Catan, a classic of German board game culture presents itself in a new exciting variant as Catan Rise of the Incas. What is it good for?
Man don’t be angry, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and the Game of Life. They exist, the great board game classics that are known and played all over the world. And even the comparatively young Settlers of Catan has made it into this Olympus of board games.
It is the internationally most successful and most popular German board game and this stroke of genius from 1995 has established its inventor Klaus Teuber as one of the great names among game designers.
But even the most die-hard Catan fans want a change. And Teuber and the Kosmos publishing house regularly provide this with game expansions, new editions and variants.
The latest release is called Catan Rise of the Incas. Is this a real innovation or just marketing? Is it worth buying and if so, for whom? Find out more in this review!
Note: We kindly received a copy of the game for review free of charge from Kosmos-Verlag. However, this review is not paid for or predetermined in content. It reflects our independent opinion.
This is not a complete reproduction of the rules, but merely an attempt to convey a feeling for how a game is played and what the differences are from the original game.
Similar to the original The Settlers of Catan, the game board consists of hexagonal landscape tiles. However, here they are framed by a border of sea and jungle, very similar to the Inca settlement area on the west coast of South America.
The raw material cards that can be harvested on the landscape fields when the corresponding number is rolled on them are basically the same as in the original game, but the motif has been adapted to the game theme. Thus, grain becomes potatoes here and wool is symbolised by a llama instead of a sheep. Logical, isn’t it?
A real innovation is offered by the trade goods, which are harvested from the sea and the jungle and can only be used for bartering, not for building: Fish, coca leaves and feathers.
The development cards and the boards for the longest trade route (here already from 3 connected roads) and the greatest martial art (formerly greatest knight power) are also adapted to the motif.
The new game material includes scoring boards with 11 associated scoring tiles for each player, as well as small plastic “thickets” that can be placed over settlements and cities that are in decline.
At first, Catan Rise of the Incas plays almost exactly like The Settlers of Catan: first, whoever’s turn it is rolls the dice, and resources are spent accordingly or, if there are 7, the robbers are moved. Then players may trade and build. In this variant, these actions are not strictly separated according to phases, so you can trade, build, trade again, build again, and so on.
The raw materials needed to build roads or settlements, convert a settlement into a city or buy a development card are exactly the same as in the original.
There are, however, differences in trading with the stockpile: for one thing, in The Rise of the Inca you can take any other raw material for 3 of the same raw materials instead of 4. If you own some of the newly added trade goods, i.e. feathers, coca or fish, you get off even more cheaply: for 2 of the same you get a raw material of your choice and for a 3-combination of all trade goods you even get to choose 2 cards.
The real innovation that distinguishes Catan Rise of the Incas, however, is the principle of tribes. As can be seen on each player’s scoreboard, you have to lead 3 tribes in succession to prosperity, only to leave them to decline again.
In concrete terms, this means: whoever has gained his fourth victory point must take all his roads off the board and put thickets over settlements and towns as a sign of decline. He may build the first settlement of his 2nd tribe at any other place on the game board, observing the distance rule.
From now on he can only continue building from this settlement. The ruined settlements and cities of the first tribe still provide him with raw materials, but can now simply be built over. You can build over your own settlements / cities as well as those of other tribes.
Accordingly, after the 8th victory point, the 2nd tribe is consigned to decline. The placement of the first settlement of the 3rd tribe is now of particular importance. Because if the player is built in here by others and thus cut off, he no longer has the possibility to expand the 3rd tribe and win!
Those who are familiar with the basic rules of Settlers of Catan will have little trouble getting into the game. For Catan newcomers, Catan Rise of the Incas is a little more difficult, especially since there are even more additional rules to consider than in the original.
For us, the most important difference compared to the classic Catan game was the rebuilding of tribes and letting the old ones expire. In essence, this means: you have to start 3 times almost from scratch and build up your settlements.
We liked this very much because it made the gameplay much more exciting. While in classic Catan it can easily happen that a winner emerges early on through the luck of the dice, who is always a bit ahead of the other players, this new arrangement can turn the tide more often.
In our group of 4 testers, everyone was actually in the lead at some point during the game. However, almost all of them also experienced a phase of resource scarcity in which they had the feeling of being left behind by the others.
These phases, in which you simply do not have the luck of the dice and for several rounds you only watch the others progress and are left out of the action because you urgently need everything you have in your hand, are the ones that could already affect the fun of the original game.
But: the principle of the rise and fall of tribes mentioned above is an improvement in this respect. It is now possible to build over particularly productive resources of other players who are on the target track.
The instructions are basically good, but some points could be formulated more clearly. Fortunately, there is also an additional “almanac” in which you can read up on some things in more detail under a keyword index. It also contains interesting information about the Incas.
Since the game is currently priced in the upper price range of board games, a purchase must of course be well considered. If you don’t own the original and are faced with the alternative, I would say: even if it is a little more expensive, Catan Rise of the Incas is also the cooler game variant, so: go for it.
If you already own The Settlers of Catan, you should ask yourself several questions: How often do I play Catan? Do I need variety? Am I looking specifically for a Catan variant or just another board game?
And if you are specifically looking for Catan variants, you still have a choice to make between the different expansions and variants, of course. Catan Rise of the Incas is definitely a successful one! This is not least due to the design and layout of the game material – you can see the love that went into it, from the Inca raider figure and settlements, beautiful card design to the turquoise and emerald green shimmering matching dice.
With Catan Rise of the Incas, a modern board game classic presents itself in a fresh guise: the rise and fall of tribes provide more dynamics and surprising twists.
*In this post we use so-called affiliate links. This means that if you order a product through it, we receive a small sales commission without changing the price.
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