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Die Siedler von Catan: Das Buch zum Spielen» Forums » Reviews

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Joshua Noe
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Objective: Depends on the scenario you play.

Materials: Despite the title, the set is actually more than a book. It comes with a nice hard cover over-sized book of over 100 pages in high-gloss full color. In this book are dozens of scenarios (including various historical periods, railroad variant, horror, fantasy, Bermuda triangles, pirates...you name it), as well as tips & tricks, a history of the game, and some "game reports". The down-side of the book is this: It is in German! Fortunately, there is an English translation, but it is NOT word-for-word, and it only translates the scenarios with their specific tips and tricks. Believe me when I say this is 90% of the book, so you are not missing out if you are interested in trying dozens on new variants. If, however, you want to read the history of the game, gaming sessions, and overall strategy tips for the, you will be missing out unless you can speak/read German.
It also comes with a materials box. This is where the set is worth every penny. You've read lots of homemade scenarios on-line, I'm sure. Well, Mayfair took the creme de la creme and actually printed out the extra pieces, tiles, and cards on the same quality material the standard set comes with. It comes with OVER 12 ZIPLOCK BAGS with of pieces. It took me 1 full hour to punch them out of perforated cards. They are well-made and match perfectly (size and all) with the original set.

Mechanics: Since there is dozens of scenarios, I can't get into the details of each or this would be a novel. I will say I've tried half-dozen scenarios and all but one were outstanding (the railroad variant was awful). For example, there is a Bermuda Triangle variant (req. Seafarers) where you roll number for sea hexes as well as land hexes, and your shipping lanes get sunk/disappear, but you can build very expensive bridges for more stability. There's an El Dorado scenario (req Seafarers) where you are on 4 islands surrounding El Dorado full of gold and VPs; but beware the players can hire the "privateer" to come and sink and pillage your ships. There an Atoll scenario (req Seafarers) (an Atoll is an island within an island...looks like a target sign) that the pirate roams the atoll water. One thing you will notice is Das Buch really needs the Seafarers expansion for many of the scenarios, which may put some people off. The rules for many of these scenarios are obviously play tested over and over again. We've played each one a few times and they play different and balanced each time. The rules are easy to understand in the English translation book, but the English translation does not have pictures. Thus, one problem (and it is a very small one) is the English booklet will say "See Das Buch for pieces and set-up". Although it's fairly easy to rely on the pictures, there are a few times where you have to look at a chart (includes pictures) and "figure out" a bit of German-English translation to determine which pieces are needed. As I've stated, this is such a small problem because everything has pictures, but again, it'd be great if EVERYTHING is in the English booklet.

Does it work with few (i.e.2-3) players versus many (i.e. 4-6) players? Well, yeah! Many of you know Settlers and its expansions only work with 3-4 players. But there are 5-6 player add-ons for each expansion. Das Buch delivers with a punch. Not only does Das Buch have each scenario for 3-4 players, but also has that same scenario for 5-6 players.

Will my non-gaming spouse/friends like it? In short, “Oh, yes.” But in order to understand the answer to this question, I think it’s important to understand what separates the gamers from the non-gamers. Ask any gamer what his favorite game is, and watch him rant and rave about how amazing the rules/models/cards/mechanics are. But then ask him how long the instruction book is. This forum has a lot of Warmachine players. It’s a fantastic game with a fairly easy rule set, as mini games go. But “Prime” is 100+ pages. Sure some of it is fluff, but you can’t sit down, read it in 15 minutes, and then play it in the same evening. Settlers of Catan’s rules are 20+ pages, but can be easily explained in 5 minutes. The same cannot be said for, say, Warmachine, D&D, and Magic. We all know Settlers is the best gateway game out there. It attracts non-gamers simply because the rules are simple to understand, there are few exceptions to the rules, and anyone (even beginners) can win. What makes Das Buch fantastic is Mayfair Games doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel. They make simple, but significant tweaks to the rules and pieces such that the scenarios themselves feel like completely new games without having to check the rules every 2 minutes. As before, the railroad variant is too far away from the original rule set, that it isn’t even close to the same Settlers; hence, that scenario fails miserably.

Good for kids?: Settlers fits in right about 10+ and those players still provide a challenge for other players. Using my 8 year old niece again as an example, she plays the game and loves it, but isn’t really good at it. Das Buch fairs about the same, but you are changing the rules about a game, keeping in mind younger kids do better with a constant rule-set with few exceptions. Expansions are, by definition, exceptions. So, again, I would advocate this game for 10-12+ years old.

Should I buy it? If you like Settlers and have Seafarers (which in and of itself is $80 total) and play on a regular basis…or if you *want* to play on a more regular basis, but want new, fresh scenarios, this is for you. Especially given that the other expansions are $40 and this is $50, you are getting much, much more for only $10 more.
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David Short
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Great thorough overview. Thanks.
 
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