What would be played for "C" week? We had almost 50 games to choose from, but with 5 players many options dropped by the wayside. Dave, Sterling, Carrie, and Jeff gathered at Rich's house for Wednesday's gaming session. Looking at the options, Cities and Knights of Catan became the consensus choice and we launched into this version of the Catan family.
C&K tweaks the base game of settlers by adding commodities (gold, paper, cloth) to the base resources (ore, wood, sheep, etc) from the base game. These commodities can be used to enhance one's cities which in turn brings additional benefits and eventually victory points. As might be guessed from the title, the other change is in the knights. No longer cards, they are figures that can be deployed on the board to help protect roads and building sites. But most importantly, the knights protect Catan from the barbarians that will destroy cities if the there are not enough knights to defend Catan.
With 5 players, we knew it would be a bit of a longish game. The board set-up hinted at what was to come as the distribution of numbers and resources was very bipolar. As a result, the prime spots were picked for settlements quickly leaving very little choice for Rich and Jeff as the 4th and 5th player. As the second placement is a city, the initial city placements weren't very favourable either. An added insult was that the remaining "not as bad as that one" hexes for city placement tended to favour just resources not the commodities needed for city enhancements. But everyone managed to find a spot to place their city and the game began.
And how it began. The first two times around the table, we rolled quite a few 6's, even rolling 6 several times in a row. Rich had a city next to a 6 mountain, so was collecting ore and gold hand over fist. The gold was quickly used to upgrade his city 3 levels (spending 1, then 2, then 3 gold cards). But it was Sterling who managed to gain wheat (which was in short supply early on) to upgrade his first settlement into a city. Each city on the map adds to the barbarians strength (which is the total of the cities on the board) so the need for knights was obvious. Everyone chipped in with knight development so that by the time the Barbarians did land, there were 9 knights on the board defending 6 cities. No one person had the strongest knight, so 4 players shared a development card as a reward.
Sterling managed to use the SPY card to take a peek at Rich's development cards and took the MEDICINE card which allows a settlement to be upgraded to a city for 1 less wheat and 1 less ore than normal. The use of the WEDDING card gave Sterling cards from Dave and Carrie and sufficient resources to use the stolen MEDICINE card.
By this time, the second wave of Barbarians hit the shore and were again repulsed by Catan's army. This time, though Rich had the strongest knight and received 1 victory point as defender of Catan. Scores at this point were close with everyone at 6 points except Jeff who was at 5 points which included longest road which Jeff had captured by playing 4 road segments to connect his settlement and city with an 11 segment road. With such a move, it was very unlikely anyone was going to invest to get these 2 victory points from Jeff.
Dave added a few more settlements to get to 8 victory points. Rich upgraded his city to a metropolis for 2 victory points to get to 8 also. Sterling developed his metropolis to reach 8 victory points. At this point we were about 2 hours into the game, and as can be seen everyone was progressing rather uniformly. A bit more play of the game and we had Jeff and Rich at 9 victory points (Jeff having built settlements and cities along his road) while Dave and Sterling were at 9 points and Carrie at 6 points. The fourth Barbarian attack gave Rich another Victory Point for 10 while Jeff gained the Merchant for an additional point for 10 points. Dave captured the third metropolis to give him 10 victory points while Sterling added another city for his 10th victory point. Now we were at 3 hours into the game and with the ending condition of 13 points, we wondered how long we would go on. Especially as development had slowed to a crawl in a quagmire of limited resources and commodities. So we adopted "sudden death overtime" wherein the next victory point would win the game (ie play to 11 points). Dave was the person who managed to do this ending our unintended mini-marathon for "C"
Looking back, the resources just were not coming out when needed. We definately went through gluts of a resource while others were deficit. I remember having 10 brick in my hand at one point (and little else) while I think Dave had a handful of sheep (or was it wood) at another point. The C&K expansion does add more stuff going on in the game, but it also results in a very level playing field - either that or our playing styles are so simlar we tend to do the same things at the same time. We were attacked 4 times by the barbarians, but repulsed them each time. I don't know how much longer the game might have gone if the barbarians started destroying cities...or perhaps that would have let one person sprint into a bit of a lead by having a bit of an advantage in resources/commodities.
I have managed to play each of the flavours of the Catan lineage. But I have yet to combine C&K with Seafarers, and really question if I would want to. From my own personal style, I have begun to suspect that 4 players is about right for Catan games. One thing that does happen with 5 (or 6 players) is that all can build after each trading round. While there are modest restrictions (can't trade with the bank or utilize harbors, etc) this does allow everyone to get stuff on the board. In our game, it meant that all knights were established and activated fairly quickly. With 4 and limited opportunities to build, this might not be so easy and add a new dynamic to the game. That said, I have a warm fuzzy with the Catan series. As a late comer to the games, I don't have the passionate adoration for the games that others have. As a result, I don't necessarily want to play them on a frequent basis. Two or three times a year seems about just right for these games.
So ends our "C" week. More choices than the previous week, but in the end only 1 game played (or less than the previous week's 4 games). Next week will be "D" which I suspect will be a bit more limited in options. Hope to see everyone again next Wednesday.