Traders and Barbarians of Catan: Exhausting the Island
It took seven years for a new expansion of the Settlers of Catan come out, but when Traders and Barbarians was released it was as though Klaus Teuber had been planning expansions throughout that whole time gap and then just threw them all into one package. Traders and Barbarians is really five expansions in one, with some smaller additions to the game thrown in for good measure. As a result, you certainly get your money’s worth in terms of quantity. But how well do these new additions fit into our beloved island of Catan?
Moving beyond Seafarers and Cities and Knights, Catan has now become enriched with fishermen, rivers, castles, trading routes, and even desert-dwelling camels. This once simple island with its, hexagonal pattern of terrain, wild and waiting to be explored, has now had every corner and crevice explored and exploited. Will this be to the island’s advantage, or will it muddy Catan’s once simple pleasures?
Traders and Barbarians offers Catan settlers five new scenarios to try out; The Fishermen of Catan, The Rivers of Catan, Caravans of Catan, Barbarian Attack, and the titular Traders and Barbarians. Each one increases in complexity. I will discuss them one by one.
Fishermen of Catan
– Fishermen – is the simplest scenario of the five, and for that reason may be the best. It simply consists of fish as a new resource with rolling numbers now set up along the coasts and on a lake which takes the place of the desert. These fish can be traded in for a number of different items or actions, such as other resources, development cards, moving the robber, etc. Its an easy addition which adds an extra level of options and makes the coastlines a little more desirable to build on.
– Rivers of Catan – Two rivers are added to the board in this scenario which increases the value of settlements and cities built beside them. Bridges are also added in order to cross rivers with your road. Coins are introduced in this game, which gives victory pints for the wealthiest player and takes away points for the poorest players. I;m not a fan of the addition of money into Catan, but its not as intrusive as it could be. A good scenario.
– Caravans of Catan – Caravans sees the desert playing a larger role as camels merge and form caravans across the island. Settlements, cities and roads build on caravan routes are worth more. The direction of the caravan is determined by a voting round, which is interesting but seems un-Catan like. Its okay to play, but ultimately seems unnecessary.
– Barbarian Attack – In this scenario, barbarians are constantly showing up on the coastal hexes, and players must use knights to scare them off. Barbarians can conquer cities and prevent resource collection. An alright scenario, but it pales in comparison to the similar but better Cities and Knights expansion.
– Traders and Barbarians – Traders and Barbarians adds a whole new element to Catan as commodities are transported around the island by wagons. This adds an element of the many railroad games out there, such as my personal favourite Eurorails. An interesting notion, but that mechanic seems out of place for Catan.
There are also a few small additions as well, including event cards used instead of dice, a Harbour Master card similar to largest army but using ports instead, and rules for a 2-player game and a friendly robber game.
There’s a bit of a mix and match here, as some of the scenarios are great and others can be done without. Does Catan really need camels or a wagon train? Probably not. It seems like perhaps these are going a step too far. The fish are great, and the river is actually quite good for a different aspect of Catan, and they both work without adding too much complexity or taking away from Catan’s atheistic. But the more complicated scenarios seem to be getting a little too far from the heart of the Island.
Overall, what works is great and what doesn’t is still enjoyable as a change in gameplay, but not to the levels of Seafarers and Cities and Knights. However, the island has certainly been exhausted and there is a lot contained within this one box. From the shorelines to the deserts, to the river and quarries, all parts of Catan can now be utilized, for better or for worse.
Base Game –
Base Game and Expansion –