Game Day September 2010: Catan Germany

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series September Game Day

Catan Germany Box ArtIt was getting pretty late when we finished A Touch of Evil and many folks either went home or went to bed.  Three of us stayed around to start one final board game of the night, though: Catan Geographies: Germany.  This game is very similar to other versions of Settlers of Catan but uses its own unique game board and ahs a number of key differences.

If you’re not familiar with the popular Settlers of Catan game franchise, you might want to look it up.  It is probably one of the most well-known German board games that have been ported to English, and for good reason.  Catan is a fun strategy game of resource management and city building, with relatively simple rules.

Catan… Germany is similar to the base Catan series, but instead of a game board that builds itself over time, you are given a single game board – a map of Germany – and build your cities and monuments within the confines of the board.  It’s a simpler version of Catan in that sense; you will always know what is available to build and where you can build, rather than needing to fit together new tiles to increase the board’s size as time progresses.

Many common elements are still around: you must gain resources (Wood, Wool, Ore, Brick, and Wheat) to build roads, townships, and monuments.  For each town or monument you build, you earn one Victory Point.  Towns will provide resources throughout the game; each town is associated with a number between 2 and 12, and players roll 2d6 on their turn.  If the number 6 comes up, all towns with a number 6 gain their listed resources and given out to each player who earns something, regardless of who rolled the dice.  Monuments are a little different and new to this version of Catan; building a monument grants you a one-time bonus of resources, development cards, or roads, and also counts as a Victory Point.

Players still gain Victory Points for having the longest road (5 or more connecting, consecutive roads) and the biggest army (3 or more used Militia cards).  Development cards for the militia are available, as well as cards which allow you to trade resource cards to the bank at a reduced cost (2 of one type for 1 of another, instead of the normal 3-for-1) and a bonus Victory Point card.

Because the game board is always identical, initial city placement is simplified.  Each player takes a random card at the start of the game which tells them which 3 cities they get to start with.  After that, players must choose which direction they will build their roads and towns on the game’s map.  Gameplay is quick and relatively simple compared to other versions of Catan, making this ideal for newcomers to the game as well as people who have trouble with the tile placement system of the original.

Catan… Germany is also a very beautiful game.  Each resource card is gorgeously illustrated and the game board is vibrant as well.  Each of the game’s monuments has its own plastic 3D miniature which sets on the board itself, and the road and township pieces are also made from brightly colored plastic.  The resource cards are sized differently than regular Catan and they actually fit European Mini-sized card sleeves, whereas regular Catan cards do not.  It’s nice to be able to sleeve your cards and keep those gorgeous pictures looking nice, even if you’re eating at the game table.

From an accessible standpoint, Catan… Germany is superior to Catan.  Its simpler design and brighter colors make it easier to comprehend and manipulate.  The resource and development cards could use to be larger or Brailled for people with visual impairments, but because the limited amount of in-game text on the cards and the very different pictures on each make it easy to determine what you have in your hand, even if your vision is limited.  Still, it wouldn’t hurt to increase the card size or at least make the game’s cheat sheet a bit bigger; the cheat sheet is the size of a standard card and its job is to tell you what types of resources you need to combine to build various objects, but their tiny size makes them impractical for use even with a magnifier.

After our game of Catan… Germany we called it a night.  My girlfriend and I stayed with our friends downtown and woke up the next day to squeeze in one more board game before heading home.

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