The Settlers of Catan Card Game Expansions offers five different ways to expand and modify the base gameplay of the Settlers of Catan Card Game.
Playing Time: 1-2 hours
Complexity: 5 (of 10)
This game was originally published in Germany as five different sets of cards.
To fully understand this review, you should read my review of The Settlers of Catan Card Game (or have played the original game).
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This Expansions set comes with:
- 165 New Cards
- 15 Blank Cards
- 1 Rulebook
The new cards are printed exactly like the regular Catan cards. Square, reasonable thickness, rounded corners. Most are "expansion" cards, but there are a few "event" cards and a few new "development" cards. As noted already, there are actually five different themes in this box: trade & change; politics & intrigue; knights & merchants; science & progress; and wizards & dragons. Each one has its own unique icon which appears toward the bottom left of the card. They're color coded, which makes it slightly easier to pull out these cards. However, Mayfair really missed a bet by not reprinting the icons on the backs of the expansion cards from this set (which go in their own separate piles anyway), and thus it can be a pain to sort things at the end.
Unfortunately the designers of this supplement randomly decided to change the icons on the cards for all the resources and the victory point flags. The new ones are computer generated, and also look quite a bit different from the originals, sometimes to the point of unrecognizability. However, I'd call this a bad decision just based on the fact that the Expansions cards don't match the originals as a result.
The 15 blank cards are a very nice add. They allow players to make up their own cards from the many different card types found in the game.
The rulebook is 32 pages, black and white, with four-color cardstock covers.There are a few new rules: on how to mix in these themed expansion cards, and how to play the fairly unique wizards & dragons theme. There's also a set of tournament rules which describes how to play the Settlers of Catan Card Game as a pseudo-CCG game where you build your own decks. I didn't try it out, but really can't imagine it works that well because the mechanics of the game require you to mix some of your joint cards together (the events), thus resulting in a nightmare when each player tries to recover his own cards. In any case, not a big deal, and not the heart of this expansion. The majority of the rulebook is taken up by what is the heart of the game: there are descriptions of the 165 new cards.
The tray that's used in the box is clearly a standard issue that doesn't quite fit these cards right. About half of the cards neatly slot in while the other half slide about. The fact that the cards only take up about a third of the box, also make it really clear that this is a card game being sold in a more expensive board game box, with no real value adds.
The cards are nice enough, though again there's a fair amount of computer graphics that I'm not too found of. The absence of anything else in the box is a real lack, however. As a result I'd rate The Settlers of Catan Card Game Expansions' style as purely average: "3" out of "5".
The Game Play
The main new rule in this supplement is how to mix in a set of new cards. You begin by picking one of the 5 themes to use for a game. You then consult page 2 of the rules which tells you a couple of cards to remove from the original deck and/or the expansion, to lay out next to the development cards. You then search through all the cards in your desired theme for any events, and mix those into the event deck. You then shuffle the rest of the new cards for your theme, and lay them out in 2 theme expansion decks, next to your normal 4 expansion decks (reduced from the original 5).
If this sounds like a pain, it is, especially if you've had the back luck to have your themes mixed together. You'll probably only do that once.
Play continues as normal from that point, except now each turn you decide to draw from the 4 "normal" expansion decks or the 2 "theme" expansion decks. Unfortunately the themes really aren't well defined enough to make drawing from those "theme" expansion decks really notably different from drawing from the normal expansion decks ... except in the case of wizards & dragons.
The only other notable new rule is that some cards now list "Requires:". You must have the first card before you can play the second.
Oh, and you play to 13 victory points now, instead of 12.
There are also more cards in these expansions that make use of "gold" as a resource in and of itself, something that was notably missing in the original game.
Here's a quick rundown of what all the themes offer to the game:
Trade and Change: This theme centers around fleets and other trading-themed background in the game. A number of cards increase the usefulness of fleets--both your own and your opponent's. There are also cards that manipulate the way resources work in the game. Some special buildings store resources, others allow the exhange or movement of resources, etc.
Politics and Intrigue: This theme introduces powerful people and organizations into the background of Catan; it also offers a number of cards related to the church. From the gameplay perspective, a significant number of cards in this theme allow for the manipulation of cards. There are ways to draw extra expansion cards, draw from the discard pile, swap cards, block expansion cards from being drawn, etc. Some cards also make religious cards more powerful.
Knights and Merchants: As you'd expect from the title, this theme introduces more cards into the game centering around knights and merchants; we also see various bad guys, such as brigands, raiders, and pirates. From a gameplay perspective, there are many cards that affect knights and also many that have weird effects when the Year of Plenty is rolled. This is the most loosely defined of all the themes.
Science and Progress: This theme is about universities, inventions, and city improvements. From a gameplay perspective, there are a number of "protection" cards which save you from various yellow-card actions. There are also a higher than normal number of knights (some of which are actually cannons). Finally, there are a couple of cards which directly affect region cards, allowing you to select regious, exchange regions, or receive resources from regions.
Wizards and Dragons: This theme is clearly about fantasy, and it's the only one which actually changes the basic precepts of the game. You have a number of new card types: citadels, wizards, and magic books.
Citadels are a new development card. They cost two gold, two ore, and one wheat to build, and must be built on top of a settlement, instead of building a city. They're worth 1 VP if there's no wizard present, and 2 VP if a wizard is there.
Wizards are expansion cards that are placed above or below a specific region, clearly denoted on the card. There are 6 wizards total, 1 per basic region type and 1 "wild" wizard. Wizards act sort of like region cards, in that they can gain the "magic" resource. The four sides of the wizard are labelled 0, 1, 2, and 3; each wizard starts at 2 when he comes into play. You can instantly convert the resources of the adjoining region into magic for the wizard during your turn. The magic resource is then used for books and other cards.
Magic Books are special cards which can only be played in the expansion slots for Citadels (just as red cards can only be played in Cities). Each one has a special "spell" effect which may be activated by a wizard spending a specified amount of magic points. Each spell may only be cast once per turn.
The rest of the cards in this theme are related to these already noted new rules. There are a number of new actions which require magic energy to play. There are also a number of other purple Citadel-only expansions, including some dragons, who are like knights, but can't fight in tournaments; these typically cost some magic energy to play too.
The Game Design
Overall, there isn't a lot to say about the design of this expansion, because it's mostly just new cards. Making gold more useful, especially in wizards & dragons, adds a nice balance to the game. The rest of the themes seem just slightly thin if they're trying to really convey new background & theme for the game.
However, I have little question that this expansion will do quite a bit to incease the replayability of The Settlers of Catan Card Game. In particular the wizards & dragons theme feels almost like a different game.
On the flipside the methods for introducing these cards to the game are clunky, and require much more sorting than I would have like.
I'd give the Expansions "3" out of "5" for Substance, the same average rating I gave to the original game.
If you liked the original Settlers of Catan Card Game, and play it regularly, this supplement will do a lot to increase its replayability. The idea of doing so by introducing new "themes" to the background is a very nice one, though only used to its fullest extent in the wizards & dragons theme.