11 April 2018
High wall, high price
Catan is as popular as ever. With the steady release of multiple expansions and variants, plus Catan VR on its way, there seems to be no territory this game has not conquered. It's logical then, inevitable almost, that the giant of board games would meet a giant franchise, Game of Thrones, and come together in A Game of Thrones: Catan – Brotherhood of the Watch.
Equally inevitably, there are two stances to take on this game. A cynical view, perhaps, is that both properties saw this is a fail-proof way to enrich their coppers and, frankly, who could fault them for that business thinking? A more optimistic stance is that both franchises have huge fanbases, and a release of this crossover would satisfy and even excite a lot of them. At the end of the day, if the game is good all cynicism goes out of the window.
Good news for Catan fans; this version of the game is still very much Catan, with some fun minor additions, although the base game itself can still be played. Less excitingly for Game of Thrones fans, this might not be what you expected. There are no Lannisters, Starks, Targaryens, political machinations or stabbing in the back – unless, of course, you count a traditional Catan feature, the thief, here encapsulated by our favourite kissed-by-fire, Tormund. A Game of Thrones: Catan has entirely concerned itself with the Wall, and players guarding it against the wildlings, who are trying to break through.
The Catan part of the game remains ever-present. Players still build settlements and roads, roll the die, get resources, trade them and spend them to build more until the winning number of points is acquired. A Game of Thrones adds guards to protect the Wall and a third 12-sided dice for the movement of the wildlings.
Taking a leaf from Star Trek Catan, this version of the game has cards that give their players special powers and can be exchanged after several uses. These cards are still a good addition to the game, allowing players to get more resources, have less costly exchanges or kicking the wildlings back beyond the Wall. Having those abilities always gives players something to do, especially if through unlucky rolls they're lacking resources. Guards, on the other hand, require resources to be ‘built’ and slow the game down.
These changes, while adding a new dimension to the game, are not significant enough on their own to justify a whole new version of Catan.
Undeniably, it looks extremely pretty on the gaming table; the Wall is such a recognisable Game of Thrones landmark that even those unfamiliar with the franchise know the image of it. There is something awe-inspiring seeing a mass of ice tower over everything, and A Game of Thrones: Catan recreates it beautifully. Catan is a fairly flat game and having the Wall preside over the gaming board with guards on top of it is a sight to behold. However, everything else is on par with the standard set, with settlements, roads and cities probably being the most disappointing in the miniature set. The wildlings come in three forms – giants being the most impressive – and every type has their own ability. They look nice, but are nothing extraordinary.
A Game of Thrones: Catan is an enjoyable game, where new mechanics fit well within the established ruleset. Yet, despite the Game of Thrones name being plastered across its box, multiple miniatures and the stunning view of the Wall, the price tag feels hefty. Maybe one has to be a devout Catan or A Game of Thrones devotee to justify this purchase; this Catan is still very much Catan, and the traditional version still satisfies all the same needs.
Whether you are looking for more Catan or another Game of Thrones property, this game will be ready to satisfy both, but for a price.
Designer: Klaus Teuber, Benjamin Teuber
Time: 60 minutes
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