For Christmas I got a copy of the Cities & Knights expansion for The Settlers of Catan. I haven’t played it yet but I’m pretty well familiar with the new rules it adds to the game. It’s one of my favorites (again, I haven’t actually played it yet), with the variant-rules compendium expansion Traders & Barbarians being a close second.
While labeling the little pieces for the expansion, I had an idea for a couple changes to the rules to eliminate the dice (always one of the first things I try to do) and give the game a dramatically different feeling. Obviously most of this is conjecture since I haven’t had the chance to play, but hear me out.
You’ll need a little bit of prep work. Get a piece of paper and fold it into quarters, or draw big fat lines dividing it into quarters, whatever you prefer. Starting with your favorite corner, write one in each quarter: Growing Season, Harvest Season, Trading Season, Barren Season. And here’s the rules for each:
Growing Season: Each player draws one wheat resource or one sheep resource from the bank (their choice). If the bank runs out, choose the other one. Or none, if you don’t want any.
Harvest Season: Each player draws one resource of the kind produced by the hex their chieftain is in, OR one type from a hex adjacent to each of their settlements. (Draw two for cities.)
Trading Season: Each player may give one resource card to another player whose chieftain is in a hex adjacent to theirs. Each player who gifts a card may draw one resource card of their choice from the bank. A player may of course refuse a gifted card, denying the gifting player of the opportunity to draw a card.
Once a player has a settlement, they can gift a number of cards to other players equal to the number of settlements they possess, and they need not be adjacent to a chieftain.
Trading occurs in any order, and a player can gift a card they just received during the current trading season.
Barren Season: The barbarians hordes approach! Move the barbarian horde marker one space closer to the island of Catan.
1. Set up the board as normal, complete with trading ports and everything, but don’t use the lettered/numbered tokens. Leave them in the box where they belong, dirty things. Leave the hateful, hateful dice in the box too. We don’t serve their kind.
2. Don’t place any roads or settlements. At all. Don’t do it. Everyone starts with one resource from the hexagon their chief is on (see below).
3. Each player takes one of their knights and places it inside one hexagon on the board, as though they were a bandit. This is the player’s chieftain. They can be in the same hex as another chief but note the wording in the rules above: you can only trade with players whose chieftains are in an adjacent hexagon.
4. At the start of each player’s turn, they move the marker to a different season. The first player places it on “Growing Season,” then the next player moves it to “Harvest,” then the next to “Trading,” then the next to “Barren,” and then it starts over again at “Growing.” The active player can build and can trade with any other player.
After they do that, the active player picks up a resource of the kind produced by the hex their chief is in, OR if they have a settlement, one resource of a kind adjacent to their settlement. If they have multiple settlements, they get one for each. Cities still generate two cards as normal, and the player can mix & match.
Players can buy development cards as normal, I forget what the rules are for C&K. If they’re based on rolling dice instead of buying them with resources, revert to the original SoC rules (sheep+wheat+ore).
A player can move their chieftain as they would a knight, per C&K rules, except they can move to any other hex on the board after “activating” their chief (instead of roads/intersections as with knights), and then the chieftain “deactivates” as a knight would. You could hypothetically upgrade your chief like a knight.
4a. The first thing that any player can build is a settlement, and it must be at an intersection bounding the hex their chieftain is in – once a player constructs their first settlement, they remove their chieftain from the board and the game truly begins.
4b. Trades that occur during the normal course of a player’s turn (not gifts made as a part of “Trading Season”) must be made with the active player.
5. Once everyone starts “settling down,” the rest of the game plays out basically the same as any other game of The Settlers of Catan plus Cities & Knights would. The barbarians invade roughly once every seven years (plus one extra ‘odd’ year when they revert to their homeland, so it’s actually 7-8-7-8-etc).
If you have any suggestions for alternate victory conditions, preferably some kind of cooperative victory to use instead of the stupid, boring competitive victory conditions of Settlers of Catan, fell free to suggest them here. I don’t think competition is bad or stupid, just that board games focused on competition are stupid.