Thursday 20 February 2014

Blokus 3D

Blokus' very distantly related step-cousin.

(The name is in fact quite misleading - With some small exceptions, it's almost nothing like Blokus)

Name: Blokus 3D (2003 - first released as Rumis)

Notable Honours2003 Spiel des Jahres Recommended; 2004 Mensa Select Winner

Publisher: Quite a few exist, but mine (the Australian version) is called 'Divisible by Zero'

Editions: Rumis was the name given to it when it was first released. Though I am not sure, I gather that gameplay is exactly the same in Rumis but with different components and South American themes.

The story goes that apparently Mattel saw the potential to reap massive profits so they bought Rumis and renamed it "Blokus 3D".

Designer: Stefan Kögl

Players: 2 to 4 players.

Age: 7+ (apparently - I can never tell how they know this)

Time to play: About 30-45 minutes.

Price Range (AUD): I'm not too sure to be honest. I bought mine for $57.90 including shipping. Currently Amazon is selling new copies for $99 (I'm assuming this is in USD and it's presumably without shipping included). So it's fairly costly.

Availability: Quite hard to find from my experience - I had to order this via eBay.

  • Puzzle
  • Abstract
  • Family

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

6.9* out of 10. (Decent - See my Rating Scale)

Fundamentally speaking, Blokus 3D is a game that I think is a whole lot more interesting than normal Blokus. However the comparison is a bit strange. 

In Blokus, players place pieces corner-to-corner on a flat board. In Blokus 3D, players place pieces surface-to-surface and stack them upwards - whoever has the most number of faces visible from a birds eye point of view wins (less the number of pieces left in their hand). Hence, whilst spatial awareness is a similarity between the two games, the nature of the games is quite different.

There is still a whole lot of strategy, but perhaps on a different scale. In Blokus the gameboard is considerably bigger I suppose, and Blokus 3D feels a lot more cramped - but perhaps deliberately so as we are dealing with length width and height. Hence, the strategy in the latter may feel more restrictive (in the sense that there appears to be less options for you to place your blocks) but that does not necessarily reduce the challenge or difficulty.

On the whole I think this makes for a great family game, though it may be perceived to be a childish game by some. Like almost every game, Blokus 3d may also prove to be repetitive if played too many times - but this shouldn't be a problem if you like abstract games.

It would have been nice if more template designs and blocks for an additional 1-2 players were available. (Though I note that Rumis has the expansion Rumis+ - though I doubt whether the expansion is compatible with this game)

* July and September 2014: I revised this score down from 7.5 to 6.9, not because the game itself is flawed, but because it just doesn't feel right giving this a higher score than games such as Carcassonne or Hanabi which are both quite unique in their own respective senses. Furthermore, whilst Blokus 3D is certainly a good game for its genre I don't think every single person will be wanting to replay this over and over again. Part of the reason for this is that, at least on my view, I would argue that it's more likely that the mathematically or geometrically gifted (relatively speaking of course) will properly appreciate the strategy in this game. I'm certainly not one of them - I just play randomly. For those interested in abstract games, or those who are kids, opinions proffered will be quite different. Of course it's still fun to just randomly place pieces all over the park.

The Good:
  • Visually very interesting - blocks stack upwards and you get all sorts of interesting scenarios
  • Relatively easy to explain
  • It's probably better than Blokus
  • Trains your brain's spatial awareness
  • Decent variety of templates to use - these essentially change the shape of the arena (eg. pyramids)
  • Draws attention?
  • Game provides a cool turn-tile that allows you to look at the blocks from any angle
  • May have some degree of strategy that I am unable to comprehend
The Bad:
  • It is easy to knock blocks over, especially when you stack things quite high - but if you use care this shouldn't really be a problem
  • May be perceived to be a kid's game
  • Abstract games, by their nature, tend to get repetitive for the "ordinary person" but this is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Replayability may be limited for those not interested in abstract games - the reason being that the full strategy of the game is not quite appreciated.

What makes this game fun? 

Speaking the obvious, I think people will be attracted to the fact that this game is a "3D game" and allows players to exploit the airspace by stacking their blocks vertically upwards. There is considerable spatial strategy involved as well - but that being said, the strategy is far from overwhelming and will appeal to all ages and everyone who enjoys puzzle/abstract-based games.

(Like all abstract games, it's more a case of experienced players discovering subtleties in strategy, rather than the strategy being overtly dominating and off-putting to newcomers)

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

Everyone gets 11 pieces (8 "four-block" pieces; 2 "three block" pieces an 1 "two block" piece)


The aim of the game is two fold:

1) To have the most number of coloured squares at the end when looking from a bird's eye view down at the board
2) To put down as many pieces as possible

The game "ends" when no one can put down anything further.

Your score in Aim 1 will be subtracted from the number of pieces you have left.

Example: So if, at the end of the game, you have 15 squares in your colour from a bird's eye biew, but you have 1 "four-block" and 2 "three-blocks" left then your final score is 15- 3 = 12 (hence the size of the pieces doesn't matter. Look at the end of this section for a better example.)

This game is best taught by example. I will simulate a 3 player game.

First moves

Everyone agrees on a template - there are a few here to choose from (such as the pyramid and steps template - in these special ones each row has certain height restrictions).

Each template offers different challenges, set-ups and height restrictions.

Here I've selected the easiest template - the rectangle. Here, for a 3 player game, the height restriction is 6 units upwards. This is stated on the template itself.

Green plays the funny 4 piece block.

The person who goes first must place their piece next to the border of the template, as shown above by Green.

Then, for the FIRST TURN only players after the first player must place their pieces in a manner such that they TOUCH the SURFACE (not the corner) of the first player's piece, so long as they don't exceed the height limit.

Here are Red, and Blue's next turns:

Red plays a straight line that just touches one surface of Green.

Blue plays an L shape that wraps around a portion of Green's piece

Second Moves and beyond

THEN AFTER EVERYONE HAS HAD THEIR FIRST MOVE, from now on everyone must place a piece in such a way that the surfaces of their newly-placed blocks touch a surface of their own colour.

Hence, Green's next block must touch a Green surface like so. Green chooses to do this with a square 4-block which is placed to touch the surface of the protruding green block:

(Important: Do note that you cannot leave vertical gaps, or gaps in between pieces vertically! But you can leave gaps horizontally, like in the picture above - there is a "horizontal" gap between the red and blue pieces)

So for their second moves:

Red places the vertical 3 block piece which touches the bottom 4-block piece below

Blue then places the Z "tetris" shape which touches their existing blue piece below

If we skip to a few turns later...

You can see that the height limit has been reached for Green and Blue who have stacked up to 6 units. They can continue stacking each column up to that height, but may not exceed 6 units for any given column.

And this is the view from the other angle (the board allows you to swivel the whole template around)

At the end of the game, you count the score by taking a bird's eye view. So assuming the game ends here (which it won't - there's still plenty of space - this is just an example), Green and Red would be tied on 6 points, less the number of respective pieces they have remaining.

Thursday 13 February 2014


Picturesque and somewhat fascinating.

Another game that I would consider a modern classic, but perhaps not quite of the same standing as The Settlers of Catan.

What the original box looks like - this is in Czech though.

The 10th Anniversary Edition is shaped like a Meeple - a 'cult symbol' of sorts in the board gaming world

Name: Carcassonne (2000)

Notable Honour: Spiel des Jahres 2001 (German Game of the Year 2001)

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Editions: I have the 10 year Anniversary Edition, which doesn't differ too much from the Original (the Anniversary Edition has plastic see-through meeples and the box is shaped like a meeple). There is also a Carcassonne Winter Edition and South Seas Edition which both look pretty cool. I would recommend going with whatever theme you like - the gameplay should not be different.

But be careful - I'm guessing that the original expansions would not be compatible with the special editions.

Expansions: There are plenty of expansions. The first two Expansions, 'Inns & Cathedrals' and 'Traders and Builders' are generally thought of as 'must-have' copies. I have heard though that some of the other ones make the game quite involved or fairly different to the original.

For example the Dragon and Princess Expansion actually introduces a Dragon piece that eats followers, which in theory sounds cool (and I would not mind playing it); however, this may make the game unnecessarily complex for some people.

Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede

Players: 2 to 5 players. 6 with the Expansion Inns and Cathedrals

Age: 8+

Time to play: About 45 minutes.

Price Range (AUD): $32 to $70. 

Availability: Quite well known but not as well known as The Settlers of Catan. Available mainly in hobby game stores and online.

  • Tile placement
  • Area control
  • "Gateway"

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

7.4+* out of 10. (Good - See my Rating Scale)

Carcassonne makes for a great introduction to board gaming for newcomers. Like The Settlers of Catan, this game will challenge a newcomer's definition of a board game. One obvious reason for this is because there is no discernible board involved - you play with tiles drawn from a bag coupled with these human-like figurines called meeples.

Another thing that Carcassonne brings to the table is the fact that it almost feels as if everyone is contributing to the landscape of a major artwork. The tiles can be placed in an infinite (well, not quite) number of ways, giving players many options to choose from on their turn. You score points by placing followers to match certain features of the landscape (eg. roads, cities, farms). Players must choose whether to conserve their followers or to use them frequently. There is often a trade-off between quick scoring and long-term investments.

I will say though that the game has some element of mild strategy, but is probably 95% luck-based. It is a game I enjoy playing when I want to have some mindless fun without needing to think too much.

* 24 July 2014: I just had to increase its score from 7.3 to 7.4+. Not many games can capture the simplicity and artistry of Carcassonne. The real downside of this game though is that I really think that a lot of this game is luck-based. As a friend suggested to me, 100% of your input is based on drawing tiles from a bag in which you have no control over. Sure, you could argue that how you use that tile (especially if you memorise all the tiles in the game - only for hardcore enthusiasts!) will dictate your chances of winning, but I would kindly suggest that that strategy is only marginal. Still, that doesn't mean Carcassonne isn't fun. There is plenty of room for "screwing other people up" - one can always block other players' progress by building obstructions.

The Good:
  • The final product can look quite lovely (I am told that Carcassonne: The City looks great because of the 3d wooden walls)
  • Gameplay usually feels interesting to new players
  • Open gameplay - players have several choices
  • Easy to explain, set up and play
  • What I would call a 'mindless game' with tiny elements of strategy.
  • Lots of "screwage" - stuffing other people up. 
The Bad:
  • You are dictated by what tiles you draw - people who enjoy strategic depth may not like this, but this is also arguably the case in dice-rolling games as well (to a certain extent, anyway).
  • Counting points may be annoying, but this isn't really an issue
  • Because of the lack of strategic depth, may run dry if played too many times

What makes this game fun? 

The novelty of painting a picture by tile placement, whilst trying to score points by completing various landscape features makes for an interesting game experience. It's quite a good game to show family and friends who have never played board games before.

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

Try to find a table or area with a decent amount of space.
Shuffle all the tiles (into a cloth bag if possible)

Everyone takes coloured meeples of their colour. 1 can be used for scoring purposes.

Place the start tile in the middle of the table like so.

You can tell if it's the start tile by observing the backs of the tiles - the starting tile is the inverse colour of everything else:

(The usual rule applies: Ie. Highest Score wins)

1. Draw a tile from the cloth bag
2. Place a tile on any open side of an existing tile BUT it must be placed in a way that makes sense. Ie. Roads can't suddenly appear from grass; and a city can't protrude from a road. See the below picture to make more sense of this rule:

These tiles can be joined up together because they make sense - where a road should continue it does; where a city continues it does; where grass should run, it does

3. After placing the tile, [AND ONLY AFTER THE TILE IS PLACED] the player has an option of putting down a follower to score points, depending on the feature involved. You can't place followers at any other time.

There are only 4 features:

  • Roads score 1 point per tile that has a connecting road where your meeple/follower is placed. Followers placed on roads are called "thieves".
  • Cities score 2 points per tile that has a connecting city segment where your meeple/follower is placed. Followers placed on cities are called "knights".
  • Cloisters/Churches score 1 point per tile that surrounds the cloister in a 3x3 grid, including the cloister tile itself (for a maximum of 9 points) Followers placed on cloisters are called "monks".
  • [trickiest feature, arguably] Farms (basically grass) score 3 points for every COMPLETED city that the farm/green grass touches. Followers placed on farms are called "farmers".

Territory Rules (Where there is an existing follower on a feature)

4. However, players can only place meeples/followers on a feature if that feature is NOT contested - ie. the feature must NOT already have another player's follower on it.

  • 4b. Do note that, occasionally, features may join up in such a way that followers will eventually share the same territory - this is fine, so long as Rule 4 was adhered to when the followers were first placed down. 

  • 4c. If there is a tie between the number of followers each player has on a particular feature, then they split the points. If one player has more followers on a particular feature, then the player with the larger number of followers wins the points for that feature.

So take the following example:

Blue places the right-most tile. Blue cannot place their meeple on the road because Black already occupies that road: Rule 4a.
However Blue could place their meeple on the city because it is unoccupied.

However, here is how Rule 4b could work. Blue can place their follower on a road tile that is NOT connected to Black's road.

Look at the next picture...

...once the two roads are connected then the road is shared. Blue and Black share the points of the road (currently 6 points as there are 6 tiles with roads connected): Rule 4c

Sharing means both get the SAME points - the total is NOT divided by 2. Hence, if the game were to end now, each would get 6 points. See below rules on completing features.
Continuing the example: If Blue or Black is able to create a "segregated" or "detached road" and place their follower on that road, and then later connect the segregated road to the main road, they will have the majority of followers on the road.

In the above example Blue has done this. Then a turn later Blue might seize the advantage in the below picture:

Here Blue outweighs Black's followers: If the road finishes this way, Blue wins all the points in the road. Black gets zero

5. Finishing: Whenever you finish or complete a feature, your follower returns to you and you score points. Ie. you can only score points when you finish a feature.

How do you finish features?
  • Roads are finished when it is closed at both ends by two objects, such as buildings or intersections
  • Cities are finished when walls surround all of its sides creating an enclosure of brown space.
  • Cloisters are finished when 8 tiles surround it in a 3x3 grid.
  • Farms pretty much never finish. Therefore, they are only scored at the end of the game.

This here is a completed cloister - it is surrounded by 8 tiles with the cloister tile in the middle. It scores 9 points in total.
Photo from:

6. Not finishing: Even if you don't finish a feature, so long as you have a follower on it you will score points:

  • Unfinished cities are only worth half their value (1 point per tile that has a city on it - shielfs are also only worth 1 point). 
  • Unfinished roads and cloisters are worth the same value.
  • Farms are never finished and worth 3 points per completed city.

To give you a better idea, observe the following example.


It's Red's turn. Red just placed the left tile to fit in with the starting tile.

Right tile is the starting tile. Left tile is placed by Red

Red then places their follower on the road. Red can't score the points yet as the road isn't complete. But at the game's end, if Red is still dominating the roads, Red will get 2 points.

Black draws a tile. It's a cloister tile. Black places the cloister tile like so:

Black then places a follower on the cloister.

Then Blue draws a tile. It has two city features. Blue decides to score quickly so places it like so:

Currently the cloister is only worth 4 points (1 for the cloister tile and 3 for the tiles in a 3x3 grid next to it)

Note however, that you only score points when features are FINISHED/COMPLETED. The cloister is not complete yet as it needs to be completely surrounded by 8 tiles in a square shape (3x3 grid, with the cloister tile as the middle).

Blue places their follower on the city like below and then scores 4 points INSTANTLY (2 points for each tile that has a city connected to their follower = 2x2). This is because the city is complete - the city's walls make a complete enclosure.

Blue immediately gets their follower returned to their hand.

Now it is Red's turn again. Red draws a tile and places it like so:

This tile has a road intersection on one end - which means the road is half complete.

Red decides to play a "farmer". They must always be placed flat. This is a long-term investment.

If Red continues to dominate the farms, Red has 3 points in the bag because the GREEN grass is touching 1 completed city (which is the city Blue completed previously). As you can see the green grass has the potential to go many places, but its outer boundaries are dictated by the roads and city walls.

Red can accumulate more points if other players finish building cities later in the game (3 points per completed city)

It is Blue's turn. Blue helps red by placing the intersection tile below (it is not wise to help your opponents but let's just say Blue does)

Red has their road completed - the road is worth 4 points.

 Red can now take off their meeple and score 4 points.

Thus far, the scoring meeple look like this: Blue and Red are on 4 points. Black is still on zero because the cloister is not complete.

However, do note that, if the game were to end now, Black would score 5 points for having 4 surrounding tiles (surrounding in a 3x3 square shape - including tiles diagonally surrounding).

Red would also score 3 points for the completed city at game's end.

Just to give you another example, this is what could happen a few turns after the last picture above.

In the bottom left corner, Blue has placed a farmer. This is fine because the farmer is on the other side of the road (hence it is a different farm - it doesn't offend the territory rules), and, if the right tiles are placed, Blue's farmland could eventually join with Red's farmland. If this happens, they both get the same amount of points. If one of them has the majority of followers on the shared farmland, they get all the points and the other gets zero.

Notice in the top of the map, Blue has scored 6 points (2x3) for the 3 city tiles + a bonus of 2 points for the shield icon. This creates a total of 8 points.

Blue will then be entitled to take away their follower after completion of the city

Note also that this gives the Red an additional 3 points because the green farmland is touching the second city that Blue just completed.

Saturday 8 February 2014


Winner of the Spiel des Jahres 2013 (German Game of the Year 2013)

"What one could see the cards in their hand?"

Name: Hanabi (2010 - originally contained in the game set "Hanabi and Ikebana" in 2010 and then published separately as "Hanabi" in 2013)

Publisher: AbacusSpiele

Players: 2 to 5. Two players could be strange. 3+ is a good number.

Age: 8+

Time to play: About 30 minutes.

Price Range (AUD): $14.50 to $28. Standard price is about $15 to $16. Quite good value.

Availability: Available mainly in hobby game stores and online.

  • Cooperative/teamwork
  • Hand-management
  • Some memory

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

7.25* out of 10. (Good - See my Rating Scale)

Hanabi is a game where no one can see their own cards. Ever. Doesn't that sound a bit ridiculous?

However, what is interesting is that each person can look at everyone else's cards. Now you might ask: What is the utility of that?

Well, the whole group has to collectively work together to construct a series of cards in a solitaire-style fashion (numbers 1 to 5, for 5 colours - see the below Rules). On their turn, a player can give a clue, play a card, or discard a card (to obtain a clue back).

The game is a very interesting and amusing experience to all players of all interests and levels. It involves considerable cooperation and teamwork. It's one of the first games I think of when introducing a game to a group of friends who have never played card/board/party games before.

The only downside of the game is that, if the rules are not enforced strictly (in the sense that people give clues they shouldn't really be giving - see the Rules section for more info), this can spoil the game for 'hardcore' gamers. This might include giving subtle hints (and clues within clues such as variation in voice or tone).

However, in any case, I think that this aspect of the game makes the game quite fun and entertaining, not to mention that it can't really be avoided when playing with a group of casual gamers in a social context.

I do like this game but I wouldn't play it all the time - it would depend on the group I play it with.

*19/7/14: The uniqueness of this game, coupled with its cooperative team element, means it really ought to deserve a higher score than the 6.9 I originally gave it. It may not always be something I want to replay, but it is a good game concept to introduce to your friends!

The Good:
  • Very interesting and unique game concept that is bound to raise a few eyebrows around the table
  • Relatively easy to play and explain
  • You can increase the difficulty significantly by adding the "Multi-Coloured" Colour cards (see Rules below)
The Bad:
  • "Cheating" is rife in the game - but it really depends on how strict you want to enforce the rules. If you play with "serious" people, then this might annoy them. But if you play in a social and relaxed environment it really doesn't matter. It's up to you how you want to police the game.
  • The game has no real concrete goals apart from a "see how good you can get" approach
  • Replay value may be limited - has more of a novelty feel 
  • You might hate this game if you don't like using your memory or are forgetful (as I am).

What makes this game fun? 

The novelty of not being able to see your cards but being able to see everyone else's (in combination with cooperative gameplay) makes for a unique gaming experience.

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

In a 2 or 3 player game everyone gets 5 cards.
In a 4 or 5 player game everyone gets 4 cards.

No one is allowed to look at their cards so they must hold them facing AWAY from their eyes line of sight like so:

(In other words, you must only look at the backs of your cards)

Viewpoint of a particular player in the game - they can't see their cards but they can see the Left Player's and the Right Player's

The group also has a stockpile of 9 Clue Tokens (the scroll icons) and 3 Life Tokens (the lightning icons) like so:

Lightning bolts are lives - if the team runs out of 3 lives, the game ends 

The aim of the game is to, as a team (it's a group effort - everyone helps everyone else), sequentially place cards in ascending order for each of the 5 Colours available.

In other words, the group must play cards from 1 to 5 in that order in each of Green, Yellow, White, Blue and Red. So 1's must be placed before 2's, 2's must be placed before 3's etc.

For example, let's look at this game that has been partially played.

The group has placed down the numbers 1 to 4 of White, 1 to 2 of Yellow and the 1's of Green and Red. There are no Blue cards played yet.

Right now, a Green 3 would be an invalid play but a Green 2 would fit the Green column. A Blue 1 is also a valid play, as it would start a new column.

This will become clearer as you read the rest of these rules.

On your turn you can choose ONLY 1 of 3 actions as below:

1) Give a clue
2) Play down a card
3) Discard a card (to get a clue back)

Note that if you Play or Discard a card, you always draw a card to refill your hand.
(But don't forget: you aren't allowed to look at your cards)

1) Giving clues:

This is a main feature of gameplay.

On your turn you can tell other people what they have in their hand.

But you must follow certain rules. You can only give a hint about the COLOUR OR the NUMBER of a card. You must name ALL cards that share that feature.

For example, going back to this picture:

Pretend that there is a Left Player who is holding the cards on the left and a Right Player who is holding the cards on the right.

If I am the middle player, I can give the Left Player this clue:

"You have three 1's" (and you must point to all the 1's that they have - starting from the middle 1 and pointing to the other 1's that are to the right of that middle 1 - but you cannot tell the Left Player the colour of their 1's)

Or, alternatively, I could give the Left Player this clue:

"You have two White cards." (and you must point to all the White cards and ONLY the White cards - you cannot tell the Left Player the numerical value of the White cards they have, namely 2 and 1)

If I did one of the above clues (but not both on the same turn - you can only give one clue at a time), I remove a clue token from the box (or you can flip it over to its dark side, it doesn't matter) to symbolise that a clue has been used like so:

Players may adjust their cards to help them remember clues (eg. move a card to the left side)

A note on "Cheating"

What I call "Cheating" occurs when you give dodgy clues such as "You have two Green cards: here (in a soft voice) and HERE (in a loud voice)"

Since the emphasis is on the second card pointed to, it hints to the receiver of the clue that that card is particularly important and should be played now.

There are a few variants to how to do this but I won't go into detail about them. Note that this can backfire because sometimes the receiver of the clue might think that they are meant to discard, rather than play, the card (which has happened in a game I played)

It's up to the group as to how strictly they want to play the game! (ie. no emotions, no faces, no emphasis etc)

2) Playing a Card

When you play a card, it MUST fit into one of the 5 columns.
Note that, you DON'T need to say which column it fits into - it just has to fit.

So continuing the example, if it's the Right Player's turn (and they knew that their second card in their hand was a White 5 after being given several clues), the Right Player could then choose to play their White 5 card down as follows:

(As another example, the Left Player could play down their Blue 1 and it would create a new column of cards - you could put the Blue cards next to the Red 1)

A Wrong Play

If you play the wrong card the whole team loses a life.

"Wrong" means that the card has already been played OR the card does not sequentially match any of the columns.

For example, if it's the Left Player's turn and they played the White 1 in their hand like so..

...then the whole team loses a life, symbollised like so (or again, flipping the coin over to its dark side):

3) Discarding a Card

Discarding cards will restore used clues. You'll want to discard USELESS cards (mainly 1's, and other numbers you've already used).

However this is not as easy as it sounds because there are, in total:

  • Three 1's of every colour
  • Two 2's of every colour
  • Two 3's of every colour
  • Two 4's of every colour
  • ONE 5 of every colour

Hence you have to be careful not to discard a 5 as there is ONLY ONE 5 of that colour in the game.

If you discard all the numbers for that one colour, you will be unable to complete that colour's column.

(So for example, if you discarded the two 3's of the Green colour, you won't be able to finish Green - the furthest you could reach would be 1 and 2 in Green)

Scoring and end of the game


  • you lose the game prematurely (by losing 3 lives) or
  • if you finish playing all your cards down 
The game ends. 
  • If you use up all the cards in the deck: the game is nearly done. Each player gets one more turn including the player who drew the last card - then the game ends.

Then count your score and measure it against the scoring chart (which has different ratings for diferent scores).

Counting scores is simple - just add up the highest number of each colour column. Hence the maximum score s 25.

For example:
25 = Legendary
0-5 = Horrible!
11-15 = Honourable

Making the game harder

You can make the game harder by:

  • Giving the team less clue tokens or lives and/or; 
  • Including the multi-coloured suit as below

The game becomes harder because, when you give a clue about COLOUR, the multi-coloured card must ALWAYS be named IN ADDITION to the other cards named.

So if a player had 2 Yellow, 2 Blue and 1 Multicoloured card then a hint would have to say: "You have 3 Yellow cards" (and point to the 2 Yellow and 1 Multicoloured card).

However, you can choose to identify a multi-coloured card as a colour in itself (because the Multi-Colour is a treated as a new Colour and has its own column like all the other colours)

So you could say "You have 1 Multi-coloured card here".

Saturday 1 February 2014

The Settlers of Catan

The game that started everything for me: Settlers is often said to be the gateway to all Euro games.

I wrote this for my friend Diana who wanted to know a bit more about the game...

Name: The Settlers of Catan (1995)

Publisher: Mayfair Games

Special Note: Winner of the Spiel des Jahres 1995 [German Game of the Year 1995]

Players: 3 to 4, though I suppose nothing is stopping this from being a two player game - except it would probably be too easy as you'd have a lot of free space.

There is a 5-6 Player Extension available which I own. It is a good idea if you are new to this game to play 4 players using the 5-6 player map provided by the Extension as it makes the game easier for everyone (This will set you back by an extra $23 to $35).

Expansions: There are plenty of expansions to this game which I have not played, but some look quite fantastic - especially Seafarers.

However, for the purposes of Catan, be aware of the difference between an "Extension" and an "Expansion". An Extension refers to extending the number of players that can play in the base game. An Expansion however is a totally new sequel to the base game that adds new gameplay and new rules.

But note that Expansions themselves also have their own separate Extensions. So buying the Seafarers Expansion would let you play with new rules but you wouldn't be able to accommodate more people in the Expansion unless you bought the Seafarers Extension.

See also Startrek Catan and Catan: Frenemies. Check out these cool boards as well <--(I don't think I could ever justify buying a board with that kind of price tag)

Update (November 2014): Check out Catan: Ancient Egypt below - it looks really cool

Age: 10+

Time to play: About 60 minutes. If you create an unbalanced custom map though it could take a longer time

Price Range (AUD): $35 to $60. When I first bought the game I got it for about $33 but since then prices have jackpotted immensely into the $50 zone.

Availability: Due to its notoriety, very widespread and available in many department + toy stores as well as online.

  • Euro
  • Mild Civilization-Building Strategy
  • Trading
  • Negotiating
  • Family

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

8.5* out of 10. (Excellent - See my Rating Scale)

This game is a great introduction to the world of empire-building and trading, where light diplomacy and area planning skills come to the fore.

Catan's artwork is impressive and vividly depicted - the game does have a slight fantasy or "exploration" feel to it as well. The gameplay itself is engaging; even the process of setting up the game is likely to fascinate anyone new to the world of Euro board games (See Rules and Components below)

Settlers is also simple to learn yet has considerable strategy (of course, much will come down to luck through dice rolling and placement of chits) but at the same time it is not overly complicated as compared to other Euro games.

Often players must face a tradeoff between expanding quickly (and capturing territory) or withholding from this and stockpiling resources instead - if you do the latter too much you may be completely surrounded and blocked by your opponents later in the game!

Overall, I think this makes for a great family game. It can be competitive too amongst friends, but not in the bad sense.

*July and October 2014: Revised from 7.65. After re-visiting this (after journeying around the metaphorical world of board games), I've come to appreciate how clean and simple this game is. The artwork is quite lovely though the pieces themselves leave a bit to be desired (eg. the road doesn't completely fit the edge of the hexagon); however the wheeling and dealing element is superb in that you constantly haggle your opponents for bargains when it comes to trading resources. The tension in a close match is quite fun in a competitive sense, especially in games where territory and monopoly over resources is disputed. The rules are easy and clean to explain. I can see why it's such a classic and I consider this game to be the borderline standard for an 8.5 score.

The Good:
  • Relatively easy to play and explain
  • Maps are customisable
  • Civilization-building and area dominance tensions provide all players with many decisions to make and strategies to think about
  • Negotiation and diplomacy skills are put to the test to a limited extent 
  • Great gateway (introductory) game into Euro games
  • Great visually in terms of the components and artwork - strong fantasy themes.

The Bad:
  • May turn off someone not interested in mild to moderate strategy, but this is probably the most inviting it will get
  • Trying to customise your own map may be disastrous and could potentially make the game imbalanced - try to consult a map generator by typing into Google "Settlers of Catan Map Generator".
  • Road pieces don't exactly cover the edges of the hexagon tiles properly

What makes this game fun? 

Building, expanding your empire and negotiating sly deals with your neighbours coupled with the tension of competing for limited resources and land makes for a great game experience. Even if you are new to the idea and have never played this sort of game before you should give it a go - it is quite interesting.

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

Setup is interesting.

First you must assemble the border pieces like so (which form the beaches and ocean of Catan).

Outer edge with last piece to be placed (by just matching the numbers on the edges - 5 goes with 5, 6 goes with 6 etc)

Then you fill the void with various tiles. Tiles include forests, pastures, fields, "hills" and mountains - which respectively give wood, sheep, wheat, brick and rock

In this example I use the setup provided in the Instructions book but you are free to use whatever setup you like. 

I once played a game where we grouped resources into different areas, thus creating separate monopolies. You can also play a fog-of-war scenario where there are gaps in the map and you draw a tile whenever you build a road to an empty gap.


After you fill the voids, then you place numbered "chits" onto each tile. Again, in the picture below, I'm just following the standard setup in the manual.

[WARNING: if you choose to randomly place chits onto tiles without consulting an online map generator you could have a very unbalanced and disproportionate game.]

*EDIT as at August 2014:  I didn't realise this at the time I initially wrote this, but the game provides an easy way for you to number the board by following the letters in alphabetical order starting from A (anywhere on the outskirts of the board) and then going in a counter-clockwise formation

These chits correspond to the numbers rolled on two standard dice.

Red numbers (or numbers with more dots) are more commonly rolled (such as 6 or 8) whereas numbers with less dots are less commonly rolled (such as 12 or 2).

Robber and desert tile

Note however that the desert tile does not have a chit. Instead it has a robber placed onto it like so:

You may have also noticed in the above map that there is no "7" chit. This is because if anyone rolls a 7, they may choose to move the robber to steal a resource from any player (without looking at the cards of the player being stolen from - just choose one randomly).

Additionally, if the robber is on a resource tile, that resource tile will stop generating resources (which is bad - you will see why).

Starting Positions

Then everyone gets to place two "houses" (villages or as the game calls them, settlements) and two roads anywhere on the map. Here I've used the recommended start-up map provided in the instructions booklet (which is for beginners and as such, doesn't require you to place villages - they are fixed from the start)

However, if you decide to play the advanced version where people place one house at a time then...

..for fairness purposes, the player to place their first settlement must place their second settlement last. Thus the order of placement is symmetrical.

So if Red goes first (by placing their first settlement), then Blue places their first piece, then Orange goes, then White, then when it comes round to placing the second settlement, White will go first , Orange goes next, then Blue and Red goes last.

Note that there are rules for placing roads and settlements:

  • Roads are placed along the sides of a hexagon, rather than intersections (An intersection is the point where the corners of the hexes meet).
  • A road must always link back to (ie. touch) your existing road or settlement.
  • Settlements cannot be adjacent to another settlement. Thus, another way of saying this is that all intersections surrounding the settlement have to be empty
  • However a settlement of one colour can be placed next to a road of another colour so long as the intersections themselves are empty (as the roads occupy the sides of the hexagon, not the intersections)

Starting Pieces

Each player starts out with 5 settlements, 4 Cities and 15 Roads. 

In this picture, Red's 2 settlements and 2 roads have already been used up in the opening set-up

Starting Resources

Let's take a look again at the setup map

You will notice that Blue's two settlements are sitting on the intersection of many different resources.

For the Left settlement, Blue's settlement is touching the Brown Hills to the west, the Green Pasture to the East and Mountains are on the south. 

Thus, Blue gets 1 Clay card, 1 Sheep/Wool card and 1 Rock card, corresponding to these three resources.

For the Right settlement Blue gets 1 Lumber/Wood and 1 Wheat card.

Thus, this is what Blue gets in total:

Everyone gets their resources in a similar way.

Aim of the game

The aim of the game is to achieve 10 Victory Points before anyone else does.

  • Each settlement is 1 Victory Point (Thus at the start of the game you automatically have 2 Victory Points)
  • Each City is 2 Victory Points
  • If you have the Longest Road you get 2 Victory Points
  • If you have the Largest Army you get 2 Victory Points
  • Various development cards (which you keep hidden) also give you Victory Points.

Turn Order:

Each player goes through the following turn order:

Step 1) Roll the two dice.

If a 7 was rolled:

  • Each player with more than 7 resource cards must discard half of them (rounded down)
  • The Robber must be moved onto another hexagon by the player who rolled the dice.
  • The player who rolled the dice gets to steal one card from another player whose settlement is on that hex's intersection, without looking at what cards they have.

If a 7 wasn't rolled:

  • Each player receives one resource for each settlement adjacent to the hex that has the rolled number on the chit. So if 5 was rolled, Blue gets 1 Rock and Red gets 1 Brick (in the above diagram)

Step 2) Trade/Build/ or play a Development card in the order of your choice.

Trading: You can trade cards with another player in any manner you wish (eg. "If you give me 1 wood I'll give you 2 sheep")

You may also trade with the bank by swapping 4 of the same resource for 1 resource of your choice. If If you build a settlement on a harbour you can get better trades with the bank.

So in this example below, you can now trade 3 of the same resource for 1 resource of your choice (eg. 3 bricks for 1 wool).

In this example you can trade 2 wood for 1 resource of your choice.

Building costs are as below:

  • Roads cost 1 Brick and 1 Wood
  • Settlements cost 1 Brick, 1 Wood, 1 Wheat and 1 Sheep
  • Cities cost 2 Wheat and 3 Rocks (they replace your settlements and you get 2 victory points)
  • A development card costs 1 Sheep, 1 Wheat and 1 Rock

Note that if you buy a development card, you can't use it immediately - you can only use it on your next turn unless it's got victory points.
Building costs for Blue and example of development cards below

Some development cards give you a Knight, which allows you to move the Robber and steal from another player. Whoever has the most knights gets the largest army card which is worth 2 points.

This title can keep changing throughout the game but the default rule is that whoever got the title first gets to keep it in the case of a tie.

Do not forget the longest road title - whoever has the longest continuous road gets this title.

Step 3) That player's turn ends. The next player starts their turn, following Steps 1-3 again.