Initial Response / Unboxing – 8/10
For starters, I love Europe, and many things that come from it. I also love this line of Catan Geographies. They float my boat and were a great way to promote during Cons and Tournaments. For those of us who couldn’t make it to them (that being me), it’ll cost you a few bucks, or possibly a trade.
I received mine after my house fire as a gift from an anonymous BGG user (whom I try to thank dearly in multiple ways you sneaky user you). When I opened the package, I thought to myself “…it’s a plastic map and that’s all.” When I looked it up on BGG (it was the German language edition), a whole new world of Catan options opened up to me. This made me really excited to get it on the Table and try her out! It made me especially excited because I got too use my Kosmos edition with the pristine plastic pieces that seemingly match the drawn cities and roads in the North Rhine/Westphalia region. It was also super cool to see Essen on there!
Setup – 10/10
You literally just grab your colored playing pieces, the dice, the robber, the resource cards, and Victory Point chits. The map has set resource regions and numbers. It’s too simple! Some people have complained in the past about the map being too creased (was packaged by being folded into fourths) and taking a while to flatten out enough so the pieces stay in place. Mine didn’t crease at all, and has been stored folded in fourths for quite some time in my Base Game box. I guess its just luck of the draw and how much weight is sitting on it. Think about it people.
Gameplay – 7/10
You begin like any game of Catan, besides a few minor rule changes. Spacing between settlements goes down to one road instead of two. However, you can only upgrade to cities on the drawn out cities on the map! This means you can build your city on Essen, but not the corner next to it. Having built a road to a hex with a settlement, one cannot build a road leaving it until one has built a settlement on the hex. Last but not least, some of the roads on the edge of the map are the color red. To obtain the benefit of a harbor, you simply need to place the road down (not a settlement), and you can use it immediately.
There are also pictures of Victory Point chits on the map. If you are the first to lay a road at one of these crossings, you are the only one who obtains the Victory Point. You can obtain the victory point chits from an edition of Seafarers, Traders and Barbarians, The Great River mini expansion, and the Fisherman of Catan mini-expansion.
The first to 13 VP is the winner!
Cleanup – 10/10
Just place the play pieces back in the Base Game box, and store the map folded up in there as well. If you don’t want to store the map folded, or want to keep the chits separate with the map, you can do it any way you wish too. Just place the chits in a separate baggie and find a place to either hang up the map or keep it flat. While it is big once it is unfurled (not proactive for storage), this may be a little more difficult.
Thoughts and Criticisms
Once the ooo’s and aahh’s from playing with this limited edition map and seeing all the pretty pictures is gone, you realize this map is truly meant for 3 and not 4. They expect you to get to 13 VP. This was fairly difficult with only 3 players. I cannot imagine it even happening with 4 players. With the limited places to build cities, you roads run out quick, which can leave you stranded at a certain number of points, unable to continue play, sealing your fate of an inevitable loss. Now you don’t have to limit yourself with roads, and someone will win, its just annoying when you don’t have more roads to lay down on the map.
Other than that, you need to be open minded about a fixed playing field. Many fans of the world of Catan find the fixed playing field to be blasphemous. This is fine…too each their own, however, if you want to play with this map instead of just keep it as a keepsake or collector’s item, be ready to play with a fixed map. I personally don’t mind as long as we play it once and not multiple times in succession. Then it’s just as random as any map you could’ve made by chance.
The Final Countdown – 7/10
While the fixed map doesn’t bother me, it really doesn’t wow me either. The fixed places to build cities make strategy more important, but without a good supply of roads, you can really get screwed over. I wouldn’t recommend this map to a newer player, unless playing with newer players.
In my humble opinion, it is one of those variants, which while it may be fun, are going to be more for the collector’s point of view. In which case, this would again be me, and for that, I love it. I do love the history of some of the major cities they print out in paragraphs around the map, and it is always fun to say you are going to build the city of Essen.