The Board Gamers Guide to Supply Management Part XVI: The Rivals for Catan

You’re enthralled with (The Settlers of) Catan. Whether you are settling the uncharted islands of Catan or the uncharted planets in Star Trek Catan, you love acquiring your resources, negotiating the best trades, building your outposts and upgrading them into cities (in space), and sneaking your way to victory with a timely acquisition of the longest supply route or the largest force (with the occasional surprise victory point from a well-timed development). You really wish you could square off against the new guy one-on-one who thinks he is better than you, but (Star Trek) Catan is a 3 to 4 player game.

Fear not! Today Sourcing Innovation brings you the answer in its continuing guide to board games for (aspiring) supply management professionals. The answer is the two player variant called The Rivals for Catan, which was released on the 15th anniversary of the Catan Card Game, which was released shortly after the original release of The Settlers of Catan. (Which, low and behold, also comes in an iOS Version. It’s a good implementation and you will find that the tutorial in this game is also well done. However, while the doctor certainly prefers the iOS version of Le Havre for a one-on-one game, due to the significant amount of set up and tear down the board game requires, The Rivals for Catan is one game where the doctor definitely prefers the board game version if the circumstances permit.)

In Rivals of Catan, just as in The Settlers of Catan, you are trying to build your way to victory, which is achieved when you get to seven victory points in the base game or twelve victory points in an extended game (to be discussed at a later time). You receive one victory point for each village, two for each city (which is upgraded from a village), and one victory point each for the strength or trade advantage.

You build using the five standard resources of wood, brick, grain, wool, and ore, just as in regular Catan, but, if you get any, you can also take advantage of a sixth resource — gold — that can be traded for other resources you require. Resources are produced by a die roll at the start of each player’s turn, and the resource(s) that are produced are those produced by resource cards owned by the player which bare the number rolled, provided a player has enough room to store the resource. In Rivals for Catan, a resource card can only store 3 resources.

Each player starts the game with two villages, one road connecting them, and one production card for each resource. Each time he or she builds an additional village, she gets two more resource cards (if slots are available to hold them). In addition, if the player has a scout, he or she can choose what those resources are (instead of getting random resources). (A Scout is an expansion card.) However, she can only build a village if she has already built a road with an open end.

The big difference between Rivals For Catan and the Settlers for Catan, besides the fact that it is designed for 2 players, is that development cards are replaced with expansion cards (which can add buildings, ships, and heroes to your province) and success is highly dependent on strategic utilization of these cards. In the base game there are 36 expansion cards divided into 4 stacks. At the start of the game, each player takes 3 cards from the top of 1 card stack. These cards form the player’s hand and she can play them at any time on her turn if she has the resources and space to do so.

The expansion cards come in three forms: buildings (14), units (6 trade ships and 6 heroes), and 9 actions. The buildings generally increase resource production (such as the marketplace which gives you an extra resource if a production roll gives your opponent more resources than you), protect you resources (as the storehouse protects resources on neighbouring regions when the brigand is rolled), or enable progress (as each progress point given to you by a building allows you to hold one more card in your hand). Ships improve your trading ability with the bank (as the brick and grain ships, for example, will let you trade two to one instead of the base rate of three to one), and heroes contribute towards a strength or trade advantage (providing 1, 2 or 4 strength points and 1, 2, or 3 commerce points). The first player to reach 3 strength or commerce points has the strength or trade advantage until the other player exceeds the strength or commerce point total achieved by the first player to achieve the advantage. The actions allow you to trade 3 gold for 2 resources, trade (up to two) other resources one for one, choose the result of a production roll (like a Munchkin Loaded Die), relocate any two production regions or expansion cards, or Scout for resources of your choice.

Furthermore, to add more chaos to the mix, each production roll is accompanied by an event, determined by the event die. The event can be a plentiful harvest (which grants each player a resource of her choice), a celebration (which allows the player with the most skill points to receive 1 resource of her choice), a trade day (which allows the player with the trade advantage to receive 1 resource of her choice from her opponent), a brigand attack (which causes each player to lose all of her gold and wool if she has more than 7 resources), or a random event (drawn from the event stack). The random event could be a fraternal feud (which sees the player without the strength advantage losing two cards from her hand), a travelling merchant coming to town (that allows each player to trade gold for resources one-to-one, a year of plenty (which sees each player getting an extra resource for each storehouse and abbey in their province), a trade ships race (where the player with the most trade ships gets an extra resource), a feud (where the player without the strength advantage loses a building), or a new invention (that sees each player get a resource of his choice for each progress point he’s acquired). A lucky roll could see your province suddenly become resource rich and an unlucky roll will not only result in your province becoming resource poor compared to your opponent, but could also result in the destruction of a much needed building.

Remembering that we are Supply Chain Professionals doing business in the global marketplace, the first of us to secure and deliver all of the products and services we need to meet all of the customer demands wins the game. We secure the products and services we need by managing supply and reserving limited production and distribution capacity. We find out which resources are limited by watching the market and taking note of tumultuous events. In today’s marketplace, no supplier will be able to meet all of our component or service needs on their own, so we will not only have to barter and trade with multiple suppliers, but also with our competitors and their suppliers in tight markets. And there will be nasty surprises waiting for us. A natural disaster may wipe out part of the raw material supply or Somali pirates may seize a precious shipment. We hate the pirates. They are dicks. But if our shipments get robbed, it’s not the end of the world. There are other ways to serve our customers. We can use the insurance money to buy from someone else, we can redesign our products to use alternate materials, or we can focus on a new or different substitute product or service to get us, and our customers, through the worst of times.

And as The Rival for Catan, we are constantly trying to secure the resources we need to acquire our workers (heroes), construct our buildings, procure our ships, grow our company (to new villages and cities), and obtain strength and trade advantages over our competition. We have to do this in the midst of disaster (pirate attacks, what dicks!, civil uprisings, and legal injunctions [that take your resources from you]). And we have to take advantage of good fortune when the opportunity arises (and the market prices drop and we can trade [significantly] cheaper than normal).

The Rivals for Catan a great two-player game to sharpen your strategic supply management skills. Try it out. (And for extra practice, and training, try the iOS Version).