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Catan Histories: Settlers of America – Trails to Rails» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Catan Racing Game! rss

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Starkiller
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Settlers of America – A Catan Racing Game!

Well, it's as close to a racing game as Catan will get, anyway.
My review will only briefly cover game play, as that has been very well explained several times.
I've played the game about 7 times.

My Personal Overview Opinion:
Settlers of America is a race to be the first to deliver all your goods by rail. The game is enjoyably well balanced, most endings are a tense battle between all players to deliver their last couple goods boxes. Unlike most other Catan games, a great deal of the luck-dependency is balanced out with the coins.
This could well be my favorite Catan game, except for one aspect – there is only one way to win. By the very nature of the game, everything is focused toward delivering goods. There are several strategies to get there, allowing for a great deal of variation, but in the end Settlers of America will have less replay value.
Also note, my game group plays without a minor rule. Similar to 6 player Catan, there is supposed to be a building phase between each player's turn, where everyone can build. We (well, mostly me; I'm the designated rule reader/explain-er) decided that, because the robber has less effect anyway, that was silly and slowed the game down. The last couple rounds your income is getting large enough you might get caught, but careful play works very well.
It may also be helpful to know my favorite version of Catan is Cities & Knights.
Also, Settlers of America stands alone very well. It is fairly simple and does not need any familiarity with Catan to be picked up quickly. I wouldn't hesitate to pick this up instead of plain Settlers to introduce someone to boardgames.

A (Brief) Gameplay Description:
As with all other Catan games, the underlying mechanic is resource gathering/tile development. You start with 3 settlements (called cities) and gather resources depending on the dice rolls. To expand your personal land, you build settlers (large covered wagons) and move them to your chosen city location. Each time you build a city, a new goods cube is available for delivery. You deliver goods cubes by moving your train along tracks to an available opponents city, requiring lots of track or paying gold to your opponents to use their track. Whoever delivers their last good cube wins!

Major Differences Between Settlers of America and Other Catan Games:
The large board (roughly 3 times as many hexes as base Catan) is fixed and most of the numbers remain the same.
The sheer size of the board means the robber (called an outlaw) has much less affect.
More cities means more chances to get resources, so you are much less likely to have 'dry spells'.
And, if you don't get any income, you get 1 gold, worth half a resource of your choice.
All that combined means Settlers of America is much less luck-dependent then plain Settlers of Catan.
The lack of victory points means the development cards are not as valuable.
Settlers are not road-or rail-dependent, so it is impossible to become trapped in a corner.
Oh yeah, you're madly racing a steam engine around the United States, delivering little boxes of goods! Awesome fun!

Impressions of the Game
This game really is great, but, as I mentioned, there is only one way to win. There are several strategies to get there-I usually build lots of cities and then start delivering goods, while several victories have been won by delivering goods as soon as possible. The big picture can become very important-placing a new city a distance away can make it more difficult for opponents to deliver. And building a couple rails can both connect your network and force players to build track the long way around.
For some reason, this game seems more 'balanced' than the other Catan games, all but one game have been very tight, with all four players battling for the victory. The last couple turns can be VERY tense, cutting opponents off and delivering a couple more goods. Great fun!

Target Players
Do I recommend this game? The game is very fun, but the lack of re-playability knocks it down a little bit. Overall, I would say in most situations I wouldn't recommend it. I have a nice, balanced obsession with boardgames and would LOVE to give Caylus or Ora et Labora a try. Unfortunately my gaming family is stuck on all thing Catan and a couple of them will probably never move on. (I'm not complaining, per say. I do enjoy Catan. I just prefer more complicated games.) In that case, Settlers of America is great. A little variety is good, and it has less luck then most Catan games. Or if you've got extra money and really like Catan it would be a great buy.
Overall, fun game, but worth a buy only in a few situations.
[First review, so let me know of anything I missed!]
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Chris Wood
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Darien
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Good review! I found the development cards pretty strong actually.
 
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Starkiller
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Yes, the development cards are valuable, and worth buying many times. I may have given the wrong impression; they are slightly less valuable compared to the development cards in Settlers of Catan. They are still valuable.

And I would like to clarify who I think would really like the game:
1) If you are looking for a good stand-alone game with minor land development and goods delivery, Settlers of America is a great game. Players who want those things should really enjoy the game, even if they don't like the original Settlers of Catan. Frankly, I think this group would be very large (it is a very good game) if there was more then one way to win.
2) Catan fans with extra money should really enjoy the very different game play - it's similar enough fans are sure to be delighted, and different enough to bring a new game for variety.
3) And those who are coerced into playing Catan while wishing for something with less luck will delight in the change.

Anyone in these three categories should put this high on the priority list-it's great!
Those who are not in those three categories; this is probably not worth the money. Purchase a different game.
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The Chaz
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But... Settlers of Catan has always been a race!
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