has the most complex set of rules for a Rivals scenario. This is the scenario that will get most people to buy the expansion because Explorers adds sailing and exploration, it’s like Seafarers for basic Settlers. Each player has an identical set of 9 sea cards and 3 ship tokens which they can use to explore the sea. Players must build buildings to develop Cannon and Sail points which allow their ships to attack bigger pirates and sail further out into the ocean. The scenario plays very well and is dripping with theme. However my favourite thing is that Mayfair president Larry Roznai has finally been immortalised in card form as Lars the Naval Hero!
Era of Sages adds a new resource to the game, Wisdom Points (Owls). Players need to place Sages, who generate wisdom whenever the region they are on would generate resources. Era of Sages focuses on using Wisdom points to generate various effects, as well as build buildings, allowing players to choose their cards or control the event deck. In addition each player has the ability to score additional points by developing the Manifesto for Humane Conduct.
Era of Prosperity adds another new resource, Public Opinion (Stars). Stars protect you from the event deck, which brutalises you with Riots and Insurrections, which destroy your buildings. Once you have Public Opinion on your side however there are various ways you can abuse it! For example, when the event Taxation comes up you can lose public opinion to generate resources and gold! You can work with mercenaries to fend off the Brigands but your subjects will be disappointed in you. However, certain buildings allow you to generate public opinion when Celebration or Trade is rolled, while others like the Travelling Theatre allow you to spend resources to generate additional stars. Overall this set has a very thematic flavour to the ebb and flow of Public Opinion.
Before I discuss my thoughts on the set, I just want to mention the translation, particularly in the Era of Prosperity set. It feels like Mayfair just let Google Translate do the job. For example one card reads “When you build the monument, your opponent must determine two of the units he placed, chose one of them and add it to your hand.” while another reads “The Prince never changes over to the opponents principality or to the cards in his hand” This does not feel like it was translated by a person, I would normally expect better from Mayfair.
That said, I think this is a great expansion. Age of Enlightenment retails for around £10 and adds a lot of cards to the game. If I had to choose between this and Age of Darkness I’d choose Enlightenment for the Explorers set which really does make for a very different feel to the game. Sailing to different islands and fighting pirates is really different to the base game, but it doesn’t really change the base mechanics. The other two scenarios are also fun, I prefer the thematic-ness of Prosperity over Sages but both offer some nice cards, but Explorers makes this expansion for me.
If you’ve always wanted to play a Civilization Building CCG style game then you really should check out Rivals for Catan. The learning curve is probably a little steeper than Settlers of Catan but it really isn’t too hard to grasp, there is a tutorial mode and there is a How to Play Video on the Catan site. As for Age of Enlightenment, I think if you already own Rivals, it wont hurt to pick this up, three new scenarios for £10 is great value and there is some cool and unique stuff in this set.