Billabong Boardgamers

Settlers Card Game

Publisher: Kosmos / Mayfair
Players: 2
Reviewed by Debbie Pickett
Reproduced here with kind permission from Funagain Games.

Settlers for Two

This great card game retains a lot of the feel of the Settlers of Catan board game, but game play is on a smaller scale than the board game, with you building not only settlements and cities, but also the individual buildings inside them. There are more varied game play options, which allow a player to focus on military supremacy or trade monopolies.

Games almost always end closely, frequently they are won or lost by just one turn, or because a player has just one too few resources to play a particular card. Luck is a factor in this game, but it can be overcome somewhat by having a good memory for which cards are in which piles. Trade is not so important as in the Settlers board game, and when trade does occur it is frequently forced by one player who takes resources from the other.

This English-language version is a faithful translation of the German version, published by Kosmos. Kosmos is producing a number of games specially designed for two players (others include Kahuna, Caesar & Cleopatra, Finale, Druidenwalzer and Lost Cities). The others in the series are good, but the Settlers card game is still my favourite.

Ritter & Händler Expansion

Ritter & Händler (Knights and Trade) is one of five sets of cards released by Kosmos for its popular Settlers of Catan card game. The cards in this theme set have almost all appeared before in the now discontinued Tournament set.

Ritter & Händler can be played as an expansion to the basic game, adding some variety to it without greatly changing the mechanics. It can also be played along with the basic set and the other four theme sets in a tournament game, where each player builds a specialized deck of cards for the game (provided you can find someone else who also has the basic set and theme sets to form their own deck).

The Ritter & Händler set makes the fewest changes to the basic game. It adds a few knights and some action cards that benefit the player having the strongest army. It also increases some commerce opportunities with cards that allow a greater potential for trading. These two aspects force players to play more aggressively than they would have needed to with just the basic game. As a result, every victory point earned is a battle, and scores seesaw as the knight and windmill tokens change hands.

For fans of the Settlers card game these theme sets are all must-haves. The Ritter & Händler set provides some of the less extravagant but nonetheless highly useful cards.

Wissenschaft & Fortschritt Expansion

Wissenschaft & Fortschritt (Science and Progress) is one of five theme sets from Kosmos for its popular Settlers of Catan card game. The cards in this set almost all appeared previously in the discontinued Tournament set (together with the Ritter & Hdndler theme set, Wissenschaft & Fortschritt contains all of the cards that were in the Tournament set).

This theme set can be played with the basic set of cards to make an expanded basic game, or along with the basic cards and the other four theme sets you can mix-and-match cards to make a deck to play a tournament game against someone else who has likewise built a deck from another set of cards.

The cards in Wissenschaft & Fortschritt add to the basic game several scientific advances; additionally it includes the buildings that these advances enable to be erected. The central card in this set is the University, which is essentially an enhanced version of the Library from the basic game. With the University you can add a cannon or a building crane, or play several other cards that allow you to gain resources and other goodies.

By and large, the cards in Wissenschaft & Fortschritt make for a more stable game that has a greater focus on gaining victory points rather than disturbing the opponent's efforts. This will appeal more to those who dislike overly aggressive play.

Fans of the Settlers of Catan card game will definitely approve of the Wissenschaft & Fortschritt theme set; it adds some very useful cards to the game that you'll wonder how you ever did without before.

Handel & Wandel Expansion

Handel & Wandel (Trade and Change) is a new expansion set for Kosmos' Settlers of Catan card game. These cards are the result of a competition for fans to submit new card ideas for the game.

This theme set can be played along with the basic cards in an expanded basic game, or players can construct a deck of cards from this set and others for tournament play against someone else who has formed his or her own deck.

The Handel & Wandel theme set builds on the little-used 'Counting house' card from the base game. Many cards can only be played once you have a Counting house in your principality. Most cards are variations on the theme of commerce; there are cards which allow you to increase gold production, trade at a one-for-one ratio, to store extra resources directly as commerce points, and to use the fleets that your opponent owns.

The focus on commerce means that there is a continuous battle for the most commerce points, and because you can never be sure that your resources aren't going to be taken away from you they are almost always spent as soon as you have enough to build with. This, along with the lowering of the importance of victory point cards, makes for a longer game than the basic game.

For the budding trader and the player who can never get by without a ton of commerce points, the Handel & Wandel theme set contains some fascinating new cards that add a new flavour to the basic game. Definitely recommended.

Politik & Intrige Expansion

Politik & Intrige (Politics and Intrigue) is one of five theme sets of cards from Kosmos that enhance its Settlers of Catan card game. All of the cards in this set are new, the result of a competition for fans to design new cards.

Like the other sets, it can be played along with the basic cards for an extended basic game, or it can be mixed with cards from the base game and other theme sets to form a tournament deck which can be played against someone else who has done the same thing with his or her own cards.

The Politik & Intrige set centres around two cards from the basic set: the town hall and the church. Both of these cards are prerequisites for several of the other cards in the theme set. This reflects the idea that in order to be politically strong you need to have either organized government or organized religion. The third central card in this theme set is the metropolis, which upgrades a city and allows extra units to be stationed in the city.

Almost half of the cards in Politik & Intrige are action cards; this means that there are plenty of little things happening in the game that affect players' resources or draw decks. This does not change the game play drastically, but it does add a little excitement to the game as you are never sure what is going to happen next. Many of the cards in this theme set seem to even up the game, reducing the effect of otherwise overpowerful cards and improving cards that you might otherwise not care to use. The set also includes plenty of ways to thwart your opponent, however, so it is not the friendliest of the theme sets in its feel.

Politik & Intrige is a worthy addition to the Settlers of Catan card game; it adds some depth to the basic game, and tournament players will find some useful cards for making decks. Like all of these theme sets, this is one to get.

Zauberer & Drachen Expansion

Catan gets magical

Zauberer & Drachen (wizards and dragons) is one of five theme sets Kosmos has released for its Settlers of Catan card game. This set is made up of previously unseen cards submitted by fans for a competition in 1997.

Like the other theme sets, this one can be played with one copy of the basic game for an expanded version of the basic game, or, for those who like building decks, you can combine cards from this set and others to form a specialized deck of cards to be played in a tournament against someone else who has done the same thing with his or her own sets of cards.

By far the most different from the basic game, Zauberer & Drachen introduces magic to the island of Catan. Magic is made possible through the building of a citadel, which is much the same as a city but with a focus on magic. You install wizards in the lands beside this citadel. Each wizard is able to convert a resource in its adjacent land into a point of magic (effectively making magic a seventh kind of resource), which can later be spent to cast spells. Spells are cast from spellbooks (which are placed in citadels in the same way as buildings and units are placed in settlements) and each kind of spell costs between one and three magic points. There are some magical buildings and magical units (dragons) too, to keep some continuity with the concepts of the basic game.

It is not possible to win the game using only magic (there are not enough victory points in the theme set cards for this), so you are required to balance your magical aspirations with normal settlements, cities and buildings. The magic can help you to achieve this by giving you power over things you would not normally have, such as the ability to re-order the event card deck. At the same time, the magic can royally mess you up if it happens at an inopportune moment.

The Zauberer & Drachen set certainly provides the most different feel of any of the theme sets for the Settlers of Catan card game, yet the game still has that Catan aura to it. For Settlers fans, this set is doubtless one to get.

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