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Subject: Cities and Knights of the United States (Catan w/ a US map!) rss

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Bob McMurray
United States
La Grange
Illinois
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GAME

4 person - Cities & Knights of Catan. Friday night, November 18th, 2005.


MAP

We used the "United States" layout of the map - which I believe you can get on the 'Net somewhere but the general idea is the resources are tied to regions of the country in the shape of the United States with a few oddballs mixed in to help the mix and stay pretty accurate nationwide. Such that:

Pacific NorthWest - Timber (Wood)
Texas - Pasture (Sheep)
Midwest - Field (Grain)
Rockies - Mountain (Ore)
Southeast - Clay (Brick)
Northeast - Mountain (Lumber) and Timber (Wood)
Northern CA - Gold
Southern CA - Gold
Arizona - Desert

The ports were placed in actual geographic locations such as Houston and New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Long Beach, Boston and New York, etc.

You get the idea.


PLAYERS

In placement order:

Bob (me), Jim, Jay, Ross

Although the Pacific Northwest looked appetizing with lots of 9s, 5s, and 6s combos I felt with my settlement it wasn't wise to go settlement on that much lumber and not get the benefit of paper commodities and access to the aquaduct. So I opted for the more diviserfied start with a settlement in northern CA with 8,9,5 on gold (8), grain (5), and lumber (9).

This allowed me, at the end of the cycle, to place my city in western Montana on a 6 brick, 5 lumber, and 11 ore and pretty much have my bases covered. This allowed good eastward access to a bunch of very good 5, 8, and 9 brick spots along northern Minnesota hills with a 2:1 port in Duluth.

Jim placed his city on an "instant knight" space with a good mix of grain, sheep, and ore, plus quick access to southern CA's gold, while having the same notion I had he placed his settlement in Michigan with an eye towards expansion to that Duluth port.

Jay built near Salt Lake City with his settlement picking up good access to lumber and ore. There weren't any spots to pick up a good combination of brick, sheep, and/or wheat anywhere in the topology of the US map so after a tough decision he decided to maximize his good rolling numbers and built a city smack-dab in the middle of the great plains and lots of wheat. Not having direct access to sheep would become his biggest challenge as it would be needed for BOTH amassing knight strength and for settlements.

Ross stayed regional with a settlement in Boise, ID and a city with 5, 9, and 8 of lumber in SE Washington state. This would be great for a quick dash towards an aquaduct, but would he be able to defend his city?


PLAY

Game was to 17 - no seafaring with this map.


EARLY GAME
With my diversity of resources I was able to mobilize quickly and build new settlements eastward from Montana to the edge of the brick run and another one on my gold 8 in northern CA. With Jay and Jim in good position to support the island with knights I just had to establish my token knight and concentrate on expansion both horizontally as noted above and in the paper commodity with progress towards the aquaduct (more diversity) and the metropolis.

Jay with this plethora of ore and grain was able to establish two cities quickly and knights as well. With one of those cities on a 8, 9, 3 wheat stronghold he seemed to always be awash in cards but finding it quite difficult to expand his empire.

His main objective was to expand south and east and pick up access to Texas' sheep and Mississippi's brick to diversify his position. But with all that landlocked wheat he was trading at a very expensive 4:1. This kept him pinned down some. Also with his city starting on pure wheat he started out a bit slow on city developments, but, this caught up with his quick city at Salt Lake City with it's heavy ore and wood.

Jim played an early merchant which somewhat artificially put him in the lead and made him a target for a Wedding I played and the robber. This prevented him from protecting his eastern ore which, as an unprotected 8 ore, saw the robber almost constantly. This hindered him somewhat but since he was a touch closer than I was to Duluth he did manage to get there and build a nice 5 brick, 9 brick, 2:1 port on brick. This was an important holding for Jim as without it his position was doomed.

Ross lost his city on the first barbarian pass since he was too concentrated in lumber and ore and couldn't possibly get the grain or sheep he needed. Worse than that he was trapped as he was regionalized in his placement (northwest-centric) and too near other players. This was his undoing. However in losing his wonderful Timber city, and then later re-establishing it, would actually provide one the game's most interesting twists.


MID GAME

With no competition for the paper commodity and continued diversification with the gold and my progress eastward I took the early lead with a metropolis on paper and another settlement in Minnesota with great brick on it. A couple of well timed 8s allowed me to quickly build a large supply or road straight south from my Minnesota and into the country's heartland picking up an 8 wheat. I had longest road. Times were good as I had 12 points relatively early.

Jay was only scracthing his way southward but picked up more wheat near Oklahoma. He was however filling his road spots with more knights and establishing a great knight army with the ability to feed them. Unfortunatly for him, the dice were rolling a slow flow of barbarian rolls and this ultimately would cost him the game - as his knights didn't have enough to do. Jay was also making great ground on the coin metropolis. As the game wore on if he could only expand quicker he could turn the game in his favor.

Jim had the brick and resources to compete with me on longest road and started heading southeast in parallel and just far enough away from me to be safe. Although, I made the mistake of thinking I had the game well in hand and built a 2nd settlement near Sacramento picking up more gold but affecting my maximum road in the upper Midwest/Midwest to be only 11 segments. As the game wore on (without a lot of Defender of Catan points the game was elongated) the opportunity to surpass my road became more and more available.

But, Jim made what would later prove to be a slight mis-step by heading to the Southeast instead of turning westward into Tennessee and thereby crippling my ability to place my last settlement as I had lost the ability to move with 0 road segments available and little hope for a Diplomat. Meanwhile, his early city on good sheep had progressed to a metropolis. He also spent a lot of time and resources vying with Jay for military supremacy. His ultimate failure there led him to a delayed and secondary tactic of fighting for longest road.

Ross re-established his city in eastern Oregon and began to mount a somewhat silent challenge to my paper metropolis. In just a few turns he was able to move up from aquaduct to the metropolis and steal my paper metropolis as my one lumber city-hex couldn't really compete with his three. Still trapped, Ross couldn't find enough expansion to really dig out of the hole he started in.

END GAME

With my metropolis lost, and not really be a player at all in the battle for Defender of Catan points or the other metropoli, my maximum possible point production was: 5 from settlements, 8 from cities, 2 from longest road, 1 from the Constitution (thank goodness I had), and 1 from the merchant (which I had no chance of getting as I didn't even have a market). As Ross had the Printer point securely stashed away, my only hope was that merchant.

The problem was I had foolishly exhausted all of my road segments and could only build in one possible location - eastern Tennessee. If I lost the ability to build there I would have needed to pull a Diplomat AND pull a Merchant. Meanwhile, Jay's position was getting stronger and stronger as he established himself in Texas and ruled with military might and it was only a matter of time and dice before Jim permanently took the longest road as he had more segments to commit to his longest road (13 to my 11).

My only hope was to use some of my excess cards to build a market and pray. With my total at 15 and Jim ready to usurp my longest road right after my next turn. Ross rolls a Yellow city and a 2 on the red die - my merchant showed up along with a ton of cards as the overall roll was an 8. I had gotten lucky as my ideal scenario came to fruition just in the nick of time.


BREAKDOWN

As I was hailed "Lord of all Catan" there were whispers that y "victory" was somewhat "wind-aided" not so much by the merchant which is a prevalent and even public victory point to be had by all. But, rather, by my elitist Constitution point which affectively meant I had to only get to 16 to win while the others had to get to 17. Still, it is quite difficult to win a 17 point game of Catan without one metropolis. It is a worthy accomplishment nonetheless.

In retrospect, despite being a constant threat on the board, Jim's loss on two fronts (knight conflict and longest road), by not commiting to one or the other at the right time, left him with neither and not enough firepower in victory points.

Jay ultimately had the best position of all with his strength in cities and knights (hmmm - where have I heard that before?) and really was hurt by the relative infrequency of barbarian attacks. A more "average" rolling of barbarians would have tipped the game in his favor.
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