Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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Welcome to my Six Meeple Review of Rivals for Catan, the relaunch of the card game implementation of the popular board game Catan. At the time of this review we have played this game 24x since December of 2010.

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I use a modified critical review method based on the Six Thinking Hats Method developed by Dr. Edward de Bono to engage the brain in a number of distinct ways when evaluating a particular subject from various perspectives. A different color Meeple represents each distinct view point employed to provide a few brief thoughts regarding my experience with the game.


Just the Facts

Rivals of Catan is a two player card game implementation of Settlers of Catan. It is also a redesign of the original card game (1996) that designer Klaus Teuber and Mayfair Games released in late 2010.

Like the popular board game, players obtain valuable resources to develop roads, settlements, and cities. They also exchange resources to place additional buildings and heroes within their play area to further strengthen their position in the game.

Players alternate turns which start with the active player rolling an event and production die. Events and Production impact both players. Events may include a Brigand Attack, Trade, Celebration, Plentiful Harvest, or the resolution of a variety of Event Cards.

Resources are distributed based on the number rolled on the Production die and tracked and managed throughout the game by rotating Region Cards within a player's principality counter-clockwise when receiving resources or clockwise when spending, trading, or losing resources.

The remainder of a player's turn involves strategic card play with the few cards in hand with timely discard and draws from one of a number of draw piles in the middle of the play area.

During the game players accumulate commerce points and hero points which can gain them the Trade or Strength Advantage (equivalent of the "longest road" and "largest army" in the board game) for an additional VP and certain advantages during Event Die and Card resolution.

The game comes with four major decks of cards including the Basic set to primarily learn the game, and then three additional decks: The Era of Gold, The Era of Turmoil, and The Era of Progress which offer new building and heroes with themed challenges and opportunities that are first learned individually and then ultimately combined for "The Dual of the Princes."

The game ends when a player reaches 7+ , 12+, or 13+ VP in the Basic, Theme, or The Dual of the Princes variant, respectively.

Gut Reaction

Like many people in the hobby today, Settlers of Catan was one of the first real games we played. To this day, we enjoy a game of Settlers, but often times we don’t have an available, third player. So, when I heard about the 2p card game redesign and relauch efforts, I started following the design blog with much anticipation.

As soon as it was re-release I bought the it and played a few games with my wife over coffee and breakfast at Panera to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

We were impressed with how well the board game was ported over to a card game. It was brilliant. Something we had never seen before in a game. I especially liked the rotation of Region Cards to manage resources.

We also enjoyed the various Theme Decks that offer a variety of game play experiences. As we played through the decks we'd come across an occasional A-HA moments where various aspects of Seafarers or Cities & Knights would pop up in the cards.

In some ways, the card game feels more like the real Catan experience, adding depth to the characters, places, and actions. To put it another way, Rivals brings the world of Catan to life.


Pessimistic Blemishes

I only have two criticisms of the game. The first is the vulnerability of the cards to show scratches and impressions acquired through normal play. Whenever I notice them, my heart skips a beat.

Secondly, is with the bits. With all the care and attention to detail given to the artwork on the cards, it’s a shame that the dice and Trade and Strength Advantage Tokens are so plain and dull.

Neither of these are a game stoppers by any means, but they do tarnish an otherwise brilliant implementation of a game.


Optimistic Bright Spots

* A great 2p alternative Catan experience when you don’t have enough players to pull out the board game.
* It is very reasonably priced and easy to take with you where ever you go.
* Simple, easy to remember mechanics
* A variety of cards to allow for a different Catan experience with each play.
* Again, I liked the resource management mechanics which shift the resource card hand management of the board game to the handling of the various Theme Deck Cards.
* Although I love game bits, which this game contains very little, I do like how easily and quickly one can setup and cleanup the game and pack it back in its tidy, little box.


Creative Opportunities

The game’s redesign and rule set is really the product of years of experience and constructive feedback from the Catan family of games. It is very well done.

The only things I could think of that would add variety and replay ability to the game have already been considered--more theme decks and more players.


What Next?



If you are like me and looking for more Theme Decks to add to the game you can look into Rivals for Catan: Age of Darkness. Or if you are looking to add more players there is a 2-4p card game available in Struggle for Catan.


Settlers of Catan is a special game in the halls of board gaming. It has introduced many to a wonderful hobby. As much as we enjoy playing the game it is often not an option due to a shortage of players. The Rivals of Catan has found favor in our household as a welcomed alternative which I find brings the world of Catan to life.

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J. Chris Miller
United States
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Excellent review! Great pictorial. In regards to your issues with the components, one thing to keep in mind is that it's a 20 dollar game at retail, which doesn't leave a lot of room for extra quality, and I think they did an impressive job in spite of that fact. The cards look amazing, and if you want to keep them that way, I suggest sleeving them.

By the way, my game came with plastic tokens instead of wood, I would have much preferred the wooden ones.
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Patrick C.
United States
Milford
New Hampshire
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Great review.

After playing Rivals I put most of my unplayed Catan games up for sale. Most of my games are 2 player anyway and Rivals is just more interesting. Definitely recommend for anyone who's grown beyond regular Catan, but hasn't dismissed the entire franchise altogether.
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Russell Cooper
China
Troy
Illinois
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Thanks for a great review on one of my favorite games. My best friend and I get together once a week to play various games, and Rivals is the only one that gets played every week, with very few exceptions. We own plenty of other two player games, but no other card game quite scratches that "board game" feeling.
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-=::) Dante (::=-
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KEW GARDENS
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coyotemoon722 wrote:
By the way, my game came with plastic tokens instead of wood, I would have much preferred the wooden ones.


Same here, and not just any plastic (cue infomercial voice) wait! There's more...

- TRANSPARENT plastic so now you can lay it on top of cards and be guaranteed to not see the icon clearly.

- Not that it matters because they changed the strength icon so that it now bears no relationship whatsoever to the strength icons on the cards or in the rulebook.

- Let's not forget them cleverly coloring the dandy new tokens for easy identification… Yellow for Trade and Red for Strength. Huh? Whaddaya mean the Strength icons are blue? Did I say clever before? Oops. shake

Between having the worst insert in a game ever, the flimsy cards, and token "upgrade", Mayfair just earned themselves a collector that will buy something from another company anytime I'm on the fence with them on one side of it.

Sad thing is, I really liked my first play so I'm going to be reminded of these irritations often. yuk
 
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Bill Kunes
United States
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NuMystic wrote:
- TRANSPARENT plastic so now you can lay it on top of cards and be guaranteed to not see the icon clearly.

- Not that it matters because they changed the strength icon so that it now bears no relationship whatsoever to the strength icons on the cards or in the rulebook.

- Let's not forget them cleverly coloring the dandy new tokens for easy identification… Yellow for Trade and Red for Strength. Huh? Whaddaya mean the Strength icons are blue? Did I say clever before? Oops.

YIKES! I wonder what the motivation was for the changes? There aren't that many components to this game? I guess I got while the getting was good???
 
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-=::) Dante (::=-
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bkunes wrote:

YIKES! I wonder what the motivation was for the changes? There aren't that many components to this game? I guess I got while the getting was good???


Well it's obvious isn't it? An additional margin of at least 25 whole cents.

In all seriousness, the flimsy cards are a more serious gripe being that the two tokens can be easily replaced. I'll probably just pimp a few custom wooden ones myself, but should I really have to go to the trouble for a $16 card game? Sheesh. I'd have preferred a generic wooden blue and yellow disc to the silly plastic hexes they gave me.
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