Monday, 29 November 2010

Traders and Barbarians of Catan

Last night, we decided to play another Traders and Barbarians scenario. Richard thought we might as well do the last one - the game that's actually called 'Traders and Barbarians'. It took ages to set up. The story is that the barbarians have, basically, been conquered but there are still a small number to be found along lonely streets of Catan. Buildings have to be re-built, and islanders need to use their wagons to transport relevant commodities to the correct places.

Here's an overview of the initial board:

There's no desert, and no robber. A couple of hexes have been removed too (one sheep, one wheat) and there are three new trading hexes which supply the commodities. The 2 and 12 numbers have been removed - if those are rolled, the person simply rolls again.

There are, however, three barbarians on the board. Rather confusingly, the instructions said that we needed all thirty of them, so Richard also got out the knights. But in fact we didn't need any other than the initial three.

In addition to our regular pieces, we each had a wagon:

And some cards to show us how far we could move the wagon each turn:

- which all seemed remarkably confusing when we read the instructions, but did gradually make sense as the game progressed. We each started with four 'moving points' per turn. The wagons have to be moved along intersections. If they move along one with a street in place, it costs one moving point. If there is no street, two moving points. And if there's a barbarian on the street, then it costs an extra couple of moving points.

However, if the street belongs to another player, then that player has to be paid a gold piece. We should each have started the game with five gold pieces but didn't notice that instruction. Gold is also earned for delivering resources via the wagons.

Here's a close-up of the first of the trading hexes:

Tools have to be delivered there; sand or quartz can be collected from it.

Here's the second:

Sand has to be delivered there; tools or glass can be collected from it.

And here's the third, the castle:

Glass and quartz have to be delivered there; tools or sand can be collected.

Roads can be built to the centre plaza area of these trading hexes, but no settlements can be built on them. Roads cannot be built on their borders with the sea.

So... here is our initial placement. Since there were just two of us playing, we put down three initial buildings - and since the final one has to be a city (which is where the wagons are also placed to start with) we did what we do in the Cities and Knights games: two settlements and one city each.

I was completely bewildered by the new regulations, so just chose my spots as I would for a regular game. The instructions did say that it's important to build plenty of roads so as to allow more rapid movement of wagons, so I made sure of reasonable wood and clay. The 'longest street' card is not in play.

Richard quickly built some streets, and moved his wagon along four of them, using up four movement points. I could not move mine so far as I only had one street at the time. Although it would have been quicker to go past the barbarian... The aim is to reach one of the trading hexes as soon as possible to collect one's first trading commodities - however I was more concerned about building some more settlements to start with.

Still, one can move the wagon every turn in addition to building; Richard got first to one of the trading hexes, and picked up his commodity, and set out for the place he had to deliver it to. Meanwhile I bought a settlement and a city. But I finally got to the first plaza and picked up a commodity card, which had 'tools' on it.

Richard upgraded his movement cards a few times... I didn't think about it until I'd done some more building, then realised that the cards remaining in my hand were exactly what I needed to get to upgrade:

So now I had five movements points per turn, and collected two gold pieces rather than one for each successful delivery.

I could also now take an extra chance if my wagon landed next to a barbarian. I could roll one die, and if a 6 was rolled, could move the barbarian. Further upgrades to the cards give more chances to move the barbarian.

I'd been taking so many pictures of individual parts of the game (the last two forgetting the close-up setting, so they're a bit burned out and not properly focussed) that I'd forgotten about the whole board. But this was the state of play of the game by this stage:

I had nine points in buildings, having had a lot of ore and wheat, and thus built all my possible cities already. Richard had five. What we hadn't realised (I hadn't read the full instructions yet) was that for every successful commodity delivery, we should have had an extra victory point. We did wonder why the instructions said to play to 13 points (regular games of Settlers are 10) and wondered where extra points would come from. Of course, just building all the cities and settlements makes 13 points, and we usually play to 16 in a two-person game (18 with Cities and Knights) but were wondering where extra points might come from.

It wasn't long before I had streets that went, pretty much, from the castle hex to the one nearest me. And I kept on picking up tools from the castle, quartz from the other one... which meant I would have been raking in commodity points if we'd realised we were supposed to get points.

Richard had to travel along my streets from time to time, so I got a fair amount of gold for that. And two pieces of gold can be used, up to twice per turn, to buy an individual resource card. Which was extremely useful at times.. so I kept on building. And the more I built, the more resources Ikept picking up. I did, once, have to give up six cards when a 7 was rolled (although the robber is not in play, the barbarians can steal cards in the same way, but do get moved by whoever rolls the 7).

Sheep were in rather short supply in this game, and were needed for most of the movement card upgrades, so we realised that, until pretty near the end, neither of us had bought any development cards. There's a special pack of 25 that go with this scenario, but they cost the same as in a regular Settlers game.

It's possible for two wagons to be in the same place at the same time, as happened in one of the plazas:

- by which stage I had 12 points in buildings, and Richard had 8. If we'd been counting commodity delivery points, we probably each had about the same number of those.

So I built my last settlement. Then figured all I could do was keep on transporting commodities, and spending resources on development cards. The first one I bought gave me an extra wagon journey, which was quite useful.

The second one I bought was a victory point. So Richard said he thought that made me the winner, and that we should stop:

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