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Hopefully this write-up will offer a short and helpful pro/con review for those trying to make their mind up about playing or purchasing this expansion.
GAME: SETTLERS OF CATAN CARD GAME (1996)
EXPANSION: BARBARIANS AND TRADERS
PUBLISHER: MAYFAIR GAMES
- Revolutionary new cards. The Barbarians and Traders (B&T) expansion doesn't just give you more of the same. While some of the other expansion set cards have little tweaks to put a slight spin on your gameplay, B&T adds types of cards we have never seen before. For example, residence cards are freely attached to a player's respective region card to create by-product resources that offer resource and trade benefits. Foreign cards are added to your opponent's principality and can disadvantage them. Other included types of cards we have seen before, but most have interesting effects on game-play that make the B&T expansion feel unique.
- New ways for victory through Barbarian Invasion. Keeping in theme with its parent expansion, Cities & Knights, B&T has a Barbarian aspect to it. As an event, the Barbarians come in, and depending on your number of units in your principality, they will either steal your gold or in their defeat you gain triumph in the form of VPs. Additional routes to victory are always a good idea for expansions.
- Trade powers change the focus of the game. B&T (obviously) adds more resource powers to the game as new trader actions, fleets and buildings come into play. With all the extra resources floating about each player must deal with the overflow effectively. Games likes this may be brutish and short, or when your opponent plays effectively, using cards like Barbarian Stronghold, Dogma, Eryn the Druid, etc. may counter your plethora of resources and turn the tide on the war of production.
- Best artwork in the series. Not really something I would normally note, but at least in this expansion the artwork stands out. Particularly the human characters in the artwork look great. It's nice to know that Vohwinkel did not rush the artwork on these new cards.
- Card requirements bog down the game. There are two face-up cards placed at the beginning of the game (Triumphal Arch and Harbour) that fill many of the requirements needed by other expansion cards. However, quite a few other cards need particular city expansion cards, a minimum number of fleets or knights, or even the lack of certain expansion cards in your principality. While these decisions may make sense thematically, much time is spent looking through expansion decks and finding the correct card combination to make a particular new expansion card work. Spending this much time to enact a particular card means other opportunities are lost in the meantime. With repeated plays of this expansion you may get used to the particular card combinations and desired strategies, but for those players who rotate lightly through these expansions, first-time players may be discouraged to pursue some of these improvements. I will note though that with more resources available, players have more opportunity to pay for the ability to search through expansion decks instead of drawing randomly.
- Pursuing the new road to victory causes problems. The Triumphal Arch (which grants VPs to players who defeat the Barbarian horde) is a nice addition. However, in order to use it effectively a player must have an overwhelming number of units in their principality. In the end I am not sure how much worth it it is to pursue this route instead of the traditional method of building cities and city expansions with VPs attached to them.
- Intimidating. With the new powers, interaction, and building requirements, players may feel that taking the risk to use the B&T cards effectively is not worth the risk. You may find yourself pursuing the regular route of earning VPs because it feels safe and while you learn to use the B&T cards effectively, you may be looking over easier pursuits. B&T is an expansion that can work to your advantage, but perhaps only with more experience and understanding of how the cards interact.
The B&T expansion is one of the more dynamic expansions in the SoC:CG expansion set. For those players who are bored of the old ways of winning, B&T gives them an opportunity to find new ways to increase success. However, players should be ready for a deeper learning curve not normally expected from a SoC:CG expansion. Even with the intimidating new cards, the B&T expansion is one more reason to purchase the full SoC:CG expansion box. A note should also go out to designer Klaus Teuber, who called on designer friends to create new cards for this expansion. He gives them full credit in the rulebook.