Settlers of Catan . . . IN SPACE ! ! !

Settlers of Catan (now called just Catan) has been one of my favorite board games since I first discovered it around twenty years ago.  There have been many variants and expansions, but one of my favorites has always been Starfarers of Catan, now Catan Starfarers.

Starfarers was a bit different in that it incorporated movement into the standard exploration, resource production and building of the normal Catan.  They would later use a similar mechanic for both Settlers of the Stone Age and Settlers to America (which was a combination of Catan and Empire Builder).

When I heard that a new version was coming out, I was very excited.  It had been quite a while since I played it.  As much as I wanted it though, I decided instead to get a copy for my gaming buddy (since I play games over at his house every other Tuesday as it is, I figured I would still get to play it even if it wasn't my copy).  Turns out he was thinking the same thing, and when we exchanged gifts he had gotten me a copy as well :-) !

One thing about this version is the upgraded artwork for all the components.  Much more detailed, and much improved.  I thought I'd make this a little more interesting and not just show the new game, but also discuss what has changed since the first edition (which came out in 2001).

So along with the upgraded artwork, the box is significantly bigger.  It does seem that game manufacturers are not afraid of bigger boxes anymore.

Much like the previous version, there are trays to hold all the components.  These are a bit expanded (with the bigger box), and the resources cards actually have a sixth space for the random deck used at the beginning of the game (as well as markings to indicate the default trade values (3-1 for most, 2-1 for trade goods).  There is also a tray for ship upgrades and the encounter and other cards.

In the box are the rules booklet and the Almanac

The rule book is now a real booklet, while in the previous version it was a folded piece of cardstock.  That somewhat emphasized that the rules were separate from the detail explanations in the almanac (which is only needed for clarifications and background).

The almanac itself is larger, and more color throughout

Next in the box are several sheets of double sided tokens.

Beneath these two sheets are a bag with the game board pieces.  This is a six part puzzle format board, as opposed to a 'normal' folded board.  This allows the board to actually double as a token sheet as well for the rest of the tokens.

A bit of advice here - make sure you don't throw ANYTHING away until you have accounted for ALL the tokens listed in the book - there are many of them in the main board.  I noticed that several small sections fell out as I took these out and put them together (the corners are lettered, simply match the corners).

There are 15 system 'triads' to punch out, and many of them have addition number tokens inside of them that you will need.

Once all the triads are removed, the board now has a lot of holes in it.  A bit different, but this allows the game to have a lot more variability than the first edition.

The first edition board was printed with all the systems on it, as well as the trade outposts on the edges.   The boards are almost the same size, with the older folded version just slightly wider than the new puzzle board.

Generally, I haven't liked puzzle boards.  The Empire Builder line of games (from Mayfair (yes, I know they got bought)) uses them, and I would always immediately buy the rolled up vinyl version instead (which was also easier to erase when you were done).  However the puzzle works here because it holds in the planets, which if you had a solid one would have these pieces sliding around.

Also, this allows for a variable placement of the planets each game (not just the numbers).  I tried to set up the new one in a close approximation of the first edition board to compare.

Under the board is the larger tray holding the ships, cards and upgrades.  There are a lot of little components here, and it is nice that they actually included extra zip-lock baggies to hold everything (even with the trays, as the trays don't always do well if the box gets knocked over or has to be transported or stored on it's side).

When I said there were a lot of components, I wasn't kidding.  And this does not include the various cardboard tokens.

The first edition included player reference sheets.  In the new edition, these have been replaced with three individual cards.  All the cards are large except for the resource cards

There are five type of resource cards, once again with much improved artwork
(L-R Goods, Food, Fuel, Carbon, and Ore)
There are also the encounter cards.  These a a little larger than the previous edition, and the improved artwork is also a bit brighter. (My buddies copy of the first edition is actually in German, so we had to number all the cards and always had to refer back to a translation sheet - it is much nicer having these in a language you actually read).

I like how the Wear and Tear card reflects the spaceship you actually use in the game (and a slight change to the wording on it as well).

One format change for the new version is the friendship cards, these went from resource size to encounter size.

And while the artwork is not only improved, but they have actually given each alien a unique portrait (instead of the single picture for each race)  You can see this for the traders below

Each alien already had a unique name, now they have unique faces (because they DON'T all look alike!)  Another change was the friendship tokens - previously these were simple tokens with the same picture as the friendship card (and two victory points listed on them).  Now they are standees of the aliens instead.

The ship playing pieces also go a little bigger and redone

Ring, Colony, Trade Station, Ship (old version on top)
I don't like that they changed the green tokens to white - I think the green looks better.  There was a 5-6 player expansion that I believe used white and black in the previous edition (I don't know if they will do a 5-6 this time).

again, old edition on top
One of the things you build in this game are upgrades to your ships.  These are to allow you to carry additional freight, boost your speed, or defend against pirates.  The first edition had freight rings, booster rockets and lasers - the new edition has freight pods, fuel pods and lasers.

Also in the first editon you had fame rings - each two part ring was worth 1 victory point.  The new edition now has two part tokens for these instead (which also means you are not limited to only three VP from fame).  Fame is earned in encounters, or can be bought if you have the proper friendship card.

One of the more interesting components of this game has been the ship.  It not only is used to show the upgrades you have purchased, but is also used to determine how far each of your ships may move on your turn.

The older ones had a colored cap on the top for each player - the new version just has a sticker underneath it.  There are spaces for lasers, freight rings/pods and fuel/boosters to be attached to your rocket.

One big issue with the first edition was the brittleness of the plastic for the rocket - it was very common to break the attachment points used to put the rocket boosters on the rocket.

They solved this later by making new booster rings available.  These were a softer plastic so did not break, and slipped over the rocket.

The fuel pods now attach to the fins instead of the boosters fitting on the body, and the fuel pods go around the rocket instead of vertically, but they work the same.  Some people also had issues with the lasers breaking off and plugging the holes - the new redesign makes it so that can't happen either.

In the pictures above, you will notice two small colored balls beneath each rocket.  First edition had a clear plastic container for them - the new ones are just part of the rocket and are not solid.  Each turn you shake your rocket and two of the four balls fall down to indicate  your speed for the turn, and if you had to deal with an encounter (black ball) first.

In this edition the idea is the same, but they give you a baggie of balls, and the rocket comes apart, so you can actually change the distribution.  The default (and recommended) distribution is two yellow and one each of the red, blue and black balls.  The old edition only had one of each color.  However you now have one more of each color - so you can change the distribution (and thus the odds) of things coming up.

In addition to the components, there are also some rule tweaks.

In this game, initial resources are a bit scarce, and not having them can really hinder you.  So if you are under a certain victory point total then you get free resources on your turn.  In the original, you got a random resource if you had eight or fewer victory points.  There was a optional rule to get two each turn if you were under 7.  In the current version, if you have 4-7 VP you get two cards, 8-9 VP you get 1, and once you reach 10 you should now be producing enough resources to not need the free ones any more.  More resources at the beginning will help the game to go a bit faster, so this is good.

In the previous edition, when you moved next to an unexplored planet, if you had a colony ship, you could look at the resource number there to determine if you wanted to place a colony.  Now once you are adjacent to a system, you flip over and reveal to all players all the numbers on the system.  For the first player to reach a system, this now means you don't have to move around to see the third number.  It also means that other players now also know if they want to go there immediately or not.

Speaking of numbers, they have modified the tokens for these, combining 2/11 and 3/12 into single tokens (since 2 and 12 are the rarest numbers to roll).  11 and 3 are still not great numbers, but are better (and these combined numbers are actually now BETTER than the 3 and 11 by themselves, if only a little bit).

The systems and trade outposts are now mixed together (instead of all being in set places), so the trade outposts should come into play a little more often.  Also, you can play a variant where the system triads are face down on the board, so you don't know if there are even resources in a system (it could be a blank) until you move there.

These changes are minor, and just seem to help speed the game along, which is a good thing, as a lot of people only want to play relatively short games these days.

I really look forward to playing this (again).

Because it is all fun and games . . .