Die Siedler von Catan: Städte & Ritter
original German edition
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This is the long-awaited second expansion for Die Siedler (The Settlers of Catan)--and many believe, the best. This is not a "stand alone" game--you must have the original Die Siedler von Catan. If you are among the 2 million buyer/addicts of Settlers of Catan, you won't want to miss picking up this expansion.
The expansion has, as the name suggests, two main themes--Cities & Knights--and combines several elements from The Settlers of Catan Card Game with some new and exciting features such as Metropolises, Invading Armies, City Development and new Commodities including Money, Cloth and Books. With these new features and additional ways to achieve victory points, the short and simple family game has been developed into a longer and more complicated game with several new strategic and tactical possibilities for the serious gamer.
The two main themes are actually stretched into three:
A City still produces two cards but, with the exception of Clay and Grain, the second card will not be the normal Raw material, it will be a Commodity card. Instead of the second Wool you get a Cloth; Wood becomes Paper; Ore becomes Money. The Commodities are used to develop the Cities. The City Calendar is an advanced Building Costs Table which let you build specific Buildings as in the card game (Church, Library, Monument, etc.) and is divided into three parts, one for each direction the development of a City can take.
Paper lets the City develop in the Scientific (orange) direction, Cloth develops the City in the (green) market-oriented Direction, and Money allows development in the Political direction. Each building gives the player an extra chance to obtain a Development Card in that color. These cards cannot be bought, but are distributed to any player having the correct die number showing on their Calendar.
The new Development Cards are divided into three colors: Blue Politics Cards are used against other players (using Knights, Spies etc.). The orange Science Cards give the player a better chance to develop his City or land (you can even change the hex die number rolled). The green Commerce Cards make trading easier.
Each City Type gives the player an advantage when the third Building is raised: The Guild allows a player to trade 2:1. The Aqueduct gives the player a Raw Material Card of free choice in any turn in which he wouldn't otherwise receive one (even when a "7" is rolled). And with a Monument, a player may build the strongest type of Knight.
A fourth Building transforms the City into a Metropolis (by placing a golden City gate onto the Church, making it into a three-Towered structure). A Metropolis is worth 4 Victory points, but the player will lose it to the player first building the fifth (and last) Building.
Every player can also build up to 3 City Walls. Every extra Wall protects the player against a Robber by allowing the player to keep 2 extra cards in his hand before he loses half (with 3 Walls he may keep 7+(3x2)= 13 cards).
Each players receives 6 Knight counters in his color. They come in three strengths and have a Passive and an Active side. They are built, as in the card game, with Wheat and Ore. One payment makes a small Knight; it can then be developed into a stronger Knight by paying another Wheat and Ore, etc.
The Knights are placed on any free hex corner connected to the players Roads, passive side up. On his next turn a player may pay a Wheat to activate the Knight (flipping the counter). An active Knight may be moved to another free Road connection or onto an opponents (weaker) Knight in a similar Road connection; or he may be used against a Robber or an invading Army. He may not be used in the turn he was activated. After any action a Knight becomes inactive again.
The Enemy begins 8 spaces away from the Catan Island. Every time one of the three Axe symbols is rolled on the special die the Enemy moves one space towards Catan. When the invading Army reaches land, it has a strength equal to the number of Cities and Metropolises in Catan. Every active Knight shows 1 to 3 Fisted Gloves signifying the strength of the Knight. This totals the combined strength of Catan. If the Enemy is fought off, it will slowly begin a new invasion. If the Enemy is stronger than the Knights, it still begins another invasion--but not before it has burned down at least one City!
Every player who has a City (not a Settlement or Metropolis) counts his number of Fists. The player(s) with the weakest number of active Knights must reduce a City of their choice. If players defeat the Enemy, the player(s) with the strongest Knights receive a free Development Card and a bonus Victory Point as "Saviour of Catan."
I agree with the previous reviews: the game is considerably more complex than the base game, but the changes make a fun new game of a classic old game.
I just wanted to point one thing out: if you have the Kosmos (German) version of the base Settlers, you should get this version of this expansion. If you have the Mayfair (English) version, you should wait for the Mayfair expansion (if there ever is one). This is because the expansion adds commodity cards to match resource cards, and the Kosmos cards are a different size and have a different back than the Mayfair cards. If you have the Mayfair base game but the Kosmos expansion, then you can tell the difference between the old resource cards and the new commodity cards. This makes a big difference at card-stealing time!
This is not so much a simple expansion as a whole additional level to Settlers, adding new city development and production options. Unlike the base game and the Seafarers expansion, whose tremendous staying power seems based on being very easy to learn but still having challenging play, it will take a time or two through to understand the nuances of Stadte & Ritter. It is very much a different game rather than a simple expansion along the lines of Seafarers. But it's well worth the effort.
That having been said, this is not actually that complex on the scale of German games. No more complex than, say, Euphrat & Tigris if you already know the basic Settlers. Plus, it's got a lot of big wins over the basic game which make it worthwhile: the new Progress cards are a huge improvement over the basic Entwicklug cards, being more varied and subtle. They are worth the effort and price of admission alone. The extra VPs gained from building City advances and defending Catan provide much-needed extra avenues to victory; it's now possible to win with a relatively small empire. And being able to use Knights on your opponents (especially in conjunction with the Politics advances) adds an extra level of player interaction. Although the Knights in general are not that powerful, their use is somewhat subtle, and is one of the harder aspects to of the new game to grasp. Once you get it, though, it's a very nice extra detail.
Stadte & Ritter takes a little longer to get comfortable with than basic Settlers, but it is well worth the effort if you are intruiged by a more involved game. It results in a game that is more varied and strategic, with more options and very interesting play.
I've been playing Siedler with the Stdte & Ritter expansion for about six months, and I can't think of anything about this version of Siedler that I don't like. In short, this expansion allows for considerably more diverse strategies than the base version of the game and leads to a much richer gaming experience.
I particularly like the addition of the new commodities, which allow the player to develop their own civilization in different directions, gaining various advantages and kinds of development cards as play progresses.
These days, I only play the base version when pressed for time, or when my gaming companions aren't up for the additional complexities of the Stdte & Ritter version.
The latest Siedler expansion sees a game that builds on the success of the basic game and uses the card game as further inspiration for development. Whether this is viewed as a positive improvement depends on your relationship with the earlier Siedler models.
The game is basic Siedler, with city development added on. This means that the new aspects of the game only come into play when you have built your first city, which you receive at the start. Instead of receiving two resources when you get a hit on a city, three of the resource types -- ore, wool and wood provide a development resource instead of the second resource. These can be translated into city developments such as libraries, markets and cathedrals. It reminds me of the progress you make in Civilization and there is something addictive to this process.
There are three tracks to follow and progress is recorded down these routes on a binder device, which you flip over to reveal new developments. Rather than represent enhancements to a specific city, the developments represent growth across your community in science, trade and the political sphere.
Two other significant changes are included. A third die is rolled each turn, with a chance that a ship of invaders moves closer to Siedler-land. When it lands, there is a fight. The strength of the invaders is the value of the cities while the strength of the settlers is the value of the activated knights. This is a further change. Players are able to train knights through resource payments and activate them. This gives a feeling of Republic of Rome, because every player can assist or not with the defence by choosing when or if to do so. If the settlers lose, a city is reduced to a town (another aspect of Civilisation?) and provides a limited opportunity to reduce a leader back to the pack.
If the third die does not move the invaders nearer, then there is a chance that a player will receive a card benefit. This is dependent on a player having made a city development and the chance grows as progress is made in each of the three spheres. These cards are really good and lead to a player having many more options. For example, a player could activate all knights with one of these cards, or force a trade of city development cards.
The quality of components are up to previous standards -- the only exception seems to be the surround to the tiles, which is more flimsy than I would like.
The "problems" of this expansion are the same as the original but magnified by the additional time for this game. If you fall behind in building cities, then some of the enjoyment that stems for seeing your community progress is lost. Not only that, but to see your competitors enjoying the fruits of their improvements can be frustrating.
My opinion after a few games is that this is a further positive evolution of the Siedler system. One might say a natural development as the system becomes more integrated. Is it more enjoyable? I think so, because it adds more into the game. I like the set up because the inclusion of a city means that you want to consider where to place your first city, since it provides you with the means of development. At the same time, you need to get knights out because the invaders will arrive early on.
I wonder if this had been the first game in the system whether a simplification (à la Elfenland) would have developed? As it is, more detail is not for everyone. If you like more involved games that last longer, this is for you. If you like more simple games, stick to the basic version.