There are so many versions of Catan it’s disturbing. It could begin turning into Monopoly, except each version actually plays a little differently. When I first heard the announcement that they’d be releasing a Star Trek version I was actually really upset. Why are they doing this? What benefit could this possibly serve? Where can I buy one?
My wife and most of my friends who have played any games with me typically enjoy Settlers of Catan. I do not. I found it to be repetitive and boring. You could run the game on autopilot with a machine rolling the dice and dealing out resources to everyone. But now there are little starships and starbases. Does it make the game better?
I have to say, the little ship and starbase models are actually pretty detailed. I bet these would make great little proxies in a hex-n-counter Star Trek game like Federation Commander: Klingon Border. I may have to try them out. At its core this game is still Settlers of Catan. I’m going to assume most of you have played Settlers at one time or another.
The main difference is the inclusion of Crew cards. Each player gets a version of a Star Trek character from the TOS movies era, varying from I through VI. What struck me though, is that each character actually has an ability that is semi-thematically accurate and usable in Catan. You can use the character up to twice, then swap them out for someone else.
My wife digs Catan so I made it clear to my mom at the beginning of the game that she should be the player that we need to keep an eye on. In the beginning we are getting pretty crappy rolls, and we all find it very hard to deploy starships (roads) in order to spread our trade routes. We’re all making fair trades and the score is staying pretty close.
My mom and wife (red and orange) both start building lots of ships and the longest road bonus card starts changing hands between the two of them. For 3 or 4 straight turns I can’t really build anything so I just keep picking up development cards. Because of this I start accumulating a pretty large hand of cards and I’m nervous that someone will soon roll a 7 and the Klingons will force me to drop my goods. I pick up the Captain Kirk crew card and two turns later a 7 is rolled. Fortunately Kirk is not intimidated by the Klingons and I’m able to keep my hand. That was close.
The two of them keep jockeying for position while I keep convincing my mom to continue building starships to keep the longest road card. If she doesn’t, my wife could win the game by getting the last two VPs that she needs in one turn. I’m able to fly under the radar and build a couple starbases. At this point I had already played two Starfleet Intervenes cards, and I’ve swapped out Kirk for McCoy. I have no resources in hand to buy another development card, and I have a strong feeling that when my wife’s turn comes up again she’s going to build another starship and win the game. My mom rolls. Sweet, I get one of the resources I need for a development card. My turn comes up, thanks to McCoy I’m able to not only buy a development card, but I get to choose one from 3 drawn. I pick another Starfleet Intervenes card and win the game. My mom and wife are not pleased.
It’s Settlers. The only addition is the unique crew cards, and it’s a minor addition mechanically but I think it makes a huge difference in offering a little more strategically and more control in mitigating the effects (or lack of effects) of the die rolls. I guess I have to rate this semi-well only because Catan was such an influential game, but to me it’s still a very light weight game.
I was really expecting to hate playing an established game with a pasted on theme, but for some reason the pasted on elements didn’t bother me. It felt a little silly at first to have the water planet and the food planet with ships connecting my starbases, but I got used to it and actually bought into the idea of ships connecting my trade routes between bases. The crew cards help a lot thematically because without them there’s not much else going on. Amazingly this game felt more like Star Trek than the VCR game. Is that possible?
Do I Care?
If I HAVE to play Catan, then I’d be ok with playing this one. As minor as the addition of the crew cards are mechanically, I really feel like adding unique faces to the game helps dramatically in giving it Star Trek theme. The little ship models are pretty cool and at least I’m trading dilithium and tritanium instead of wood and wheat.
Overall ranking of “strength” of each as a board game. This does not factor in my overall desire to play each game. That assessment will come at the end.
BGG=How I’d rate on BoardGameGeek’s rating scale.
ST=How it rates as a “Star Trek Game” relating to the strength mentioned above.
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BGG: 3 | ST: 3.5 | blogpost