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Subject: Elasund or the Anti-Settlers of Catan rss

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Sebastien Phaneuf
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Elasund or the Anti-Settlers of Catan

I will try to give a new point of view to this gem of a game called Elasund...
the anti-Settler of Catan point of view!

First a brief description of a player's turn :

1- Roll dice, move ship and get resource from your buildings located in the new ship's row.
2- Build one or two building: you can build 3 types of buildings. City wall
3- Place a new building permit.
4- Execute a bonus action. Keep in mind that all bonus actions require Influence cards.

I can't stress it more: Influence cards are important and in the first few games they are often overlooked.

If you want a more complete resume of rules check out this other BBG review: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/90475.

Some have said that Elasund was another Settlers clone. It has a few similarities: roll of dices to determine resources production, you need 10 victory points to win and there is a pirate/robber that appear when you roll 7. But I think Elasund can be better explain by NEGATING game play elements of Settler of Catan.

1- Static placement VS Dynamic placement

In Settler of Catan, starting positions are picked at start of game. These starting positions define your whole strategy because they will dictate how and where you will expand. This is the more "dynamic" placement of the whole game since all board positions are available to you.

In Elasund all starting position are fixed. This is the only part of the game that is static. After that you can place your building everywhere (if you have placed a permit first). So it's easier to adapt your strategy according to the other player board placement.

2- Resource “statistic” control

Settler of Catan is often criticized for its high luck factor. After the initial placement all "good spots" are almost always taken. No more chance to put a village on a 6 or 8.
The more the game progresses the more constrain your expansion choices are. It always seems that the last spot for expansion is an 11-12 next to the desert

In Elasund, everyone has a starting position statistically equal. And as the game advances, there is always option to put a building on a "lucky" 6 or 8. Even when all good spots seem to be taken you can almost always destroy and opponent’s building and takes its place.

3- Those Dreaded Streak of Lucky 11 (tm)

In Settlers, there is always one turning moment in the game. It's always when 3 times in a row 11 is rolled and all the same players collect resources. This as happen so much time that I have started to collect statistic about how often 11 is rolled. For your information in my last 5 games, 11 has been rolled more times than 6 and 8 combined!

In Elasund this can't happen period. No rows can produce resources 2 times in a row. Better than that: if the same number is rolled twice the acting player get the choice to place the ship 2 rows up or down. This give better "luck" control.

4- The lonely 2-3-11-12 spots

In Settler of Catan, there is no real benefit to build near a "probably" unlucky number (2, 3, 11, 12). You use those spots almost always to get your 4th villages or to get access to a port.

In Elasund, there is 2 really good incentives to build on an unlucky spots: trading points and least contested area. The city gates (use with 4 players), located on rows 2 and 12 give you 2 trading points which are really useful to get that last victory cubes on board. Also, since it is easier to control where to place your building in Elasund it means that the "red zone" covering the rows 5 to 10 are very aggressively contested. The least lucky spot are not as much contested and they make good spots for the big 2x3 buildings that doesn't give you resources except for victory cubes.

5- 10 consecutives rolls without a resource card!

In one Settlers of Catan game I've had one of the unluckiest streak ever: 10 rolls without resource cards! No need to tell that I have lost badly. In Settlers, without resources you do NOTHING! No trading, no building, NOTHING! This can lead to pretty bad situation where everyone is playing and interacting but you.

In Elasund luck can be mitigated easily: forfeit your permit placement to get 2 gold. This is enough to keep you in game. Especially in the first part of game where that 2 golds can be use to place a City Wall or one of your own resource buildings.


6- Cooperative VS Confrontationnal

This is where, I think, both games are the most different. In Settlers of Catan, interaction comes with trading with other players. You help someone, and they help you in return. It can be viewed as a cooperative way of playing. This can please any crowd as there is no real way to be mean to someone except by placing the robber on their land. But this has the disadvantage that a leader can't be stopped. When someone has 8-9 VP and everyone else is at 5-7 VP the only way to hinder the leader is to not trade with him. And it is rarely enough to stop him from winning.

In Elasund, interaction comes when you directly hinder opponent: you can steal their permits, destroy their buildings or stop them from building by placing a pricy 4 permits next to theirs puny 0-1 permits! It's meaner. This can lead to situation where everyone one is bashing the leader but there is enough way of placing permanent VP on board to mitigate this aspect. For myself I found that there is more player interaction in Elasund than in Settlers because trading in Settlers is so routinely straighforward. In Elasund when you destroy someone building it always causes a wave of emotion: the builder gets that sense of accomplishment as the loser... let's say the loser might want to have is revenge later in game! For me, meaner is better

Elasund has also this one aspect I like: it's the positional element:

1- Victory points on board.

I really like the way Elasund manages it's race to 10 VP. You don't acquire them. You get rid of them! You place them on board. Some placements are permanent: Watchtower and Church and some others are more risky: like a 1x1 building on a 2 Trading points spot. I like to watch where my opponents place their VP so I can "attack" their weak position.

2- Permit intimidation

Building is a 2 steps process. First you place permits, than you build. As it is, permits placement is a crucial element to the game. Especially since you can use your opponents permit for your own building. But one thing I found very clever is to use your permits to act as "land mine" or intimidation agent. A well place 4gold permits placed next to your opponent’s permits can stop them from building since you have majority control. This has allowed me to win a game just by delaying my opponent in placing a 2x3 building.

3- Balance between building location:

a) Place your building in a good position (6-8)VS place your building at a place where opponent is less likely to go after you.
b) Trade points in row 2-3 and 11-12.
c) Important to know how to use Church threat. Church is always a possible doom for all central spots. Do you place a permit on a "possible" Church spot or not. In every game I've played, the Church wasn't build completely. So it's always a gamble: do you still build that 2x2 building even if it's on the Church way?

4- On the importance of influence:
At start of game gold is vital. But as soon as you have a few Gold producing building you should try to get as much Influence as possible. It gives you so much flexibility. Influences allow you to bypass all game limitation: upgrade permits, place another permits, get more gold or change a permits location. This allow for tempo control. And there is nothing worth more than the look of your opponent when you place a 2x2 building on TWO of their on 2x2 buildings using those 3 Influence cards!


5- A Well placed well will give you a well earned victory:
The small neutral buildings are often overlooked. They don’t give you anything but VP. But take notice that they only cost ONE permit! Those buildings are often key to victory as they allow you in the last few turns to get rid of your cubes on a lone and badly placed permit.

All in all, Elasund is one of the best games I’ve played in years. It has now replace Settler of Catan as my favourite Teuber game.
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Mario Aguila
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Excellent comparison. I also prefer 10 times Elasund over Soc for the same reason you gave us.
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mike tauman

New Jersey
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I purchased Elasund over the weekend and played one 4-player game.

I really enjoyed it. My dad won, and I think when he got his 10th point the rest of us had like 3-4 points. My girlfriend and my other friend and I were more focused on building and knocking each other's buildings down than actually trying to accumulate points.

I enjoyed it a lot more than Settlers, but then again anything that new is always fun to me. I played Settlers a ton and it just got to the point for me where it was more a job than enjoyment - handing out cards all day while, as the original poster mentioned, #3 and #11 were being rolled all day long and I, being the "smart" one, only had lots of 5-6-8-9 numbers which almost never came up. Not sure why this happens almost every SoC game I play... but it just does.

The biggest problem I have with Settlers, and the reason I think I will enjoy Elasund much more over the long haul, is that there is a lot less decision making. Yea you decide what to build and when to build it, whether to use your influence or save it for when you need it, whether to place a permit or take the money, and how much you should pay for that permit... so there is plenty to do, but to me the biggest difference was, each player's turn was relatively quick. SoC, which I only play with the Knights expansion, gets to a point late in the game where everyone (but me) has like 12 cards and 4 progress cards, no one seems to remember what anything costs or what any of their progress cards do, no one knows how many points anyone has, and the turns are just absolute agony. I do not forsee a similar problem in Elasund.

Whenever you play a game where die-roll is going to generally (not always) dictate who wins and who loses, you have to take it for what it is - a luck based game. Elasund is a luck-based game with some minimal decision making and tactics but the game has a decent flow to it. It is a game where you can kick back and have fun and you don't have to agonize over every play, and since your opponents won't be agonizing over every play, you don't particularly have to sit there 15 minutes between turns.
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Jason Mackay
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blakjaks wrote:
The biggest problem I have with Settlers, and the reason I think I will enjoy Elasund much more over the long haul, is that there is a lot less decision making.


I respectfully disagree. I don't believe Elasund has less decision making, I believe it has MORE decision making. Those decicions have a greater effect on the game, and are more challenging to come to. The difference, or problem, with Settlers isn't that it has more, or more difficult, dicisions to make, it's that Settlers has so many more components to take into account, that simply remembering them all takes up most of your time.

It could be analogous to a math equation; E=MC2 has greater depth than A+B+C+D=E, but the latter would take more time to calculate. That's how I view Elasund compared to Settlers. Fewer components, but greater decision making. (Not simply more things to think about).
 
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Darryl Boone
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Coquitlam
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Reading your recent posts has been like dipping my bottom over and over into a bath of the silkiest oils and creams.
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comport9 wrote:
blakjaks wrote:
The biggest problem I have with Settlers, and the reason I think I will enjoy Elasund much more over the long haul, is that there is a lot less decision making.


I respectfully disagree. I don't believe Elasund has less decision making, I believe it has MORE decision making.

Actually you are both in agreement. So your disagreeing is, in fact, very respectful.
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