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Catan: Seafarers» Forums » Variants

Subject: Seafarers Variant Rule: "Spawning" rss

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Scott Aikens
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Our weekly gaming group has returned to its Catan roots lately, largely due to a popular new variant rule we've created and implemented in the Seafarers version.

That variant: Spawning.

But first, a couple of notes:

- We usually have five or six players in our Seafarers games, and we almost always create original custom maps. Half the fun of the game (to us, anyway) is the process of customizing a map.

- We award one victory point for each island on which you have a settlement (or a city).

- Our games generally contain as few as three islands, or as many as seven or eight islands; the number of victory points necessary for a win vary between 12 and 15, depending on the number of islands available in that game.

- We (usually) do not allow players to build anything until it's their turn, even in the 5-6 player games, adding some tension with a greater risk of the Robber/Pirate foiling your plans.

- We do play with the Fish option.

Now, about that Spawning...

Every player starts the game with two Settlements already on the board, per normal Catan rules. Every player also starts the game with one Spawn chip (we use the blank number chips).

Once every player has built his third Settlement (i.e., his FIRST Settlement after the initial set-up phase), the Spawning rule comes into play. To successfully spawn a new Settlement, a player must pay ONE OF EACH RESOURCE (Wheat, Wood, Sheep, Brick and Ore) and turn in his Spawn chip. (Each player can only Spawn ONCE per game, so choose wisely!)

Once a player has paid his Resource cards and his Spawn chip, he may place a new Settlement on ANY LEGAL SPOT anywhere on the board. He may even choose to place his Settlement on an island where he does not currently have a Settlement or a City, immediately gaining two victory points (one for the new Settlement, one for successfully building on a new island).

He may choose to place his new Settlement along another player's trade route, possibly "cutting" that other player's Longest Route(!).

When Spawning, a player places only a Settlement on the board; he does not also place a Road or a Ship on the board, unless he is paying for that Road or Ship with other Resource cards.

* * *

This simple variant has infused some fresh energy into our Seafarers games. Here's what we've seen:

- Some players might sometimes refrain from building their third Settlement in order to stymie other players from Spawning. It's a tough way to win a game, waiting as long as possible to build your third Settlement, but it has happened a few times.

- A player will often "cut" another player's Longest Route by Spawning in the middle of a Trade Route, thereby establishing someone else as the holder of the Longest Route card.

- When Spawning, a player has an opportunity to begin harvesting Resources they might have neglected in their original set-up. Players often take this opportunity to Spawn in the Fishing Zones around the coastlines, or thwart another player's expansion by Spawning in a crucial spot on the board.

- "When" and "where" to Spawn becomes a critical decision, tactically and strategically, and may allow players to move from "back of the pack" to "contender" in a heartbeat. This is important to note, as no player is ever truly out of contention for the win due to a bad starting position or poor Resource harvesting from adverse dice rolls. (You forgot to place your initial Settlements next to a "six" or an "eight"? Simply Spawn alongside a red number, and you're back in the hunt!)

Now that we've implemented the Spawning variant, we've never considered NOT using it. And, as I mentioned earlier, this variant has caused us to bust out the game much more often. Give it a try and let me know how it works for your gaming group.

Edited to clarify when the Spawning option may begin.
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Jacob Busby
United Kingdom
Southampton
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It will probably benefit Ore-Grain players far more than Wood-Brick/Sheep. As you can only turn in your third settlement, expansionism is disdavantaged twofold; firstly expansionists want to develop lots of settlements, but they lose their spawn opportunity when they do so, secondly an expansionist can expend a number of resources to reach a good spot (e.g. an eight or a Gold Field) just to have city builder(s) grab it first. Perhpas their ought to be a tax on using another players roads / ships
 
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Scott Aikens
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Ann Arbor
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Interesting. I've previously considered a "road tax" variant which would allow a player to build a SECOND ROAD alongside another player's existing road, paying the bank one Wood and one Brick for the road itself and paying another Wood OR Brick (builder's choice) to the player who already has a road in place in that spot.

This variant would also apply to Ship routes as well (Wood, Sheep).

My variant was designed to spur expansion for all players while rewarding the player who expands his route first along a particular line. Hadn't yet considered it in conjunction with the Spawning variant, but I'll take a look at it for future games to see if itworks in that context.
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Scott Aikens
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Jacob Busby wrote:
It will probably benefit Ore-Grain players far more than Wood-Brick/Sheep. As you can only turn in your third settlement, expansionism is disdavantaged twofold; firstly expansionists want to develop lots of settlements, but they lose their spawn opportunity when they do so, secondly an expansionist can expend a number of resources to reach a good spot (e.g. an eight or a Gold Field) just to have city builder(s) grab it first. Perhpas their ought to be a tax on using another players roads / ships


Clarification:

- No player may Spawn until EVERY player has built his first Settlement (NOT counting the two Settlements each player has on the board after initial set-up). This is the case regardless of whether or not a player has built any Cities prior to Spawning: once each player controls a THIRD location on the board with a City or Settlement, the Spawning may begin.

- Once every player has built his first Settlement, ANY player may Spawn during his own turn, regardless of how many Cities or Settlements he may have on the board at that time (UNLESS, of course, that player has no Settlement tokens available to place) and each player may Spawn only ONCE per game.

I hope that explains the Spawning variant a little more clearly; no one loses his opportunity to Spawn due to early expansion (UNLESS that player uses up all of his Settlement tokens prior to Spawning and never has any additional Settlements available to place on the board). I've edited the original post in red to help make it a little clearer.
 
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Scott Aikens
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Ann Arbor
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UPDATE: The Spawn variant is almost always in play for us these days, with a new wrinkle:

Once the prerequisites have been met to allow Spawning (i.e., everyone has built a new Settlement somewhere on the board, you have one of each resource in your hand, and it's your turn), you may ATTEMPT to Spawn. You roll a six-sided die, and on a roll of 5 or 6 you may Spawn by paying one of each resource for that privilege.

On a roll of 4 or less, you may not Spawn on that turn. You still may take your normal turn, spending your resource cards as you wish. Nothing is lost in the attempt to Spawn.

You may again attempt to Spawn later in the game, as soon as it is your turn again and you possess one of each resource card. Once again you roll the die before Spawning, hoping for a 5 or 6.

 
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Vince Lupo
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ALEXANDRIA
Virginia
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Spawning reminds me of the idea of a "traveling ship/settlement" variant that other people have suggested. The basic idea is that you create a ship that can move over the water and then create a settlement eventually. I would prefer something like that because at least I could see the settlement coming (as it wouldn't be able to warp to it's destination, it would have to move 1 segment at a time until it reaches it's destination).
 
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