This review was originally posted to MTV Geek
As The Settlers of Catan passes its 15th anniversary, Mayfair Games is pulling out all of the stops by showcasing its library of related titles. We've already reviewed the revised Catan 2-player card game, Rivals for Catan, and a brand new 2-4 player Catan card game, The Struggle for Catan, just hit store shelves yesterday. In-between those two releases, Mayfair also put out a revised edition of the Catan Dice Game. In this new version, they've gone so far as to add an entire second game that can be played with the Catan dice. Read on for the full review:
Just the Facts:
Playing Time: 15 minutes
Age: 7 to adult
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Release: April 21, 2011
The Catan Dice Game is broken down into two games that can be played with the Catan dice: Island One and Island Two, each represented by different sides of the scoring sheet. The goal of each game is to earn points by building the common Catan items: roads, settlements, cities, and control over knights. The dice have some familiar resources printed on them: brick, wood, ore, sheep, and wheat, as well as a new addition, gold.
Players roll (and re-reroll) the dice to get the resource symbols they want and then use them as payment to build these point-earning Catan items. Gold, as the sixth resource, is never used directly in purchases, but can always be combined with a second gold to trade in for any other resource.
In Island One, players will roll for fifteen turns, recording their score as they go. The resource cost for each item is printed at the score sheet's top as a reference, and each item's point value is printed on the map itself. The winner is the player with the highest score after all fifteen turns are completed.
To begin a turn, all six dice are rolled and the active player must decide which dice they would like to re-roll and which they would like to hold. Players are allowed up to two re-rolls, and can later re-roll dice they originally held. After completing all rolls, players a free to build one or more item of any type as long as they can afford them with their resources (which do not carry over round to round). The only stipulation is that they must build each item in increasing point order (for example, a player must complete the 3-point settlement before they can complete the 4 or 5-point settlements).
If a player does not build anything on their turn, they are given a two point penalty. This serves as a bit of deterrent for those seeking to push their luck a bit too much. One other twist are the knights, which serve as "resource jokers." Whenever a player builds a night, they are given a one-time power to change a single die to the resource pictured under that knight.
Island Two is a game much closer to The Settlers of Catan. Here, players are racing towards a 10-point goal and can build their items in any order. Settlements are worth 1 point, cities are worth two, and there are special 2-point bonuses for being the first player to reach the fourth road space (longest road) or control the third knight (largest army). Aside from this dynamic scoring, the rules of the are otherwise exactly the same as Island One's.
1 Double-sided Scoring Pad
1 Rules booklet
For a game with very few components, it's important that what is provided be of high quality. The Catan Dice Game delivers strongly in this area with some really awesome dice, a double-sided scoring pad, and a clear and concise rules booklet.
The dice have everything you want: rounded corners, cool engravings, and a multi-color paint job. The double-sided design of the scoring pad is a great way to extend your enjoyment of the game as it feels much more natural to flip the sheet over and continue playing. Silly as it may sound, having to go back to the box for a second pad and hand out new sheets might have killed the momentum during sessions of this game. The rules booklet fits the bill for a casual game as it gets players started quickly. Everything you need to play each game is printed in the space of two double-sided index cards, and there was no need to consult the rules during a game.
The Catan Dice Game is really a tale of two games. The first island is largely forgettable as it is more of a dice game than it is a Catan game. The defined 15-turn length removes most of the suspense as you watch one player pull ahead. The second game, however, was actually quite fun as it provided the perfect blend of dice game and Catan game mechanics. Playing to a point goal with multiple paths to victory really ups the engagement factor, particularly with goals such as the longest road or largest army making this a non-zero sum game.
In the end, the Catan Dice Game is an enjoyable little offering, but should only be recommended to hardcore Catan fans. For those gamers who love Catan and need more of it wherever they go, this is a no-brainer purchase at $15. Let me be clear that you are getting more game for that price than you will find anywhere else (outside of Gamewright's Forbidden Island). While the game is fun, it probably would not hold up well without the theme, so for those who not familiar with The Settlers of Catan, I would not recommend making this your introduction to the series.
Disclaimer: MTV Geek received a complimentary review sample of this game