Rivals for Catan is really a game unto itself. It’s a re-imagining of the Settlers of Catan card game, but does it even better the second time around. What it is not, is a typical Catan experience.
Rivals for Catan is often branded as Settlers of Catan, but for when you have only two players, and while understandable, this characterization does not do the game justice.
The Catan games all revolve around a fictional group of Nordic settlers discovering, and subsequently inhabiting the island of Catan. The games all feature the collection of resources that are used to buy buildings or whatever else to expand and gain supremacy upon this newfound land. Beyond that however..
The Settlers of Catan (i.e. the classic board game) is a social game. Because it is played with more than 2 players, the dynamic is forever one where you can form alliances, break them, manipulate and flatter your way to victory. In Rivals there are only 2 players, and you are always in opposition (hence the name). In addition there is no space limit in the card game. It cannot be emphasized enough what a massive difference these things make. Yes, there are many similarities, but the two games play very distinctly from another, and should not be treated as different variants of the same game.
As I said, Rivals for Catan is the reinvention of the original Settlers of Catan card game. These two games are essentially the same game, but Rivals is the updated version, and, in my opinion, clearly the better of the two. The store where I bought my copy was under the impression that Rivals was simply the english version of the card game, but it is not. The game has seen tweaks and revisions in significant ways that set it apart from the original. The original remains playable, but Rivals offers a more satisfying experience.
The thing with the SoC card game was that it had a lot of high-impact cards. If you were able to play certain cards at crucial times, you gained the ability to run over your opponent in some very unenjoyable ways. The games took too long, and you spent an overlong amount of time finding the desired cards for your hand to play with because the game started with a lot of cards you couldn’t use right away. This and a whole host of problems and annoyances that I’m sure you’re already familiar with makes Rivals such an improvement. It’s the same premises, but reworked, smoothed out and redressed.
It’s a blast each time.
In the next installment I’ll go over the basic game and its associated cards. It is aimed at players who are familiar with the game, so do not expect an introductory piece.