Settlers of Catan – the latest

Most board games players have played or heard of Klaus Teuber’s forever ongoing “The Settlers of Catan ” Recently it has taken on 2 new looks, one of these is the book by Rebecca Gable (review follows) which tells how the settlers came to Catan, and the other is a newly themed Catan game based on the ever popular Star Trek (review of this can be found after the book review)
The Settlers of Catan – the Book: First Published in the German language in 2003 by Bastei Lübbe. Translated into English by Lee Chadeayne and published by AmazonCrossing in 2011. Contains illustrations by Klaus Teuber the designer of the Settlers of Catan Game .
This tale begins close to the start of the Iron Age of the 9th Century in what appears to be a fairly small community called Elasund, on the coast of Northern Europe, possibly Germany. Here the villagers fish, tend horses, sheep and
cows, and plant seed/harvest crops (probably wheat but never actually named as such). They have a Blacksmith, a Carpenter (Candamir) a Boat Builder (Berse) and a self appointed leader, Olaf, who is rich by Elasund standards.
Candamir and his life time friend, Osmund notice smoke pluming upwards from the village and they see Turon ships in the harbour and can
now hear the screams of their kin as the Turon raiders rape, steal and pillage. Elasund is a
Beowulf style village attacked irregularly by Viking style raiders – possibly from Denmark.
At a council meeting, which the Elusunds call the Thing, Olaf speaks of an island hidden and protected by a raging storm
where the sun shines all the year round. The Thing decides that it is worth taking the chance on beginning a new life on
this island and nine ships set sail.
The ships sail North-East and by regarding a map and guessing roughly the passage I figure they sailed either round or between
the Shetland and Orkney Islands before heading North-West towards the Cold Islands (Faroe Islands) where they stop to trade
with the self-appointed King, Cnut. Treachery abounds and the Elasunds escape Cnut’s evil intentions – to steal and kill rather
than trade – getting back onboard and sailing away with Cnut’s ships in pursuit. The Elasunds find they also have a passenger,
Siglind, Cnut’s Queen, who has run away and thrown herself on the mercy of the Settlers, as a slave rather than a Queen.

After this they sail for about 4 days before they meet the expected Storm, though this happens to be just a storm and not the one
they were expecting, that comes about a day later. The storm wrecks Candamir’s ship and other ships are pushed further onwards
but land is sighted close by and Osmund is the first to set foot on the new land. Again regarding the map I am assuming the new
land is either the Azures or Bermuda (which is what I was originally thinking because of the description, the storms etc) but with
9th Century sailing ships generally managing around 4-5 knots (120 nautical miles) a day reaching either of these guesses is pushing
it quite considerably.
Catan grows as the Thing has determined the order of house building and each family begins to settle into a domesticity different
than it was on Elasund. Although it has been there in underlying little vignettes so far it is now that Christianity begins to raise it’s
head, through the teachings of Austin, Candamir’s Saxon slave. As God and Christianity grow the Settlers begin to split into two factions, those who still regard Odin as their God and those who now believe in the God whose prophet is the Son of the Carpenter.
Things are coming nicely to the boil with ancient ways and rituals being questioned regularly and then Olaf is caught with his Turon slave bent naked before him. Olaf is sentenced to death but escapes and takes several slaves, his and others, plus two of his sons, provisions and livestock onto his ship. Over the next six or so years Olaf and his ever growing new settlement, set amongst the caves in the wastelands.

Olaf dies in a fight with Candamir, Lars, his son, takes over and is just as bloody minded as his father was. Candamir and Hacon are kidnapped and Hacon is forced to be their Blacksmith. Six months pass until Candamir and Hacon escape, but when they get back to their village things have dramatically changed. Osmund has turned against Candamir’s family and all the Christians who have followed Austin.
Candamir, Siglind, Austin, Hacon and the Christians sail off round the island until they reach the other side, putting the spinal mountains between them and the first settlement, there they embark on yet another new life.
My own opinions of this 600+ page book is that it is a page-turner but even with the names Elasund and Candamir (both expansions for the Settlers of Catan board game) I didn’t really feel that I was reading a book based on the game.
Star Trek Catan: STAR TREK: CATAN is a brilliant new design based around the cult television space opera. Its box art features the name of the Settlers of Catan author, Klaus Teuber, as well as the famous Star Trek banner heading and a wonderful action shot of the Enterprise backlit by a giant red gas planet.
The components include all of the regular “Catan” pieces in the form of 19 interchangeable planet sector tiles, 6 part game board frame, 28 plastic outposts, 16 habitat rings (for upgrading outposts to starbases), 60 plastic starships, 1 Klingon battle cruiser, 2 special victory point cards, 10 support cards, 25 development cards, 4 building costs cards, 95 resource cards, 2 six sided star dice, plus the rules and almanac booklet. All great quality.
If you were lucky enough to get your copy at its launch at GenCon 2012 Indianapolis (on the right day) you could have had it signed by Nichelle Nichols, Lieutenant Uhura on the original Enterprise. (this daft dunsel missed her).
So Catan has entered the world of science fiction and what a much better game it now is. To begin with, instead of fields and quarries etc we have planets, asteroids and gas giants. These are randomly given numbers (for the dice rolls) but they do not produce Wheat, Wood, Sheep etc, the collection of which makes little sense for a building a road or house.
Here we have the famous Dilithium (sadly not Crystallised) on Green Planets, Tritanium (the major resource in many science fiction games and stories) is found on Red Planets, Food (Yellow Planet), Oxygen (White Gas Planet), Water (Blue Planet) and Nothing (Asteroids around Catan cannot be mined).
Obviously you cannot build roads in space so instead you place Starships on the routes between interstellar intersections. It is on these that you can build Outposts and Star Bases.
Rolling a 7 brings the Klingon Battle Cruiser into play. This has the same annoying effect as the Robber, it stops production in the area it is placed, makes players with 7 or more cards lose 50% (rounded down) of them and allows the player who moves the KBC to steal a card from one player with a building next to the closed planet.
The Robber is for me the most frustrating and annoying part of Catan game. It is not only me who hates this piece and its rules for in virtually every recent Catan game this is the one constant rule that has been adjusted, changed and revised. In the Star Trek version there are Starfleet Intervenes cards that allow the KBC to be moved as if a 7 had been rolled. The Starfleet Intervenes cards do not prevent the KBC effect but they at least mean you can move it away from your planet on your turn – if you have one – they are not discarded after use. They are laid in front of the player and make up the Largest Starfleet for 2 VPs – this means most players hold onto at least one so it’s a balance between having the Largest Starfleet and insurance against the KBC effect.
The main difference between this and regular Catan is the addition of the Support Cards. Each player has one of these cards which can be used twice and then exchanged or it can be exchanged after its first use. These cards feature main characters from early Star Trek (Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Scott, McCoy, Chekhov and Uhura etc, and have different special abilities that can be used in your turn.
It’s weird really. I have never been a Star Trek “trekkie” and I have issues with the Catan game but put the two together and I have a game I really like to play.
So the engines can take it and the Dilithium crystals are in place. Kirk to Enterprise “Beam us aboard”.