Settlers of Catan Cities and Knights Expansion Review

The Settlers of Catan Cities and Knights expansion brings a massive amount of new game pieces, game mechanics, and depth to the Catan world.  Cities & Knights is more complex than other expansions and will be harder to pick up at first, but after the first few matches players will have it down and understand the ins and outs.  This Settlers of Catan Cities and Knights expansion review will assume that you understand the standard Settlers of Catan game and if you do not then read the review for the standard version of the game using the link below.

http://menzgaming.com/settlersofcatan/settler-catan-reviews/settlers-catan-review/

New Cities & Knights Game Elements

The list of new game pieces and game elements in the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion is massive and below each new element/change to old elements will be explained.  While the changes and new elements at first seem overwhelming they do add important parts to Settlers and make it much more interesting and in depth.

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Commodities

Commodities are similar to resources but are only available in the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion pack.  There are three commodities and each one is tied to a specific resource and the only way to obtain commodities outside of trade is to have a city next to the appropriate resource hex on the board.  In Cities & Knights cities will receive one resource and one commodity from a respective resource hex instead of two resources.  The paper commodity is linked to wood, cloth is linked to sheep, and coin is linked to ore.  For the wheat and brick resource hexes have no commodity tied to them and you will receive two resources like in the standard Settlers of Catan game.

Commodities are used to purchase city improvements in one of three categories linked to trade, politics, and science.  These city improvements allow you to gain progress cards, which replace development cards in the main game, and also lead to a metropolis which is worth additional victory points.

City Changes

A city can be built to replace a settlement to provide additional resources and/or commodities.  When a city is built for three ore and two wheat it is placed where a settlement once was and the settlement is removed from the board and can be built again in another location.  You can build up to four cities at any given time on the board and are worth two victory points compared to the one victory point a settlement is worth.

If you are playing Settlers of Catan without the Cities & Knights expansion then each time a number is rolled on a resource hex adjacent to a city you receive two resources instead of one.  In Cities & Knights you either receive two resources for brick and wheat hexes.  For wood you receive one wood/one paper, sheep receives one sheep/one cloth, and ore receives one ore/one coin.

Metropolis

A metropolis acts like a city when it comes to which resources and commodities you can receive while playing with the Cities & Knights expansion.  Unlike a city a metropolis is worth 4 victory points and cannot be built with resources.  To gain a metropolis you must upgrade a specific city improvement(trade, politics, science) to level 4 or level 5.  Once gained you keep a metropolis unless another player reaches level 5 in that specific city improvement area before you do.  Metropolis are also immune to barbarian attacks even if you do not have enough knights to defend against them.

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City Wall

A city wall is only available when playing with the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion pack.  A city wall costs 2 brick to build and can only be placed under a city that does not have a city wall already built under it.  You can have up to 3 city walls built at any given point.  The purpose of a city wall is to increase the amount of cards you can safely hold against the robber if a seven is rolled on the dice.  Normally you can only hold seven cards without having to discard half of your cards when a seven is rolled on the dice and the robber is played.  Each city wall increases that amount by two cards for a maximum amount of 13 cards that you can safely hold if a seven is rolled on the dice.

Knights

Knights are pieces available with the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion and play a critical role in that variant of Settlers.  A player can have up to 6 knights at any given time and cost one sheep and one ore to build.  Each player has two level one knights, two level two knights, and three level three knights.  To upgrade a knight you can spend one additional ore/sheep to upgrade them and there is an additional one wheat cost to “activate” a knight.  Knights are placed in between roads or ships much like settlements/cities.

The purpose of the knight in Cities & Knights is to defend against the barbarians.  Each turn the barbarians have a chance of moving closer to attack Catan and every player is in danger.  Every active knight on the board is tallied up base don their strength and is pitted against the strength of the barbarians(based on the amount of cities on board).  Winning means every player is safe and the player with the highest knight strength gets a victory point.  Losing means the player(s) with the lowest knight strength lose one city of their choosing.

Knights also can be used to move the robber off of an adjacent hex for the cost of one wheat after they are already active.  You can move knights to open spaces on your road for one wheat after a knight is already active as well.  Lastly, a knight can “attack” another player’s knight for one wheat after being active and if their strength is higher than the enemy knight is moved off of that location and your knight takes their place.  If the enemy knight has no open spaced to move to then it is taken off of the board.  Any actions taken by knights, upgrading knights, and when the barbarians attack will cause the knights to flip over and become inactive.  Inactive knights are grayed out and active knights are visibly colored on one side.

Merchant

The merchant is a special pieces used with the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion and is worth one victory point for whoever controls the merchant.  To play the merchant you must have a progress card signifying that you can play the merchant.  The merchant is placed on a land hex adjacent to a settlement/city of that player and provides a 2:1 trading option for them to use.  The merchant only works for the player playing the card regardless of if other players are next to it and it remains in place until another player can move it.  The 2:1 trading option only works for the specific resource the merchant is placed on.

If you are playing with the Seafarers expansion for Settlers of Catan you can decide if you want to allow the merchant to trade 2:1 of any resource if the merchant is placed on a gold hex.

Development Flip Chart

The development flip chart is used with the Cities & Knights expansion and has information as to what is required to build any roads, settlements, etc. as well as city improvements.  On the development flip chart there are three separate city improvement sections.  The yellow one is trade, blue is politics, and green is science and they have five levels(starting with the book closed at level 0).  A player can spend commodities(cloth,coin,paper) to upgrade to higher levels to receive bonuses and progress cards.  Trade is upgraded with cloth, politics with coin, and science with paper.

At level 3 a player gets a bonus depending on the section they have upgraded.  Trade is able to trade any commodity at a 2:1 with the bank, politics allows players to upgrade to might knights(level 3), and science allows a player to receive a resource card of their choosing if they receive no resources based off of the total of the dice roll each turn.  At level 4 a player gains a metropolis and level 5 allows a player to prevent others from stealing the metropolis.

To determine whether or not a player receives a progress card each page of the flip book has red dice and a small event dice on it.  A player will only receive a progress card if the red dice and event dice match what is depicted on a player’s development flip chart.  For example if you have trade upgraded to level 1 you have an image of the red dice showing “1” and “2” and the event dice colored yellow.  If when the event dice is rolled and it lands on the yellow metropolis and the red dice is either a 1 or a 2 then that player receives a yellow progress card.  If the red dice is 3 or higher then no progress card is rewarded.  As you upgrade to higher levels then additional red dice combinations are unlocked to provide a higher chance at receiving progress cards.

Progress Cards

Progress Cards replace development cards when playing the Cities & Knights expansion.  Progress cards come in yellow, blue, and green and are tied to the city improvements trade(yellow), politics(blue), and science(green).  Players receive progress cards depending on the event dice and red dice totals.  Progress cards have a wide array of bonuses capable of boosting you, hurting your enemies, and providing victory points.

Red and Yellow Dice

The standard version of Settlers of Catan comes with one red dice and one yellow dice.  Both are rolled at the start of a turn to determine which resources a player might received based on the number tokens on the board.  In the Cities & Knights expansion the red dice is used to determine if a player receives a progress card.

Event Dice

The event dice is used with the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion and is rolled with the red and yellow dice at the start of each turn.  The event dice has a blue/green/yellow metropolis and a black barbarian ship on its sides.  When a colored metropolis is rolled then a player may receive a progress card if they have that specific city improvement researched along with the correct red dice number.  When the barbarian ship is rolled then the barbarians are moved one step closer to attack Catan.  If you are not playing with the Cities & Knights expansion then the event dice is not used.

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Barbarians

The barbarians are used with the Cities & Knights expansion pack and are represented by a large black ship with a special small board showing how many steps they have before they attack Catan.  The barbarians start out in the upper left corner and work their way to the attack step at the end of their route.  They are moved only when the event dice is rolled and lands on the black barbarian ship and otherwise they will remain in the same place.  When the barbarians attack they are worth “x” amount of points depending on the amount of cities on the board.  If the barbarians are worth more than the total strength of knights on the board they win and if they have less they lose.

If the barbarians win they destroy one city of the player(s) with the lowest knight strength.  If the barbarians lose then the player with the highest knight strength receives one victory point(defender of Catan card).  If two players have the highest knight strength then they instead receive a progress card of their choosing from the top of the progress card deck.  Players may pick any progress card even if they do not have the city improvement area for that card.

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The Challenge of Learning Cities & Knights & the Pay off in the End

Now that you know the new elements and changes made in Cities & Knights you can understand why this expansion is harder to pick up than say the Seafarers expansion.  While it is difficult for the first game and still somewhat confusing for the second/third games played it is well worth it in the end.  Cities & Knights main features are the new city improvement flip chart booklets and the knights/barbarians feature.  The city development booklet and the associated progress cards give players the ability to specialize in one, two, or all three city improvement areas that give them specialized bonuses and progress cards.  Players also have the choice of focusing more on expansion and less on city improvements although it is very difficult to win this way.

Regardless, players have dozens of paths/strategies that they can use to have a viable chance at winning the game compared to the non-Cities & Knights variants of Settlers.  Without Cities & Knights in the base game(or even with Seafarers) you only have a few ways to have a good chance to win.  The best part of Cities & Knights is that even if you are trailing by several points going into the mid to late game you can still pull off an epic comeback with how Cities & Knights is designed.  You can get victory points through progress cards, metropolises, settlements, cities, defend of catan(winning against barbarians with the most knights), and many other ways.

In the end while Cities & Knights is difficult to learn at first the reward is excellent since it makes Settlers of Catan more interesting and more fair for everyone playing the game.

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Replay Value and Combination With Seafarers

The replay value of Settlers of Catan without any expansions is already very good but with Cities & Knights that value skyrockets.  Since Cities & Knights adds in many new game mechanics/features there is more to do and each game is even more unique than the last since players can do many more moves in the game.  It is recommended that Cities & Knights should be your third expansion after Seafarers which it works very well with.  This is because Cities & Knights is very complicated and having a firm knowledge of the game beforehand is important.  With Seafarers and Cities & Knights together you have thousands of board setups, scenarios, and variations of Settlers you can play to keep you occupied for years.

Recap

Overall the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion is not recommended for newer Catan players but rather for players who have a firm grasp on the standard game and also Seafarers.  Cities & Knights adds a ton of new game features and after the initial learning period creates an even better Settlers of Catan experience.  With Cities & Knights there are more actions to do, more strategies to win the game, and also it gives players trailing behind in victory points a better chance at pulling off an epic comeback victory.  I hope this Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion review has helped you and it is an excellent expansion for those looking to add a wealth of depth to Settlers of Catan.

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