The classic board game of settlement and domination Settlers of Catan is sliding closer to the modern era with a new expansion which adds oil springs, 3 victory point settlements called metropolises, and cataclysmic natural disasters. The new version of the game called Catan: Oil Springs will be hitting shelves soon, but existing players can download the rules and print out the new gamepieces right now for free.
Here’s how it all works: a new resource, oil, is now available on the island of Catan. There are only three oil wells across the map, making it a limited commodity. Once harvested, oil can be exchanged for two of any other resource. Moreover, it can be used to upgrade cities to the new, higher-level metropolises. In practical terms, it means that players can advance more quickly through the game, or possibly allow other players to catch up.
However, using oil comes at a cost. Every fifth time an oil token is used, it triggers a natural disaster. The first possible disaster is rising seal levels due to greenhouse gas emissions — which destroy coastal settlements, and reduce coastal cities to settlements. The second possibility is the release of industrial pollution, which renders an entire hexagon space of the board unusable. Worse still, if five hexes are destroyed in such a manner, the entire island is rendered uninhabitable and everyone loses.
These new rules, and others, certainly add a new dimension to the game. With a more dynamic marketplace of goods, a faster path to late-game play, and the stakes of the entire island at risk traditional Catan gameplay is turned on its head. However, the rules are also based on extremely loaded, albeit scientifcally backed, issues of our time. The more politcal nature of the game could certainly turn off some players, and maybe become a flashpoint for arguments between players.
That said, these new rules seem to give Catan a real facelift in terms of play. Personally, I’ll be dusting off my copy of the game, and putting on my oil baron hat very soon.
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