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Catan Histories: Struggle for Rome» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Kampf um Rom - first game rss

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Richard Dewsbery
United Kingdom
Sutton Coldfield
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We played a 4-player game of this new Settlers-based game last night.

First comment is that the game went long - very long. Like in the region of 2.5 to 3 hours. In part that was down to a longish rules explaination - now that at least one of us knows the game, it could be explained to people familiar with Settlers in 5-10 mins. In part it was down to frequent checks of the rules to understand development cards (which sometimes needed to be checked two or three times - once when the card was drawn, once when the card was played, and occasionally in between, as players forgot what it was they had). This would be assisted by a clear player aid card that summarises the special cards (and the current English translation of the player aid card in the box is missing a couple of rules as well).

Secondly although the game has the familiar Settlers mechanic of resource cards, building items, and collecting VPs, the actual gameplay feels quite different. For a start, players' tribes (read "settlements") are mobile for much of the game - doon't like the numbers you're on, simply move! Secondly, despite the fact that there are the same number of resources (4 different cards - ore, wheat, cows and horses - plus gold), and all of them are valuable at various points in the game, we found that there was less trading between players than the base game - much less.

The game has two distinct "phases" - early on, tribes are mobile, looting Roman settlements printed on the board for gold, resources and the right to sonquer. Once sufficient cities have been looted by a tribe, they can switch from being mobile to instead conquering (and occupying) Roman settlements, slowly spreading out across the board. In the early phase, resources which add to your tribes' strength are moost valuable (particularly ore and horses); later, after tribes have become "civilized" and stop looting, gold becomes incredibly scarce. In this second phase, instead of having two mobile resource gatherers which can be sent to the tiles with the most favourable numbers and resource types, players may own half a dozen or so static sites, which produce many more resources (but at a time in the game when resource cards become less valuable).

As a result, although it shares the Settlers mechanics, I didn't feel that we were playing a variant of Settlers. It's an interesting game, but the shift away from familiar ground is going to take a game or two to get used to. There appear to be a number of dfferent viable approaches, and the mobility of the tribes in the first half of the game ought to lead to fewer complaints about being hemmed in than with vanilla Settlers. Players can still find themselves surrounded in the second half of the game, but there is plenty of space on the map, and resources seemed to us to be less important by this stage of the game (most tribes having increased in size and strength during the first half of the game). Rolling the right numbers is still important, but overall it seemed less unfair than Settlers, in part due to the freedom everyone had when moving about, and in part due to a mechanism that requires four *different* numbers to be rolled at the start of every turn.

I look forward to playing it again, but it might have to wait its turn behind some other, excellent Essen releases.

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