Elesund: The First City of Catan (2005)
Designed By: Klaus Teuber
Published By: Mayfair Games
# of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 60 – 90 minutes
Well, what can I say: Klaus does it again, extending the great series of Catan. I thought I would be tired of all the Catan by now, but this game keeps it fresh, while still integrating some of the gameplay that makes Catan so great.
Pieces and Gameplay (skip if you want to simply read the review)
The game is very nice. They really did a great job here. The tiles are all thick cardboard that do not bend. The pieces are nicely cut wood and the board is well designed and looks great. But I guess this is now to be expected from the Catan series, they don’t make cheap games. I actually played on the huge 3D version of this game, really cool (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/145523).
For the first time, you no longer have to build cities in Catan, but now you get to build within an actual city of Catan. The game plays in clockwise order, with each player getting to do the following actions on each turn:
• Roll dice (pirates attacks on 7)
• Build once or twice (for 3 cards of the same color you can build over a building of the same size)
• Place building permit or take 2 gold (for two cards of the same color you can place your permit in any row)
• One bonus action, either:
o For three cards of different color: Place a building permit anywhere or take 2 gold
o For two cards of the same color: Move one building permit that you own
Each player starts off with two buildings on the board, near the 6 and 8 rolls. These buildings are not worth any points, but help you get resources. Each turn, the dice are rolled and the outcome causes the boat to move on the track at the left of the board. The row that the boat is on will cause the buildings on this row to produce their given item. There are only two things to collect, money and cards. The money is used to produce more buildings within the city, build the city walls or build the church. The buildings all have costs associated with them and a number of permits needed to build them. You can build a building over any smaller building as well, destroying them. The church always costs 7 gold and has a specific starting location (near the center) and destroys anything in its place and can never be removed. Also, it gives you one point. Points are represented by block, of which each player has 10. Once you place all ten on the board, you win immediately. The regular buildings also have point makers, but not all of them. Usually, the more the building produces and the less it costs, the less points it gives.
There are also windmills placed along the edges of the board and if you construct a building along these edges, you collect windmill points, which are tracked on the far left of the board. As you reach 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 windmills, you can place one of your point cubes on the indicated squares. At first, everyone who reaches a specific level may place a token, however as you move up, only one or two players can get these points, so the first one there gets it.
When constructing buildings, you need to have building permits, which is the third action and can only be placed in the row the ship is currently in (unless you pay cards). So as you can see, you have to build before you place a new permit. The permits have values on them, which indicate the cost to place them. Buildings never require tokens with specific values; the values are used for blocking others.
The walls either cost two or four gold depending on where you want to place them. The ones along the bottom of the board are only two gold and they cannot be attacked by the pirates, while the ones along the back are four gold. The walls let you either place a point cube on them (each third one and they must be built in order) which is permanent or collect 1-2 cards.
Finally you can take one bonus action if you have the cards to pay for it. The pirates attack on a roll of seven. When the pirates attack, the player who rolled the dice decides which row the boat should go in. Now anyone who has a point cube on that row has to throw away a card (their choice) for each cube. If the player who rolled the seven has point tokens on wall tiles, he may steal one of the cards being discarded for each point cube he has on the wall tiles.
First person to place all ten point cube on the board wins (walls, buildings, church and windmills).
This was a very straight forward explanation of the rules. There is a lot of strategy, since there are many ways to get points and many approaches to take. First off, you must decide where your permits should go. You can only place them in the row that the ship is currently in. So you must decide after you roll. The best place is not necessarily on the 6 or 8 row. Even though these are the most common rolls, they are the most coveted by the others and if you start to collect too much, people will try and destroy your buildings. There are also the windmills to think about. There are some at the outer edges, along the 2 and 12 rows, which are less desired since the rolls are not common, but may be an easy way to get a point or two. Also, there are only 18 windmills on the board, so don’t expect to get to 11, you will need to fight or race for them.
Furthermore, permits can block others from building since you must have a value majority on the squares your building will cover. If you do, yet another player has permits where your building will go, you must pay them for it. It is not a negotiation, they have to accept the money and remove their token, but it can increase the cost of your building. You may want to place your 4 permit in someone’s way, just to gain majority and stop them form building. Worst case, they use your token and pay you back the 4 dollars (actually worst case would be they find a way around it and your token is stuck, making you pay cards to move it).
Destroying buildings is a lot of fun. It not only lets you place your building, but takes out one of your opponent’s buildings, causing them to lose the benefit on the rolls that the building covered. You can also focus on one number, so that a specific roll will get you a lot or spread it out, so that you always get something. But space it tight and the buildings get pricey. Since they are limited you can’t simply keep building the same small buildings over and over. And there are also single space buildings that give no benefit, but let you place a point cube on them. These are great near the end when you need that one extra point.
The choice of building is also a tough one. There are some that give gold and some that give money, while others that just give points. On top of that, you can also build the wall, which is great for points, if you can place all nine, which is rare, since space is tight, you will have 3 point cubes there alone, but people often race to get these out. They also let you steal cards when you roll the pirates (7).
The church is also a great building to construct since it can never be destroyed and lets you place one point cube on it. If you are the first to build a piece of the church (it has nine pieces each covering one square), you pick the first two tiles and chose which one to place. This lets you decide in which direction it will go, since all subsequent tiles are placed according to the first one. So you basically get to decide whose buildings the church will destroy, if someone builds it.
The bonus actions are great, but if you chose to chase money, it will be hard to use them. They give you that extra move that lets you complete your objective one turn faster. Use them if you have them, they are a huge bonus. Building over the same size building will not make you any friends, but can really slow someone else down as well as giving you the benefits of that building, be in money, cards or points.
There is also that same take out the leader aspect that you see so often in Catan. If you are ahead, people will try and take you down, so don’t get too ahead unless you are sure you can win.
I must say, this game is one of my new favorites. It scales great from two players to four (the building area shrinks), has a lot of strategy and a lot of possible paths. It does take a few turns to get the hang of all that you can do, but any Euro gamer will catch on pretty fast. If you like Catan, but want a little more strategy or possible actions on each turn, this is a great choice. I say it is a must have in almost any collection.
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Great review! This is also one of my favorite Klaus Teuber games of late. It has a lot of interesting new ideas. Unfortunately, none of my friends own the game so I don't get to play it much.