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Catan Histories: Struggle for Rome» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Struggle to hold interest rss

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Paul Mackie
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Let me put this right out there: This game turned out to be a major disappointment. From my recent $200 batch from ADAMspielt, this was the one title I was most looking forward to playing. At the end and after nearly two hours of game time, Pat declared simply that this was the worst of the whole Settlers line. Brad kept quiet about his opinion, but I suspect that he had simply lost interest, like Pat, by about the halfway mark.

Alex and I are both inclined to feel a little more charitable, and certainly both of us want to give it at least one or two more playings before writing it off as a lemon. After all, it still looks like it should be a fantastic game…
The specific criticisms for us boil down to two key points: 1. One of the strengths of the original Settlers is the inter-player trading aspect. This has almost entirely disappeared, without apparently being ‘replaced’ by any compensating game features of interest (actually, I do have some thoughts on this which are discussed below).
2. Other game decisions seem to be obvious or otherwise generally uninteresting.
When you combine the great components and artwork with these factors, the result is an experience more like a toy than a game.

Time now to come clean with a few facts. First, my copy is the German language edition, with rules translation from Cinulph in this thread on BGG. I have annotated my copy of the rules with any additional points picked up from the rules discussions also on BGG, and I have watched the Prof. Easy tutorial on the Catan website twice.

Second, despite being pretty sure about the rules, we inadvertently broke a number of them a few times: Pat got one of his early trades wrong, and I think I might have used a wheat once to travel by sea. I completely forgot the rule that if you take no action with a tribe, you can take a resource card of choice (we just always took two gold). And despite trying to check this point multiple times, I think we got the Legionnaire "7" roll wrong. We played that the Legionnaire blocks its current space until the end of all four rolls, then the roller applies it after the resources are collected for the other three rolls, regardless of when it occurred in the set of four. I’ve since read another review that implies resources should be collected, and the Legionnaire moved, immediately upon rolling.
But the real clangers were that two of us carried out conquests after acquiring only two plunder tokens. The rest of us didn’t notice until a few turns later, when it didn’t seem worthwhile to try and roll back those actions. But, despite these mistakes, none of us who played really felt that not making any these errors would have changed the outcome of the game, or more importantly, our enjoyment of it.

So where does, or should, the interest and tension lie in SfR? I don’t think it is in the collection and spending of resources - for me at least these were too scarce to consider making any interesting decisions around. My current thinking is that it is mainly in the movement of tribes and expansion of conquests that should be the main source of tension. That is, getting the right combination of position and timing to reach prime spots on the board ahead of your opponents. Once or twice in our game I was blocked from desirable plunder tokens or conquest spots, and was therefore forced to consider more creative - and expensive - routes to alternative locations. This aspect I did enjoy, although these types of decisions did not seem to arise all that often in our game. Perhaps through further playings with experienced players this “chess-game” aspect might arise more strongly - I can only hope so.

I have read reports from well-read and respected game reviewers that all give SfR the big thumbs-up, which leaves me somewhat perplexed - why has their experience been so much more positive than ours? I expect that when I cross-post this on BGG I will get a number of responses that sing the praises of the game and report how much fun is had when played in other groups. Others possibly will assert that our rule breakages are responsible for our general negative experience (which I won’t argue with, since I don’t believe it). But the replies that I will be really interested in are those that come clean with similar assessments from their own early plays, and whether these were validated in subsequent sessions.
30 mins rules and set up; 112 mins game time.
Results: Alex (gold): 12. Paul (red): 8 (+$11). Pat (blue): 8 (+$9). Brad (white): 6.


(Originally posted in The Mine Shaft Gap. Pics by Propofol.)
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James Koopman
Canada
Hamilton
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I pretty much agree completely with you on this one. I love the other catan games that I have played, but this one just falls flat. We pulled it out recently after wondering why we hadn't played it in some time. It didn't take too long to realize why. We enjoy the beginning aspect of plundering and racing around trying to beat everyone else to the 'best' spots. But it gets repetitive and boring quickly. So you settle. And then it is an equally boring race to expand your conquests. So we put it back in the closet, probably until it has been too long to remember why we haven't played it in so long...
 
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M.D.W
United States
San Angelo
Texas
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My first few plays I found the game play a bit dry. The first time we played everyone learning the rules at the same time it took about three hours but now the average game time is about an hour and a half.
After a few more plays my group enjoyed it more each time and it became a favorite as new strategies emerged and the players actively were out to hamper each others goals. Your assessment of where the tension lies in the game is dead on in my opinion, and the blocking and racing come up frequently during our games.
 
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The Fiend
United States
Avon Lake
Ohio
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What you guys need is the "Terror of the Legions" free expansion. Holy cow! What a difference this expansion makes. The poor Legions are clinging to their cities and you get to terrorize them for extra points. How f@#king cool is that?


 
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Alan Kwan
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
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This is a game with many intricate parts, finely balanced. I largely enjoyed it since my first playing, since I'm playing the English version and I studied the rules throughoutly, and I'm generally fast in grasping a new game. The German website explicitly encouraged people who aren't initially impressed to try the game again, and it gives some strategy tips, which I agree with. In other words, the game has some intricacies that do take some players a few playings to figure out - and you shouldn't even hope to get them in your first playing when you're getting so many rules wrong, including the very crucial rule that you need 3 different colors before you can start a kingdom. (If you're not sure what you're playing towards, how can you strategize how to play efficiently towards your goals?)

I do have the gripe that the game took too long for my first playings, yet it is evident that the time will shorten significantly with experience - just count how many things you're doing every turn, and it's evident that the game should be much shorter if players are familiar with the game sequence and move promptly.
 
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Todd Sweet
United States
Geneva
Illinois
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I've played the game a few times, but unfortunately always with new players so the game takes almost 3 hours plus. Of course it shouldn't take this long, but I can't get the players to give it another try because of the length and how slow and repetitive the beginning of the game is before getting the conquered cities going.

I really like the game, but can't seem to find players.
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Alan Kwan
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
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The beginning of the game is not "exciting", but it shouldn't be slow or long. You just need to plunder three cities before you can settle, so that should be done in 3~6 turns, and these turns should be quick since you're making only a few moves. Strategically, these turns are interesting to play since there is struggling for position.

The problem is probably because players don't know what to do if they don't draw horses. Players should know the rule that, if they pay 3 gold, it can substitute for a horse (not for a random draw from the deck) when building, and that the development cards are really a bargain (compare with the costs of the same in other Settlers games!) and they should not hesitiate to buy them with their cows.
 
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