Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas
- Designers: Klaus Teuber, Benjamin Teuber
- Players: 3-4
- Ages: 12+
- Time: 90-120 minutes
- Times played: 2 with copy provided by Catan Studio (via Asmodee NA)
The Catan Histories series has been one that I have following for years now. I like the way that these games try to take the Catan game and shape it to specific times/cultures in history. This most recent edition puts players in 15th Century South America, and they fight to be the most successful tribe over three eras of history.
This review will assume that you are familiar with the base game of Catan. If you are not, do yourself a favor, stop reading this and go read about or play the original Catan. You can see Chris Wray’s great re-review of the game here: https://opinionatedgamers.com/2015/07/24/sdj-re-reviews-17-die-siedler-von-catan-a-k-a-the-settlers-of-catan/ There is simply no point of looking at this advanced variant of the game without knowledge of the original (IMHO).
The map here is a tall and skinny 24 hex affair with ocean hexes on the left and a dense jungle on the right. The middle 18 hexes are made up of the familiar five terrain types which make the usual things (well, plains make potatoes instead of grain, but potatoes do everything that wheat did in the original). Water areas can make fish and the jungle tiles make either feathers or coca (depends on the icon found on the tile). On top of this interesting distribution of tiles, the number tiles are placed in a fixed format.
The goal of the game is to be the first to ascend through three different eras. To do so, you will need to score 11 total points. When you start the game, you have the usual 2 settlements and 2 roads; so you’ll already be at 2 points to start. You get a culture board which gives you spaces to mark down your victory points with culture chits.
In the usual fashion, you’ll roll the dice, all people will collect resources/goods, everyone will thumb their nose at your feeble attempts to make an unbalanced trade in your favor, and then you’ll build stuff if possible. The goods are a change from the original game, and these two goods are used for trading. Here, you do not need a port to trade. You always have these three options open to you:
a) 3:1 matching resources into any one resource/good
b) 2:1 matching goods to any one resource/good
c) 3:2 different goods into any two resources or goods. (here, you need one of each of the three types of goods: feathers, coca and fish)
The robber works as it normally does. Everyone’s interim goal is to complete their first tribe – by getting to four victory points. There are no cards with victory points on them, so you can only get there via building.
The cards which are similar to Longest Road and Largest Army do not offer victory points in this game, instead each gives a unique advantage to the owner of the card. The Longest Trade Route (Road) card lets you make a single 1:1 trade each turn. The Mightiest Combat Arts card (Largest Army) lets you remove the robber each turn if it is on a hex bordering one of your buildings.
So, again, your first goal is to complete your first tribe by getting it to 4 points. When you get there, you immediately place it into decline – all the instructions for this are found on your culture board. You remove all your roads (and give the Longest Road card to the new owner if you had it), place a green plastic thicket piece on each of your existing buildings. Your settlements in decline are still worthwhile to you – they will still produce resources and goods for you as long as they are on the board. (A settlement in decline can also be a target for the robber though!)
However, any settlement in decline can be removed from the board and built over by any player who wishes to build a new building in that location. You may not expand from a settlement in decline; no roads can come out of it. Also, if you or any other player builds up to it, you cannot pass the road thru the ruin, you must build over the old settlement first.
Then you place a founding settlement of your second tribe. This settlement is placed for free on any available and suitable intersection – it must still respect the distance rule – at least 2 away from any existing settlements OR declined settlements in thickets. You also cannot swoop in and place it on an intersection which a player has already built a road onto as a possible building site for themselves. It also cannot be placed in the jungle or the sea. You immediately score another culture point for this new settlement.
The goal for your second settlement is getting it to four victory points (for eight total). At this point, the decline process is the same as for the end of your first tribe. You place your starting settlement for the third and final tribe in the usual manner. The rules are clear to tell you to watch out where you place the starting settlement as you could end up being boxed in by other players and their starting third settlements – so make sure that you have room to grow (or at least have ruins nearby that you can build over).
The first player to get their third tribe to three points (thus filling in their entire culture board) is the winner!
My thoughts on the game
Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas is a great addition to the Catan line. The base game seems to have been around forever, and as it is one of the seminal games of the hobby, many people have some sort of experience with it. There are many different expansions for the game, and the biggest issue for me is that there needs to be something different in each expansion to make it worth trying. In this game, the new goods as well as the concept of the rise and decline of the tribes does set it apart from its predecessors.
The rules are easy to follow for those familiar with Catan. There are only a few pages in the rules which show the differences from the base game. As with other Catan Histories games, there is an almanac which includes some extra information and a glossary. I know that many people love this sort of thing, but I will once again go on the record as saying that I HATE multiple rulebooks. It can be so confusing to have to look in two places for rules. Just give me all the rules in a single place. I don’t want to have to look two places to find setup rules or whatever.
The whole rise and decline aspect is obviously different, and it turns the game (for me, at least) into three mini-games. I have found that I now love to build my roads right up to other player’s settlements because then I can poach those sites quickly to build my own settlements once they go into decline. The history major in me wanted to see a slight alteration of the rules where perhaps the cost of building a settlement on previous ruins was somehow less than building from scratch – after all, you’re using some of the existing infrastructure to build your new city, no? Alas, it’s not to be. But, having your road network ready to go when someone else leaves is a way to quickly score points on your own turn.
The shape of the board is quite small, and this causes a lot of settlements to be out on the periphery (either next to the ocean or the jungle) – the addition of the goods makes these spots worthwhile at least as you can trade in those goods for the resources that you want. The smaller board definitely makes the place congested, especially when there are multiple tribes in decline with old and new settlements scattered about the place.
I personally haven’t figured out what to do with the Longest Road card. I love the effect you get when you have it, but you never have it for long as usually by the time you get control of it, your current tribe is headed for decline and you’ll just end up losing it. And, I probably have to remind myself at least once a game that it’s not worth victory points as sometimes I’ll find myself gunning for a card only to realize later that it doesn’t score…
The components are OK. I prefer the traditional wooden pieces found in German games, but maybe that’s just a sign of my age. The thicket pieces probably couldn’t be done in wood, and maybe that’s why it’s all plastic… (Though old school me would have just had a punchboard ring that showed a thicket on it that went around a settlement or city)… The Buildings are fine, but the raised lumpy un-flat roads just look weird to me – big colored lumps of plastic which don’t evoke the idea of a road to me at all.
But, regardless of what I think about the bits, the gameplay here is tight, and it gives players a slightly longer and strategic game than base Catan. The compressed nature of the board keeps everyone in close quarters, and the rise and fall of the different tribes and the issues surrounding settlements in decline always give you something to think about. I would definitely say that this version does NOT replace the base game, which is still my favorite way to experience the Catan universe, but the Rise of the Inkas is definitely a version that I would like to pull out and play from time to time.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y
- Not for me…