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 CATAN:  A GAME of THRONES: BROTHERHOOD of the WATCH

As with all CATAN games A GAME of THRONES CATAN has the mark of the distinguished Catan creator, Klaus Teuber, and this time the themed game is designed by the great man along with his son Benjamin.

 

This game is aimed at fans of both genres, CATAN and GAME of THRONES, the publishers hoping to encourage persons who play games and persons who watch the TV series to purchase this simply by name association. Anything with 'A GAME of THRONES' theme is basically regarded as a retail success from the moment it rolls off the presses and into the stores, much the same as anything carrying the 'Cthulhu' tag is, and with it being a typical CATAN game with minor changes, as in STAR TREK CATAN, it has a ready and waiting audience now expanded due to the 'A GAME of THRONES' tag.

For non-gaming 'A GAME of THRONES' viewers the concept of a game themed around the 'Starks' the 'Wall' and the 'Brotherhood of the Watch' etc may be a trifle complicated, and so the Rules Booklet explains the way to play the Base 'Catan' game, complete with illustrations and examples, in just 4 pages. This includes the use of Tormund Giantsbane (aka the Robber - which is still my personal bugbear with virtually every 'Catan' game) and the neatly moulded plastic Roads, Settlements and Upgrades (Keeps).

 

The Basic game requires the random placing of the hexes in the framework provided, using as many as needed dependent on the number of players, each with a randomly placed number token from 2-12; or you can use one of the predetermined setups.

If you are new to Catan, let's leave A GAME of THRONES out of it for a moment, then it's an easy game to learn. There are terrain tiles which give up 5 different resources, Wool (Sheep Pasture), Grain (Wheat Fields), Ore (Mountain), Brick (Stone Hills) and Lumber (Forests Wood); there is also an Ice Field hex which produces nothing and isn't used in the basic game. These terrain tiles are positioned into a framework made of the card borders; make sure you build your framework using the (almost) non-illustrated sides of the borders where only 'Trade Routes' are shown - the other side of the board is for the BROTHERHOOD of the WATCH version.

If you decide to play as per the basic game setup then where you position your Roads and Settlements is already decided. If you are playing the basic game with a random setup then select a Start Player who places one Settlement and 2 Roads adjacent with play continuing clockwise. Then play returns anti-clockwise for the second Settlement and Roads with the Furst player placing their second set of Settlement/Roads last, before the game begins. As you begin with these 2 Settlements it means you begin with 2VPs of the 10 VPs required to win.

When the dice are rolled you add up the result (a '3' and a '6' would be '9') and this means that any terrain tile with the number token #9 on it will produce. Players who have Settlements adjacent to the chosen Tile/s each gain one Resource card of the type produced by the terrain. As the game progresses Settlements can be upgraded into Keeps which gain players 2 of the Resources (cards from supply) produced. Rolling a '7' on the dice brings Tormund into action, but first ALL players, including the dice-roller, have to reduce the number of resource cards they are holding down to 7. Then Tormund is moved to any other terrain hex - sensibly the die roller would move Tormund to a hex where an opponent or opponents has a Settlement. Tormund prevents the terrain he sits on from producing any resources (until he is moved) and he also steals a random card from one of the other players who have Settlements now adjacent to Tormund's current terrain hex. (My personal feeling and how we play here is that Tormund prevents production and ALL players cut their hand of cards down to 7 - we dislike the stealing action as it makes the game nastier than necessary - just our opinion, though kicking someone when they are down possibly does fit the GAME of THRONES storyline.

The resources you get can be used 'build' Roads, Settlements and upgrades. You can swap 4 of any one type of resource with the bank to obtain one of any resource from the supply, on your turn you can trade wit the other players (if they want to) and you can trade at Trade Routes at better odds than at the bank/supply. Having the longest Road (starting from 5 continuous Road pieces) gains you the Longest Road card but you will lose it if someone builds a longer Road. There is also a reward for the 'Largest Patrol' which is made up from Ranger Patrol Development Cards (these cards can be bought with resources). Players who have never played any CATAN game or need a rules revisal should play through the easy basic version but once you are comfortable with the basic game it is time to step up to the BROTHERHOOD of the WATCH rules.

 

This is where the remainder of the remaining plastic models come into the game and the GAME of THRONES edition begins for real. First off flip over the border pieces to reveal the Northern Region of Westeros (aka 'The GIFT') and build the WALL across the top part, thus cutting off the far North Clan areas, Frostfangs Mountains of Ice and Tormunds Camp from the beginning 4 hex tiles the GIFT. The 'GIFT' is the land between the Starks and the WALL and is encompassed either side (West and East) by the oceans. There is a standardised game setup for your first game, though I am sure that experienced Catan players can waltz straight into a randomly (dis)organised assembly.

In this GAME of THRONES version the players are the NIGHT'S WATCH and the defenders of the WALL behind which, to the North, the WILDLINGS are gathering, ready to breach the WALL and attack Westeros - there are three pages of BROTHERHOOD of the WATCH rules, the first of which explains the new way to setup and introduces the Heroes and Wildlings - randomly placing the face down Wildling tokens next to the board unseen by all players.

 

Each game Turn begins similarly to the Base game except that there are now three dice to roll, two D6 and one D12. The D6 are for resources as usual while the d12 determines which, if any, of the Wildlings move towards the WALL. The Wildling miniatures are just screaming to be painted, I only wish I knew one end of a paintbrush from the other, but even in their raw grey state they are impressive. Each of the three types has a special action; the Climber immediately jumps the Wall but doesn't breach it, the Giants with their massive half-treetrunk clubs, knock Guards from the Wall, and Regular Wildlings like to gather in majorities before they are brave enough to go over the Wall.

There are 11 'Hero' cards which are used in a similar way to the Crew cards in Catan: Star Trek edition. You can use a Hero's ability then return it to the display and choose a replacement from the row or you can flip it over onto it's red-edged 'B' side and use the ability one more time in a subsequent Turn and then set it back in the display grey-edge up (the 'A' side), your choice. 

 

The 'Hero' cards feature characters from the Books and illustrative realisations of the TV series actors:
A/B.     Benjen Stark - Joseph Mawle. 
A2/B2. Bowen Marsh - Michael Condron.
A1/B1. Jeor Mormont - Iain Glen
A/B.     Mance Rayder - Ciarán Hinds
A6/B6. Melisandre - Carice van Houten
A4/B4. Othell Yarwyck - Brian Fortune
A/B.     Qhorn Half-Hand - Simon Armstrong
A3/B3. Samwell Tardy - John Bradley
A5/B5. Ser Alliser Thorne - Owen Teale
A/B.     Ygritte - Rose Leslie
A/B.     Yoren - Victor Rodenmaar

 

Instead of just building Roads, Settlements and Upgrades you may also build Guards - each player has a number of Guard miniatures in their chosen ID colour. The idea of the game is still to build and gain 10 VPs, but at the same time as trying to beat your opposing players to the VPs, you are also attempting to keep the Wall from being breached - three breaches and the Wildlings win. They game can also end if there are 8 or greater Wildlings in the GIFT and you have the most Guards remaining on the Wall. There is an important note in the endgame rules that experienced CATAN players MUST remember (it is easy to slip back into "I know this game inside-out mode") and that is the game DOESN'T END until the last player's Turn has been totally completed - no immediate win for gaining 10VPs - the Wildlings may still advance and possibly breach the Wall for the third time thus winning the game. This hasn't happened to us as yet but we have come close - only some die roll luck prevented it from happening (which was a shame as that meant someone else won - being a poor loser I would rather the Wildlings have won) 

 

Each player has a double-sided BUILD COSTS board, one side for the Basic game which simply gives the Building Costs/Resource Requirements for Roads, Settlements, Keeps (Upgrades) and Development Cards along with a few basic rules. The flip-side is for the BUILD COSTS for the BROTHERHOOD of the WATCH version and apart from the Basic Build costs includes also the Build Charge for GUARDS.

Development cards include straight VPs, Progress cards and Ranger Patrol cards. Buying Development cards can be advantageous as gaining a 1VP card may seem a waste of hard earned resources (1 Ore, 1 Wool and 1 Grain) but as you begin the game with 2VPs and only need to get to 10VPs it can be the difference between winning and not winning.

 

So the Rules Booklet is only 8 pages, basically 4 for the Basic game and 4 for what would normally be called the 'Advanced' version but here it is the CATAN:  A GAME of THRONES: BROTHERHOOD of the WATCH version. However there is a 16-page RULES REFERENCE booklet that has a full back page Glossary of the HEROES of the NORTH cards and 14 other pages that fully explain the rules, including the WILDLING Tokens under the Settlements on the board and which release Wildlings into the game, the tokens depict the specific Wildling type and Clan Area where it appears. Wildlings also appear in play when a Hero (player) receives the Longest Road and/or the Largest Army as well as after Building each Keep (2 Wildlings) or Settlement (1 Wildling).

The WALL pieces are not particularly impressive as they are quite small which is rather a shame as the board and other pieces give out a pretty good GAME of THRONES atmosphere. It is a bit of a shame that the WALL is all important in the Book, Series and this Game, and yet it looks as pathetically daunting as a picket-fence. It looks much better with players Guards or Wildling Giants standing on the five separate, numbered spaces atop of it, that is true ("true-dat" as my American friends/family would say - though I don't think that is GAME of THRONES speech).

 

I have longed been a fan of the idea of CATAN games (with the exception of the Robber) and in fact all of my favourite CATAN games work better either with Robber's powers altered as we like to do, or one of the many later games featuring the CATAN mechanic which have 'fiddled' around with the Robber's powers. I thoroughly enjoyed the STAR TREK CATAN and SETTLERS of AMERICA: TRAILS to RAILS games and now the GAME of THRONES: BROTHERHOOD of the WATCH which is fairly similar to the STAR TREK edition (except it isn't in space) as goes boldly where others fear to go.

My imagination running amok, I am expecting to see Daenerys and her Dragons, the Snows and the Lanisters in the 5-6 player expansion when it arrives. I have heard from others that CATAN: GAME of THRONES: BROTHERHOOD of the WATCH is rather a let-down as a game, but I haven't found it to be. It is SETTLERS of CATAN at its heart with more than adequate of the GAME of THRONES' atmosphere to make it a fitting alternative to any of the previous CATAN based games. Personally I wouldn't recommend it to GoT fans who are not euro games players unless they are simply collecting anything to do with GoT and have no thoughts on opening and/or playing it. For euro gamers looking for a game which is different from the norm this is a good  addition to any games library. For CATAN aficienados I can't understand why you don't have it already.

 

With so many A GAME of THRONES fans in the world I find it quite surprising that the publishers (there are several including Catan Studios, Devir, Fantasy Flight etc) haven't gone straight for the 6-player game option instead of starting as usual with the 3-4 player version.
I realise that generally the 3-4 player game is followed by a 5-6 player expansion (and this will probably follow the same route-ine as it is financially more viable) but in this case, just for once, going with the 3-6 player game from the start would have been so very much appreciated by Catan/AGoT supporters.

Found online between £50.00 - £70.00 CATAN: GAME of THRONES: BROTHERHOOD of the WATCH can be found in your favourite Game Store.  I have checked the internet and the average price I found is £60.00* This was on Amazon and eBay and also at the bricks & mortar store of Leisure Games in Finchley London.  (*price rounded up by a few pence.)

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015