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Subject: Review of Elasund: The First City of Catan rss

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Ryan W
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While standing in my FLGS, feeling the rush of being surrounded by games still in their shrink wrap, I spied the Mayfair edition of Elasund. My first thought was "Ugh, another Catan game."

Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy Settlers of Catan, and have often considered buying an expansion or a spin-off. What has stopped me is that most of the other Catan games seem to get mediocre reviews. Cities & Knights and Starfarers sound too long for what they are, and the rest just don't sound interesting.

With that in mind, I read a few of the reviews for Elasund here at BGG, and was surprised to see that most of them are fairly positive. So with this in mind, and the itch to try something new, I picked it up.

Opening the box was a gamer's heaven, with nice cardboard bits to punch out, little wooden pieces, and a fantastic box insert that fits all of the pieces from the game perfectly.

Check it out:


One thing I have always enjoyed about the Catan games is the feel of the wooden dice. They add that extra touch of elegance, rather than the plastic molded jobs.

The bits and board have some really nice artwork on them, although all of the buildings on the tiles look very similar. This complaint probably stems from playing SimCity too many times as a teenager, and expecting every building to look unique. The building themselves are not important though, for only the symbols on the tiles are used to determine building cost and reward.

The rules are only 6 pages long, easy to read, and have plenty of examples and illustrations. After reading them and playing, I only had one rule question concerning large buildings (See below).

The game, at its core, is a building and city planning game. There are a lot of paths you can take to victory though. You can build important buildings in the city, you can help build the city walls, or you earn valuable trade points. It usually takes a combinations of these things to win.

Unlike basic Catan, this game has some serious screwage factor. There are lots of opportunities to put the smack down on your opponents, taking them down one or two victory points at one go.

To build buildings, you must play building permits onto the map. You have to pay to place these permits, and other players can put higher value permits on the map, locking you out of certain areas. Of course, if *you* have the higher value permits, you can use your opponent's permits to complete your buildings. You can also build bigger buildings on top of smaller ones, thereby knocking the other players' buildings off the map. Buildings get you victory points, but also allow you to collect needed resources, such as Gold and Influence.

The resource distribution will sound very familiar to all Catan fans, as it involves rolling two dice and then seeing who has a building on that row of the map. These players all collect resources according to what buildings are in the chosen row, unless a 7 is rolled, in which case pirates steal the resources. Gold is used to pay for buildings and permits, while Influence is used to activate special actions, such as moving a permit, or building a same sized building on top of another player's building.

One problem we had with the game is that the rules state that buildings can only be built with their arrows pointing to the North. Yet the largest building tile does not have an arrow on it. This made us wonder if we could orient the tile however we chose, which whould make a *huge* difference tactically. In the end, consensus seems to indicate that although there is no arrow, the building still needs to be oriented to the North. I've e-mailed the Mayfair Rules Guru, and I will post an update here when I receive a response.

You can also pay to build a part of the church. The church has a fixed location in the city, and automatically smashes any building already built there.

Some spaces in the city will give you trade points when you build on them. As you move your marker further up the trade track, you gain victory points.

Building city walls will also give you influence and victory points, but there are limited wall spaces, and some areas cost more to build the wall than others.

The first player to 10 victory points is declared the winner!

This was a fun game for me. It is not too heavy, but there are plenty of strategies in there to keep your opponents guessing about how you plan to win the game. Are you trying to build a big building? Or are you going for trade points? Do you throw all your gold in walls and the church?

On on the reverse side, you have to be vigilant about your opponents moves, because they have so many paths to victory. You'll need to see where they are stongest, and then try to build over some of their critical buildings.

Positives:
* Excellent components in a nice and useful box.
* Fun game play that isn't too heavy, while offering strategic depth.
* Does not feel like yet another Catan expansion.

Negatives:
* Art is nice, but all the buildings look the same.
* Misprint on largest building tile lead to rule confusion.

Overall:
I'd recommend this game for a nice 60-90 minute game during game night with the friends. May be a little much for the family, as there are a lot of rules and options, but lighter than, let's say, Puerto Rico. I enjoyed playing and I plan on introducing this game to my game group.
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Jason Mackay
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The large 2x3 buildings can be oriented either way. For one, as you said, it doesn't have an arrow pointing to North. This would be a major oversight if it was supposed to have one... Second, is the fact that each orientation has it's advantages and disadvantages, which can have a major impact on the game. This ofcourse increases the "fun factor" of the game.

Good review, although I take exception to your assesment that Elasund has some "serious screwage factor" in it. Settlers has screwage, placing a Road or Settlement early in the game can kill someones chances before the game has even started. That's what I call getting screwed! Elasund on the other hand simply has far more dynamic positional play. Nothing is ever safe! That's not screwage, that's competition!
 
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Matthew M
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comport9 wrote:
The large 2x3 buildings can be oriented either way.


This is not true. They need to be oriented the same as every other building - with the roof pointing north: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/668804#668804

-MMM
 
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Ryan W
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comport9 wrote:
The large 2x3 buildings can be oriented either way.


I am still waiting for an official ruling from Mayfair/Kosmos, but the consensus seems to be that the 2x3 buildings *must* be oriented with the roof to the north.

comport9 wrote:
Settlers has screwage, placing a Road or Settlement early in the game can kill someones chances before the game has even started. That's what I call getting screwed! Elasund on the other hand simply has far more dynamic positional play. Nothing is ever safe! That's not screwage, that's competition!


The difference I see is that although you can limit someone's game in SoC, you can only steal longest road and largest army. In Elasund, the only victory points that are safe are walls and church. There is a much higher potential to hurt your opponents.
 
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Jason Mackay
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Octavian wrote:
This is not true. They need to be oriented the same as every other building - with the roof pointing north: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/668804#668804

-MMM


One guy says that it was discussed on another website and you take it as Gospel? I'll need a little more convincing as it doesn't logically make sense that they would A) Make such a major printing mistake or B) Not refer to this in the rules AT ALL despite it having a major impact on the game.

BTW, regardless of any "official" announcement into this matter, I'll always play with the rule that you can position them either way. This simply opens up more choices and tactics. It's otherwise far too easy to plan against them, and protect them.
 
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Ryan W
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comport9 wrote:
B) Not refer to this in the rules AT ALL despite it having a major impact on the game.


This is *exactly* why I think it is a printing mistake. If all of the buildings require a specific orientation except ONE, don't you think they would want to point that out in the rules?

comport9 wrote:
BTW, regardless of any "official" announcement into this matter, I'll always play with the rule that you can position them either way. This simply opens up more choices and tactics. It's otherwise far too easy to plan against them, and protect them.


If you really want 3x2 buildings as well as 2x3 buildings, just download and play the official expansion:
http://www.klausteuber.de/de/index.php?page=elasund_gebaeude...

Please note that all of the expansion buildings, including the 3x2 buildings, have arrows on them.
 
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Matthew M
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As maxac says, all signs point to it being a printing mistake. I don't think it's as huge as you are making it out to be, however, as most people have been able to intuit the correct rules. I'd be surprised if there weren't a rule singling out the large buildings as being able to be built in any orientation if that were the case.

The restriction is intentional. You say it opens up decision making. I would see it as giving too much freedom where it isn't intended. Having more options does not always make the game better. The game would not be improved, for example, if there were an additional rule allowing for two different colored influence cards to be traded in for 1 gold. It would offer more choices, but that is not in improvement by itself.

But if you are happy playing your variant I don't think anyone here is going to stop you

-MMM
 
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