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Stuck for an idea on what to buy your friends for Christmas or New Year ?
Does your Games Club need something new and special ?
No Room in your bag for a boxed game ?

What could be better than the superb Travel Edition of SETTLERS of CATAN ?

 

  

The SETTLERS of CATAN Travel Edition comes in a solid plastic half-hex case with a protective heavy hard card same-shape box that has its own carrying handle. There is no handle on the actual games case, just the card box in which it comes.

This edition has been designed with four slide out drawers that safely hold all the components:
6 x plastic slotter pieces that can be put together jigsaw-style to form the board. These pieces are printed on both sides which means there are so many combinations possible that you would have to play so many games before you used the same board combination twice. Apart from these board pieces there are 4 sets of player pieces (Roads, Settlements and Cities in the player ID colours) that slot into the board when and where necessary. The board and pieces are reminiscent of a traveling Chess set I had when I was very young. Within the drawers are a couple of card trays, shaped and separated especially for the 95 Resource cards and the 25 Development cards that are the main play of the game. There is also an hexagonal die shaker which is designed so you can roll the dice within its clear plastic lidded compound and thus never remove the dice, so no possibility of losing them when playing on a journey. Other cards include Building Cost cards, Special Victory cards and 14 Trade cards (for the 2 player version of the game). Finally there are the rules, designed to open up into a large hex shape and yet, gimmick aside, they are very informative and helpful for Catan players new and experienced.

     

This special Traveler's Edition of Settlers of Catan takes us back to the beginning when the game was first launched. The rules used here are the basic rules with no space flights or ships, no covered wagons or any other of the myriad of excellent expansions; it is the good, well rounded four player version of the game that changed the face and style of European board games, it is a brass roots version in a lunch-box.

The pieces are constructed in quite strong plastic though any misuse or rough handling would not be favourable to their safety. The holes are just about the right size for the pegs to fit in, stay put and yet be removed easily enough so as to not cause any breakage. The drawers pull out at an angle and should be drawn deliberately but with delicate hands otherwise it is more than likely you will spill the contents onto the floor and possibly lose them - this game doesn't tolerate roughness or carelessness, there are no proviso's for poor behaviour towards it. But if you look after it as it should be cared for, pieces put away neatly and drawers closed firmly then this can be a game to last.

   

The rules are the same as the original Settlers of Catan. Dice are rolled, resources are gained then exchanged for Cities, Settlements and Roads and the settlement of Catan expands across the vast blueness of the hexagonal base area.The cards are tiny but with patently clear graphics and the rules are littered throughout with examples and illustrations - don't worry if you've never played Settlers of Catan before, there's a first time for everyone. What you have to worry about is how many times you will play Settlers of Catan once you have been bitten by the Catan-Bug ?

The players are attempting to be the first to get 10 Victory Points. These points are gained through constructing buildings and roads between them; having the longest road is also worth 2 VPs and generally assists with the push towards winning.

    

This is a colourful, light yet robust, edition of one of the most popular board games in our lifetime. Of course extra care is required, more than if it were a regular boxed edition, but by taking that little extra care, and I cannot emphasise that enough, you will have a game to last you for many, many years. Part of the caring is taking your time when putting the game away, ensuring neatness and correct placing of the parts after each session with it. The little pieces are a hazard to young children and babies, the cards are small and although not exactly delicate, they do bend under pressure. This is possibly one of the reasons players should be aged 10+ when an 8 years old could quickly earn how to play.Games last up to and possibly just over, 60 minutes.

The Travel Edition is for four-players. There is no room within the board for any more drawers and no room around the terrain tiles to add sea hexes, thus the publishing of a 5-6 player expansion is unlikely. However, should one be created I believe it would almost certainly have to rely on outside creative boards and boxes

This edition of Settlers of Catan plays like the basic game and thus it includes my least favourite piece of any game - the Robber. This abomination moves whenever a 7 is rolled and it prevents any resources being obtained from the hex region it is placed in (ie no cards for anyone). It also causes the player in current control of it to steal a resource card from any one of the players who have built next to the chosen hex - a real double whammy if you happen to be strong in the targeted hex, and also very difficult to recover from if you are already behind and you aren't adept at throwing 7s on the two dice. My total dislike of the Robber is well documented and no matter how many times I play Settlers of Catan there is always at lease one instance every game that causes unnecessary frustration and for me ruins what otherwise is an excellent game. I also know there are a lot of people who disagree with me about the Robber, but to them I say look at the different themed games of Catan and tell me where, apart from the location and thus perhaps the resources, the major game mechanic difference is. You will soon discover that the main mechanic changed constantly is the Robber, and in my mind that is because the designer realises it is the weak link. We have tried numerous variations on the Robber and when playing the original Settlers of Catan game we now remove it from the game altogether and when a player rolls a 7 they gain a resource of their choice from the supply. They do this when the dice are rolled so that the other part of the Robber mechanic comes into play if needs be. If they now have too many cards they have to reduce down by half before continuing their turn. This balances getting the free card quite nicely without upsetting the flow of the game.

If you can gain the correct resources then you can build adjacent to one of the two original; starting positions you chose during the setup phase and thus expand your empire. You get no points for building roads, unless it is the aforementioned road, but Settlements and Cities, which both need roads between them, score 1 VP and 2VP and getting to 10 is neither as easy or as long and arduous as you might think.

Settlers of Catan is designed to play fast and easy with strategy and luck being the two major ingredients. It is for gamers and families, and gamer's families, who often are on the move (Travelers ? see final note). It is a great favourite at games conventions and games clubs because it plays well and quickly and is easy to learn.

There is a variant on the rules for 2 players but to be honest we have tried it as a 2-player game and it did nothing for us.

   

Please note that in the UK a "Traveler" is a person who lives on the road, staying for brief periods in villages and the outskirts of towns before moving on. Catan travelers are not the same as British travelers.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015