The Struggle for Catan
is an all-new card game by Klaus Teuber that revisits some of Catan's ideas of resource management in a card-game format.
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes
Summary of Components
The Struggle for Catan is a pure card game. It contains 110 different cards, most of which are either resource cards or building cards.
Quality: The cards are medium weight, with a gloss finish. I prefer linen-textured cards, but these are still well-produced. 4 out of 5.
Beauty: The artwork on the cards is all by Michael Menzel, and it's highly attractive. 5 out of 5.
Usability: Teuber was one of the innovators in usability of game components, and that continues here. As you'd expect, each player gets a building cost card which shows the costs for the main elements of the game (roads, knights, settlements, cities, and city expansions). Individual cards also remind you of appropriate rules. For example, settlements say that you may flip the destiny card when you build them. 5 out of 5.
Theming: You're collecting resources by drawing cards, then using them to build stuff. That's the same somewhat-light theming that appears in the original Settlers of Catan game. The City Expansions which include buildings like castles and churches add some nice detail and color to this core gameplay. 4 out of 5.
Overall: The Struggle for Catan is a well-produced card game selling for a good price. I've thus rated it a low "5" out of "5" for Style.
Summary of Gameplay
The object of Struggle for Catan is to earn 10 victory points through the creation of settlements, cities, and city expansions as well (to a lesser extent) through the building of roads and knights.
Setup: There are five types of "buildings" (things you can build, really), which are all made available in piles: roads, settlements (which have cities on the back sides), knights, and city expansions. Each player will get a settlement and a road at the start of the game.
There are five types of resources which are used in various combinations to create the five buildings. All of the resources are randomly shuffled together and form the draw stack. A "market" of five face-up cards is also dealt.
Trading: Each player's turn begins with "trading". This lets a player exchange one or more cards with cards in the market, with the face-down draw pile, or with other players (who don't get any say in the random card they trade away). You start off being able to trade 1 card and when you have more roads you can trade more.
Building: Next a player can build things by turning in the appropriate resource cards and taking the appropriate building card. For example, a road requires the player to turn in a brick and a wood, while a city expansion requires three sheep and an ore.
Special things happen when you build various things:
Roads. Every road either gives you more trading ability or a victory point. The roads are in pretty short supply; when the stack runs out, you instead take roads from other players, based on the current direction of the "destiny card."
Knights. Every knight either gives you more card-drawing ability or a victory point. The knights are in short supply just like the roads and are taken from other players when the deck runs out.
Settlements. These are pretty basic 1 VP buildings. When you build one, you can flip the destiny card if you want, changing the road & knight theft direction.
Cities. When you build a city, you flip your settlement card, turning its 1 VP into 2 VPs. In addition, a random event occurs: either the market clears and refills or else a robber steals cards from anyone with more than 7.
City Expansions. These cards go atop cities, replacing their 2 VPs with 3 VPs. These also each provide you with a special power, such as limited protection from the road or knight thefts, the ability to take card from other people, etc.
Drawing: At the end of your card you draw 2 cards, or more if you have knights.
Winning the Game: The game ends when a player has 10 VPs, at which point he wins.
Relationships to Other Games
The Struggle for Catan is based on Klaus Teuber's Settlers of Catan. As such, it manages to hit most of the same points as its ancestor. You get five resources to build roads, settlements, and cities. The familiar formulae are even the same.
Struggle is quite clever in how it adapts some things for the new medium. For example, rather than have development cards, you just get knights, the most common draw from the old development deck. There's also no "longest roads" or "largest army" bonus. However, to give the same feel of competition, road and knight cards can move from player to player.
Some of my players were actually upset because things don't work precisely like they do in the original Catan. There's no voluntary trading, for example. And, you won't get more resource cards from cities. Instead, you need knights for that.
Overall, The Struggle for Catan offers a nice example of how to adapt a game for a new medium without mindlessly duplicating it. The Catan Dice Game did a similar things a few years ago.
The Game Design
The Struggle for Catan is a light game of set-collection that players will probably use as a starter or a filler. It doesn't have the increased depth of the older two-player Catan card game, and it shouldn't be judged as such.
Within its category, Struggle for Catan plays well. There's the constant option for tactical thought, as you decide: what cards to trade, whether to take the chance of a blind trade, and whether to builds roads or knights (which you can probably get out in one hand) or cities and settlements (which are more permanent, but require some patience).
There's also a surprising amount of interplayer conflict in the game, mainly based on those limited roads and knights. In my Catan board games, I expect the conflict to be pretty light, but here it was much more constant and in your face (though players could decide to opt out and concentrate on settlements and cities … and in our game it was even a winning strategy).
I also really liked the tactical decisions built around that conflict. On the one hand you didn't want to build roads and knights that are just going to get swiped, but on the other hand the trading capability of the roads and the drawing capability of the knights meant that it was painful to abandon them entirely. This was a tough decision that lay across the whole game.
Overall, I felt that all worked well for a light game. I do have two caveats.
One is that the game is also somewhat random. Card draws can notably influence the results, perhaps even more than the dice rolls of the original game.
The other is that it can drag toward the end if players focus too heavily on roads and knights rather than building the permanent buildings. I think experienced players will understand this, but in early games it can slow things down.
Overall, I found The Struggle for Catan to be an enjoyable game in its category and have thus given it a "4" out of "5" for Substance: good stuff.
The Struggle for Catan is a light game that does a good job of adapting The Settlers of Catan's ideas to a card game. It's reminiscent of the original, but clearly its own game.