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In the game "The Settlers of Catan" the aim is to colonise the island of Catan, which is composed of 19 production hexes, by building roads and settlements and cities with the winner being the one who scores 10 victory points first. Each player builds their initial settlements around numbered hexes and rolls of the dice determine whether or not your hex produce the materials needed to build your empire. Along the way you can collect victory cards allowing you to monopolise resources, build an army of knights or collect victory points which helps you to get ahead of your opponents. Settlers is a fantastic board game, once you have mastered the rules of the game it is well worth investing in a Cities and Knights expansion pack which will give you all you need to play the more advanced game which is even more fun than the original.
A Cities and Knights expansion pack currently costs around £25 from Amazon which I think is fairly pricey considering you already need to own the Settlers board game in order to play. The original board game also costs around £25 so if you are intending to play C&K without owning the original set then you are going to need to spend around £50. Having said that, the games are all very well constructed so will last a lifetime. Cities and Knights is a game for 3 to 4 players, to play with 5 or 6 people you will need to buy a further expansion pack setting you back another £15 or so. There are very few sets available second hand via Ebay which shows that once people own the set then they enjoy playing the game and want to keep hold of it.
The first difference between C&K and Settlers is that in C&K you can build up your cities to be an extra strong city called a metropolis. This is done by collecting various commodity cards which are books, cloth or coins that are produced by forest, sheep and ore hexes alongside the usual resources. Building up these commodities also gives you access to progress cards which can either give you an advantage or allow you to do something nasty to your opponent. These progress cards replace the victory cards in Settlers and are a lot more fun.
The second difference between Settlers and C&K is the addition of the Barbarian. The Barbarian attacks Catan and unless the cities are protected by Knights then the cities can be downgraded to a settlement which not only loses you a point but also takes away access to commodities. Players must co-operate to build enough knights to fend off the Barbarian attacks, at the same time the player with the strongest army of knights when the Barbarians strike also gains a point so there is still an element of competition. Knights also fend off robber attacks when a 7 is rolled so are well worth having but be warned that if your opponent has the correct progress cards they can steal a knight from you and make it their own!
Have I lost you yet? As you might have worked out then C+K is a very difficult game to learn and the banker also has their work cut out for them juggling resources and commodities and moving the Barbarian. The role of the banker is so complex that unless you are experienced at the game then it makes sense to have a dedicated banker who does not play at all. Even for someone who is fairly proficient at playing the Settlers game it is going to take a while to get used to all of the new rules.
It is worth spending the time learning the new game rules as playing Cities and Knights is far more rewarding than playing the Settlers game. The fact you have to keep your brain engaged to think through your strategy whilst also keeping an eye on your opponent and trying to jinx them means that this is a game which is highly satisfying to play. Because the hexes are organised randomly each new game you can't rely on one strategy but need to adapt your gameplay to each new board so will never grow bored. A game generally takes around 90 minutes to play and there is always lots of activity and chatter around the table when you are playing.
I would recommend every "Settlers of Catan" fan takes a look at the "cities and Knights" expansion to the game if they have not already. If you are new to the game then you need to play the basic game first before you move onto more advanced variants.