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Subject: A Brief, Positive Review of The Rivals for Catan rss

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J. Chris Miller
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Utah
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Rivals of Catan is a reimplementation of the 2 player Settlers of Catan card game, designed by Klaus Teuber. It has been streamlined a bit from the original, with all new artwork by Michael Menzel that is gorgeous. It's a game that flew way under my radar until picking it up recently, and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. The game plays a bit like a CCG crossed with a board game, with the Settlers theme soundly intact. In the review I will give a comprehensive rules summary as well as my thoughts on the game as a whole.


Gameplay

Each player will have their own "principality" in which they will collect and use resources, and add units and buildings to.

Players start with 3 cards each and take turns. On their turn they will roll 2 dice, a normal D6 and a D6 with various icons. Each of your 6 regions that supply resources have a die number on them, similar to Settlers. One of the big selling points of this game is that no matter what the die roll, both players will increase their corresponding resource regions since both players start with all numbers on the die. The players will rotate the region cards so that the resource icon facing them is one more than previous. (eg. If you have 1 sheep facing you for wool, rotate it 90 degrees to show 2 facing you.)


The event die will cause different things to happen based on what icon is rolled:

Brigand Attack: Similar to Settlers, if this is rolled, players count up their resources. If they have 7 or more they must discard all their wool and gold.
Trade: If the trade icon shows up, a player with the most commerce (trade) icons in their principality may take a resource from another player, but they must have at least 3 trade icons in their principality. Various buildings will have different icons on the card.
Celebration: The player with the most skill points or harp icons in their principality gets to choose and increase a resource of their choice.
Plentiful Harvest: Both players may increase a resource of their choice by one.
Event Card: Draw an event card and follow its instructions. Events are usually one time effects that can affect one or both players.

After dice actions have resolved, the active player may play any cards in their hand. All action cards cost nothing to play, and are one time effects. Units or building cards have a cost, and are used to add to your principality. Some contain ongoing effects, while others supply victory points, the aforementioned trade points, skill points, strength points, or various other icons that improve your principality's status.

You may also build from the communal center row which includes roads, settlements, cities, and regions. Your principality starts with 8 slots for building, but if you run out you must build a road and a settlement to acquire 4 more spaces for building. Settlements are worth a victory point, and since both players start with 2 settlements in their principality, they start with 2 victory points. If you build a city, it is placed on top of a settlement and is worth 2 victory points by itself. Building a settlement gives you access to two more regions to place in your principality, thereby giving you a better chance at acquiring resources.

Players may at any time during their turn trade resources 3:1, or if they have special buildings or trade ships, they may do so at 2:1 or even in rare instances 1:1.

If at any time a player's principality has at least 3 trade icons, AND has more of those icons than his opponent, he gains the trade token, which is worth a victory point. The same conditions apply to the strength token which is also worth a victory point.

The player may then end their turn by drawing back up to 3, and if so desired discard a card from their hand and draw one more from one of the 4 draw stacks. If they pay 2 resources, they may search a draw stack and take any card they wish. This is probably the only rule I don't enjoy in the game. There are a couple buildings in the game that reduce the cost by 1, and then to 0, and so each turn you see a player raid a stack for whatever card they want, which is unfair. In my house rule, we take out those buildings, and we just say no matter what you can pay 1 resource to look at the top 3 cards, and pick one, putting the rest on the bottom of the stack.

Depending on the format you choose, there are different victory point winning conditions. For the intro game, the game ends when a player reaches 7 victory points. In the more robust versions the game ends at 12 or 13 points respectively, and in tournament rules it's 15 victory points.


Art, Theme, and Component Quality

As mentioned, this game was illustrated by one of the greats, Michael Menzel and is extremely gorgeous to look at. The buildings all look very unique, and have a classical art style to them. The Hero units come to life with their own names and unique icons and abilities that will add to your principality, and buildings perform support actions that are theme-appropriate. I admit, I'm often lured into trying a new game by the art, and in this case it was no different.

The base game comes with a core set of action, unit and building cards, in addition to 3 extra theme expansions: The Era of Gold, Era of Progress, and Era of Turmoil. Each adds a unique twist that allows players to focus on different aspects such as war or trading, and really adds a feeling of background history and ambiance to the game.

In the Age of Darkness Expansion there are archer cards that let you snipe an opponent's unit, or an arson that will let you burn an opponent's building down. However, if they have a church and the corresponding hero, that building is immune to such antics. It's this deep level of interaction that really makes Rivals shine, and provides a very rich and rewarding gameplay experience.

The components largely comprise of the cards themselves, (180 in the base game) which are of decent quality. Admittedly, they are printed on fairly thin stock, and upon buying the game you will most likely want to sleeve the cards. There are some Ultra Pro sleeves that fit the square size of the cards (69mm x 69mm), but at the writing of this review I do not know where to purchase them from. (The Ultra Pro site has them listed, but no way to add to cart) The D6s are typical fine quality, as are the Strength and Trade tokens.

There is one expansion, The Age of Darkness, which comes with an additional 3 theme decks. I recommend trying the base game first and then picking up the expansion if you enjoy it.


Final Thoughts

I am a CCG player, and enjoy good card games. The art for this game was the big selling point, and thankfully after a few playthroughs I can say that the game is fantastic. It plays like a CCG crossed with a board game, with that good 'ol Settlers resource management we all know and love (to hate) The game takes all of the good things from Settlers, tosses out the bad, and adds layer upon layer of excellent theme and gameplay.

The game is as deep as you want it to be. If you want to play the base game with no themes, it's fine, and great for teaching. But as you add more themes, the game world becomes bigger and allows for some truly epic moments.

The base game comes with 180 cards and retails at between 16 and 20 dollars, which is very underpriced for what you get. In all honesty, I would have rather them up the card stock a bit and charge 25-30. It's a minor quibble and admittedly my only one that has a fairly easy solution.

The Rivals of Catan is an immensely deep card game that offers a ton of fun and rewarding gameplay and replayability. I highly recommend this to fans of Settlers of Catan, or fans of CCG and Living card games like Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. The heroes, unique buildings, action cards, and epic events all come together to form a cohesive experience that will leave you wanting to return to Catan for more.

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Wade Nelson
United States
Golden Valley
Minnesota
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Re: A Brief, Positive Review for The Rivals of Catan
Good review, and my primary concern is the same as yours: card quality. But we've got at least a dozen plays out of our copy and the cards look fine so far. There really isn't much shuffling, so as long as you take some care with how you handle them on the table I think they'll hold up.

Another thing Rivals does well: size. The box insert isn't anything to get excited about, but you can fit the base game and the expansion into the base game's box even with the insert. Rivals is a game we always pack on trips when we think we'll have some down time and room to play.
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M. S.
Canada
Ontario
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Re: A Brief, Positive Review for The Rivals of Catan
wrote:
There are some Ultra Pro sleeves that fit the square size of the cards (69mm x 69mm), but at the writing of this review I do not know where to purchase them from.


I bought mine from CSI.

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Brian Sturk
United States
Hudson
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Re: A Brief, Positive Review for The Rivals of Catan
red black wrote:
wrote:
There are some Ultra Pro sleeves that fit the square size of the cards (69mm x 69mm), but at the writing of this review I do not know where to purchase them from.


I bought mine from CSI.



Same here, and they are very good quality and fit perfect.
 
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Drinky Drinky
United States
Carmel
Indiana
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Mr. Cat. Hold on I think I know my next move, just give me another minute....NO!!!!!!!
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Re: A Brief, Positive Review for The Rivals of Catan
The knight in the last picture sort of looks like David Spade.
 
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Jake Waltier
United States
Seattle
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krechevskoy wrote:
The knight in the last picture sort of looks like David Spade.

Many of the heroes look like someone. My favorite is the spot-on Gwynneth Paltrow look-alike.
 
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