Kelv's Random Collection

A random collection of my contributions to the world.

Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 10

Posted by kelvSYC on 10-21-2017

This is going to be the last update before I (hopefully) receive my copy of Legend of the Sea Robbers, which I’m going to be fairly excited about. (I’m slightly apprehensive because it is from an online FLGS, and not Catan Shop, and their availability is kind of constrained given the time of year and other factors.  The fact that catan.com has listed Legend of the Sea Robbers as being out for over a month despite FLGS stores not having them in stock doesn’t help things.) In this update, I’m going to talk about the Bonus Section.

So, what is the Bonus Section?  The origins of the Bonus Section actually comes from the very first scenario within it, “At Him with a Roar” (translated title).  After looking up the Ditts’ website (poppelkiste.de), they did have scenarios and variants which were ultimately never published in official Catan sources despite being a prolific contributor to them.  Thus, the genesis of the section – a section for those other scenarios and variants that were created by the people who had some contribution to official sources, but were not themselves official.  Since then, it has expanded to scenarios with solid community support, but there’s a fine line there that I’ve yet to draw, so I’m not a solid inclusionist on the issue (because that means more work for me).

Now, “unofficial” is a very loosely-regarded term.  After all, “Traders & Barbarians XXL” is a fan-created project, but has official endorsement, and is published on catan.de (but not catan.com as it was never translated to English – even though the author is a BoardGameGeek user and has an English language presence).  Many scenarios and variants (mainly combination stuff), including things like how “Catan for Two” fits with Cities & Knights, are in the realm of fan-created content, but given lots of community support, official guidance, and ultimately a spot on catan.com.  This, in the view of the Guide, makes it “main section” and not Bonus Section material, even though strictly speaking it’s not official.

If you want to know how the Bonus Section is treated in the upcoming edition of the Guide, check out the part after the break.  And remember, if you want to be a proofreader when the beta comes out, you can sign up in the comments section.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 9

Posted by kelvSYC on 10-15-2017

I bet that most of you are starting to tire of me posting updates for the better part of 4 months.  When the process to make a new revision of the Guide was under way, I was mostly unemployed and could dedicate a lot more time to the project, but as of the third update or so, I’ve been employed full-time, giving me less time to work on updating the Guide.  The good news is that the chapter on “The First Island” is almost complete, and I’m almost ready to release a beta for proofreaders.  (Don’t forget to sign up if you want to be one!)

One of the big changes to the “First Island” chapter is a more complete treatment of the Japanese releases of Catan, given that I’ve scrounged up a lot more information and either social media or promotional photographs of components from the Japanese releases (the original Capcom release, as well as the 2004 release and its Mega Man Battle Network 4 themed version, as opposed to the early TrySoft or current GP Inc releases).  Since that chapter is focused on the base game, I don’t think I could, in good faith, release a version of the Guide without mentioning those and other mass-market releases, as I had in R13.

Having said that, when it comes to the chapter, where should I draw the line?  After all, I’ve purposely excluded Das Wasser des Lebens, Star Trek Catan, Siedler von Nürnberg, Catan: Ancient Egypt, and will be excluding Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch from the Guide (fun fact: I have, or will preorder, all but one of these) under the excuse that they are technically separate games, but should they really belong?  Feel free to send me feedback in the comments section.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 8

Posted by kelvSYC on 10-7-2017

Well, I’ve finally managed to complete all of the graphics in the main sections of the Guide.  (There is one inaccuracy from R13 that I need to fix relating to “Der Schokoladenmarkt”, but since I own it and can look up a translation online, I can easily fix it.). At this point, the core sections is about 90% complete.

The next big thing is essentially working out the contents of the base game chapter.  All I really have right now is some base game rules lawyering, which is completely different from the corresponding section in R13, where I go into detail the mass-market versions over the years.  This is something that will be my focus for most of the rest of the development time (that, Legend of the Sea Robbers, and the Bonus Section) given that mass-market Catan has changed a lot since the Guide was last released.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 7

Posted by kelvSYC on 9-25-2017

It’s time for another update on the Guide.  At this point, I have officially crossed 350 pages of Guide, with two scenarios in the “Other Promotional Scenarios” section still to go.  (The only other chapters remaining is the chapters that come before the Seafarers chapter, which needs a lot of customization and relying on a few notes that I made when I started the new version of the Guide.)

Beyond the graphics, I have still yet to finalize a good portion of the Guide, such as individual building cost cards and equipment manifests.  There is also the issue of drawing out frame pieces for licensed versions, which is still non-trivial work.  It’s difficult to meet R13’s expectation on the first few chapters, after all.

The final version of the Guide shouldn’t be released until I have a copy of Legend of the Sea Robbers in hand, although there’s still a lot to be done.  Again, if you are interested in proofreading it, and potentially do a bit of rules lawyering, feel free to reply in the comments section.  I’ve had a few people come up in private for the beta process, but it’s mainly people who I know and have come across in person at this point.

Before we do that, though, let’s share a sneak preview.  One of the two remaining scenarios still to do, and the most dreaded of all, is “Vienna Meets Catan”.  This is because not only does the scenario not use hexes, it uses a stylized map of Vienna, and even then the intersections are still distorted.  In earlier editions of the Guide, I had used either a distorted colored blob, or used a stylized (low-quality bitmapped) map of Vienna without really detailing where the intersections are (and their differences from the real-world map).  However, in the interests of making this a bit more authentic, the new version of the map will be set against a backdrop of the map of Vienna.

WIP Vienna Meets Catan

Here, the circles represent the intersections of the game board, while the lines  connecting them represent the paths connecting the points.  (This scenario does not use roads, so there’s not really an incentive to make a minimal line length there.). The lighter background is the actual map of Vienna, taken from CC-by-SA sources.  (I’ve omitted the outer ring lines, where the district borders meet the city limits, as I see those connections to be reasonably self-evident.

As you can see, there’s still a lot more work to be done.  Firstly, the inner districts will have to be distorted, so as to at the very least be big enough to fit the (already half size) hexes (the number tokens will be added in later), if not the name and/or number of the district.  As you can see, I’ve only filled in one district for each type of terrain.  It’s going to be real fun fitting in some of the inner districts in this map, as you can see.  (This is particularly painful for the fields districts, as due to the extreme distortion of Währing and, to a lesser extent, Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus, fields districts are disproportionately smaller than those of the other hex types.)

Even taking this into account, this is going to be even smaller on the printed page, as the graphics here will be shrunk once it’s on the printed page (or in PDF form, for those of us who prefer things electronic), in order to fit the page layout.  (It’s still substantially larger than the earlier revision’s version, which had to fit half the width of the page; the new version won’t have the wasted whitespace on the right half.)

So it’s going to be a while before I can work out the kinks with this map, but I hope people will enjoy the final version when it comes out.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 6

Posted by kelvSYC on 9-2-2017

It’s been about a month since I’ve updated you with the latest on rewriting the Catan Scenario and Variant Guide, so I’d just like to pop in a new update.  To be honest, this month has been a bit slow on the graphics front, but I’ve managed to complete all of the graphics for the Catan Geographies chapter for now.

The main difficulty with the Catan Geographies chapter is primarily the fact that not all hexes have their full complement of edges, which, in Revision 13, had to be worked through clearly labelling affected edges.  In the draft Revision 14 that I had used as the basis of the upcoming version, the edges that were excluded were made more prominent, along with changing the borders of all of the hexes to yellow to better model the actual hexes.  In 2017-1, the model for Revision 14 is retained, but the excluded edges are actually made less prominent, although some fudging will inevitably be done, due to waterway edges and the fact that Rickshaw Run also has its rickshaw route.

What was surprising was that the vast majority of Catan Geographies maps do use the Guide’s “sideways” orientation of hexes, and only a small number use the proper vertical orientation, which made things a bit easier.  In a break from consistently presenting all scenarios “sideways”, the Catan Geographies chapter presents all maps in whichever way considered “right side up”, which means that the creation of hex assets had to be re-created from the ground up for these scenarios.  (The Historical Scenarios chapter will also be presented with boards in their “original orientation”, although I’ve yet to decide if I will use my drawing program’s artboard feature to actually cut off hexes, unlike the Revision 13 maps, which I’ve endeavored to make whole any partial hexes.)

Speaking of hex orientation, after looking through the scenarios again, I’ve also decided to present “The World According to Catan” and “Westwards” in its proper orientation, since both of these scenarios rely on relating to a map with a known orientation.  I’ve seen the Legend of the Sea Robbers setups, and I’m quietly wondering if I have to do the same for those (specifically, the main island is always a portion of a giant landmass), but until they are released in English (and I get myself a copy), I’ll leave this up to decide later.

Again, the offer is still out there for proofreaders and editors.  Anyone wishing to volunteer can simply add their names to the comments section.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 5

Posted by kelvSYC on 8-5-2017

I’ve actually not worked on the Scenario Guide in a while, and that was because of a hardware upgrade that has been in the works for some time, requiring me to migrate over a lot of my files, including that of the Scenario Guide.

There has been some progress on the art front, as a good chunk of the sections are now art complete, but the Catan Geographies series and the promotional scenarios (the two heaviest investments in art) are still not started.

In the meantime, I’ve made a selection of older revisions of the Guide available at the Guide’s main page, and also made a few changes (like not hosting the files on my blog anymore) to deter people from directly linking to the files.

Again, if you are interested in a pre-release version, let me know in the comments section.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 4

Posted by kelvSYC on 7-22-2017

Another update as we get closer to finishing a new version of the Scenario Guide.  At this point, I’m at 330 pages of Guide, although the final length of Guide will probably be in the 350-360 page range, as I’ve still yet to handle most of the diagrams for Catan Geographies and anything requiring me to setup special artboards in my drawing program (which generally include “frameless” scenarios and scenarios that are better presented with hexes in the correct orientation).  Some of the scenarios are a bit more labor-intensive than others, admittedly; I typically do scenarios what have only one or two setups mid-week and save the labor-intensive ones for the weekend, when I can dedicate more time to them.  The good news is that a good chunk of the scenarios are in fact have their diagrams fully drawn.

Having said that, this is not to say that the diagrams are the last part of the Guide.  Because of a few other design decisions, I would need to find a new home for two very important parts of each scenario: additional building cost options as well as starting player supplies.  I have to admit that I have not done any significant work on that as of yet, since only a minority of scenarios actually have it at the moment.  (So far, I’ve done a draft of it for Explorers & Pirates, but I’m not too thrilled with its appearance so far.)

To date, here is the detailed progress on graphics so far, section by section:

  • The First Island: Frame art is done, but the problem is that there is still quite a bit of content to write, let alone diagram.
  • The Second Islands: No scenario graphics, though those are fairly simple in nature.  It might be interesting to do a special diagram for Peanut Island, but it might not make the Guide.
  • Seafarers: Cloth for Catan is the only one remaining, due to the fact that one setup requires special art.
  • C&K: May need some graphical explanation of rules.  The frame art is done, though.
  • T&B: The Rivers, The Caravans, T&B XXL, T&B Ultimate (5-6 player setups only) remaining.  Partly held up by whether I should fold up “The Great Caravan” into “The Caravans”, and the fact that nudging the base game frame pieces in place is labor intensive.
  • E&P: Scenario graphics are complete.  Rule graphics should be complete as well.
  • Das Buch: The Atoll, Catan-Express, The Great Race, World According to Catan, Westwards remaining.  The first two are technically frameless (but will be presented with frame for consistency, and partly as I expect most of my readers with have newer editions of the game), and the last two are better presented in the correct orientation.
  • Historical Scenarios: Haven’t started.
  • SD&E: Surprisingly all done here.
  • Catan Geographies: Haven’t started.
  • Catan Scenarios: Haven’t started, though only Oil Springs needs diagramming.
  • Promotional Scenarios: Haven’t started.  I dread having to do Vienna Meets Catan.
  • Miscellaneous Scenarios: Most of the scenarios are done.  Still need to do some art for the Durango hex, and I want to see if I have the time to do some special diagrams for CWC 2014/CD 2015 scenario.
  • Variants: Most variants don’t need diagrams…
  • Bonus Section: Don’t get me started…

Work on the Guide might be slowing down a bit over the next few weeks due to other priorities, but hopefully I should be able to release an alpha version fairly soon.  The Guide is looking for volunteers to copyedit the alpha version, so if you are interested, sign up by replying to the comment section below.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 3

Posted by kelvSYC on 7-2-2017

Work on the Scenario Guide has slowed a bit, and it’s mostly on drawing diagrams, since it’s not trivial work.  Here’s what’s changing about diagrams in general:

  • In general, any scenario that requires a frame will have its frame included as part of the diagram.  No more double standards of why the hard-printed hexes on the 3rd edition frame are omitted while the hard-printed hexes on the 4th edition frame are included.  I haven’t decided on what to do for scenarios that don’t use a frame, since I haven’t worked on any of those yet.
  • All diagrams will have a maximum size of 12cm by 9cm as printed on the page.  As a side note, that means that almost every diagram will be shrunk from its original size.  The net benefit of this is that I should be able to neatly fit two diagrams on every page, unlike previous editions where I wasted a ton of space because a single setup took up 55% of one page and the next setup could not fit in the remaining 45%.
  • The exception to the above may be in things like Catan Geographies scenarios or the like, where there is no expectation that it can be reproduced using hexes or somesuch.  (Again, I haven’t started work on those.)

So far, I’ve gotten all of Explorers & Pirates completed, two scenarios in Seafarers, and about half of the setups in “T&B Ultimate”.  If you are wondering what that is, it’s a new scenario in the new edition of the Guide, which there are 37 diagrams – 18 for 3-4 player games and 19 for 5-6 player games.  You can download the full rules on the Catan website, but since the instructions there are geared towards having an international set, I’ve had to make some adjustments to accommodate the setups for an English language set.  This isn’t easy for the 18 non-introductory 5-6 player setups, partly because of the fact that while all of the frame pieces are labeled, they are labeled with numbers running in the wrong direction.  (If you assemble the frame properly, the numbers on the frame should run clockwise; in the instructions, they run counterclockwise.)  Because of this, and the fact that the board is a bit rotationally asymmetric (due to the fact that there are eight fishing grounds, two frame extensions with harbors, and the barbarian castle hex), it makes creating a concise diagram difficult.

Hopefully I will be able to post a preview chapter sooner rather than later.  The work to be done is still daunting, since carving out the space for diagrams alone (without actual diagrams) has made me realize that the final Guide will be more than 350 pages in length (without the Bonus Section)…

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 2

Posted by kelvSYC on 6-18-2017

It’s been quite a bit of work on the Scenario Guide.  Most of the text in the core scenarios (basically, everything that isn’t the bonus section) is outlined, but none of the setup diagrams are at this point.  Even then, it’s just over 200 pages in length, so I would imagine that the completed Guide should clock in at 300-350 pages.  (I blame one of the new scenarios in the Guide – you know, that new one with 37 diagrams – for making me do more and more diagrams.)

So here’s an update on what we have going on in the 2017-1 version of the Guide:

  • The section on “The First Island” is completely rewritten, with a whole new section on the game frame, and a write-up on certain key aspects of the base game rules.  This is actually quite a bit of work, going by how many pages of scratch paper I’ve used to do some trig calculations.  There are some portions that I have not yet rewritten from r13 (or my draft r14), such as the “fixed hexes” and such, but that’s relatively low on my priority list.
  • The section of the Guide on “First Islands of A Different Kind” is something I’m considering dropping, since it’s more of a spinoff showcase rather than something you can play with the core game components.  If anyone wants me to keep it, then I might consider re-adding it down the road.
  • Most sections of the Guide now have a sizeable writeup on the new equipment introduced in the specific scenario.  For example, the section on “Cloth for Catan” has a section on the original special hexes that were part of its original presentation, but was dropped when it was adapted for Seafarers.  Other things include a short section on the trade hexes in “Traders & Barbarians”, and so on.
  • Each section has a larger “section overview” which details equipment that is common to multiple scenarios.  For example, the Traders & Barbarians section overview contains the general rules for gold pieces.  In general, you’ll see a lot more cross-referencing in the new edition, which is a distinct change from r13 (where the rules were written so as to have individual scenarios be entirely self-contained).  The reason for this is the fact that scenario combinations were, for me, incredibly difficult for me to write up, and the fact that Explorers & Pirates is presented in a way that makes copying and pasting things not worth it.  (Right now, the longest writeup is for “Barbarian Attack”.  “Traders & Barbarians” had that title, but that was before I ultimately decided to separate out the base scenario from XL and Ultimate, since Ultimate plays nothing like the base “Traders & Barbarians” or even BA+TB.)
  • As a result, a lot of the “rules proper” sections are reduced by a great deal, and in most cases I can’t justify splitting the setup notes from the rules proper anymore…
  • Oh yeah, there are a lot of corrections to some of the sections in the Guide.  I don’t have an exact changelog, but one of the most egregious is “Transport Settlers”, in which the rules wouldn’t make any sense if you also considered the entries on it in the official FAQ.
  • I’ve also consolidated a few things – for example, “Atlantis” is presented in only one place in the Guide now.  I’ve also moved a few of the early “pre-Seafarers” stuff (“Seas for the Poor”, “Catan-Plus”) to the section on “The Second Islands” for a bit of a better flow.
  • More diagrams!  There are a few places in r13 where the wording wasn’t so hot, so a few rules diagrams would help.
  • I’ve decided to drop some of the inline images that I’ve used for resource costs and number tokens.  It’s not that I don’t like them, but it’s because my computer’s starting to strain from adding so much inline graphics.  (There is a reason r9 was split across multiple documents…)  If I ever revisit the live version, I’d definitely be using inline graphics for that.

There are a couple of things that I haven’t fully decided on in the Guide just yet:

  • Whether I should have actual photos of game components (for example, a comparison between traditional and Viking wood pieces), or other graphics that I did not come up with originally (for example, cropped images from Catan-News)
  • Whether I should have setup diagrams in the “correct” orientation (the Guide has long presented most setups on its side, so that the two-column setup layout would work without shrinking down the longest setup diagrams)
  • Whether the Bonus Section will return or not.  I have to double check if there will be new additions to the Bonus Section, or if I have to refine the criteria for inclusion of the Bonus Section at the moment.

Any input on some of the changes is definitely appreciated.  The 2017-1 version of the Guide is, so far, I’d say about 30% complete (the graphics take some time).  Again, I don’t expect that the final version of 2017-1 will be done before the release of Legend of the Sea Robber or the 2017 promotional scenarios.  There are still a number of places where my personal Catan collection has noticeable gaps, where I have to rely on second-hand sources for the information needed in the Guide.

While I am at it, I do have some special requests for the Guide.  Here are the Guide’s most requested things at this point:

  • Copy-editors.  I’m the first to admit that I don’t have consistent language in the write-ups, and a second set of eyes would be able to see things that can possibly be refactored.
  • A good templating engine.  This is more for the live version than anything, but may be useful down the road.  It is becoming more of an effort to compose the Guide, and I have been mulling over the live version’s backend more than anything.  Right now, most of the writing is there so that I can reuse most of what I write in the live version, where the benefit of things like hyperlinks can be useful.
  • In terms of me completing my collection: rare English versions of the German promotional maps, stuff that used to be on sale at the English Catan shop but not anymore, and a few other things.  (For one, I still don’t have a 4th or 5th edition Seafarers, as my Catan collection is 3rd edition vintage.  I do have a few German things, like frame piece extensions, but lack an actual German frame.)

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Diary: An Update on the Scenario Guide

Posted by kelvSYC on 5-28-2017

I’ve started on rebuilding a new version of the Catan Scenario Guide, once again.  I’d like to say “for real this time”, but this new version of the Scenario Guide is taking its time, partly because it will be completely rewritten from scratch.

Part of this is entirely practical: it has been years, and the last public version (Revision 13) was before Explorers & Pirates was released, and the last private version was before the current 5th edition was released, so there’s a lot of stuff that is going to be rewritten and reorganized either way.  There is also the rebranding and adding the chapter introductions that need to be done, but some of the most important changes are in fact to complete some of the things I had been working on for Revision 14.  (Yes, I had a partial changelog.)

Revision 14 would have been a considerable graphical overhaul of the Guide, to be introduced over time.  This was necessary for the following reasons:

  • It was hard to label edges, especially in the promotional scenarios where I had to determine hex by hex which edges were part of the board and which were not.
  • I had, up until that point, wanted to expand the first few chapters to include information on how the board game frame changed over time.  The hexes that you find in the finished Guide is the actual size that I was working with in my line drawing program, which made drawing frame pieces incredibly difficult.  In the upcoming version, I’ve actually created all of the graphics in a new, larger size, and shrunk them down to fit the printed page.
  • I wanted to redo the harbor graphics so that they matched the Seafarers “harbor keys” from the 3rd edition, rather than the “geometry block” motif that was taken from a fan’s homemade set posted on BoardGameGeek.

Unfortunately, because I made the decision to completely rewrite the Guide from scratch, it will be a while before it’s ready for release.  (I’m not intentionally delaying the Guide so that it will be released after the Seafarers 20th anniversary scenario, honest!)  This is compounded by the fact that my word processor died without a backup, meaning that I had to rewrite the entire Guide from scratch several times already.

But here is what I can tell you about the new version of the Guide, as I am outlining this:

  • Of course, I’ll try to keep up to date with everything officially released, but that’s a very hard ask since I’ll have to acquire some of the materials personally.  Some are easy to do that since you can buy them on Catan Shop, others not so much.
  • There will be a new section dedicated to Cities & Knights.
  • I’ve spun off the Catan Geographies promotional scenarios and the Catan Scenarios line to their own sections.
  • I’ve reorganized some scenarios that were particularly hard to categorize.  For example, “Greater Catan” was originally in the Seafarers section, then moved to SD&E, and now, I’m moving it back to Seafarers.  (If SD&E gets an English release, I’ll move it back, of course…)
  • For the most part, the scenario rewrites are primarily so that equipment dedicated to a particular scenario will be introduced in its own section in the Guide, as opposed to all at once near the beginning.  For example, the Council of Catan hex will only be introduced in the Explorers & Pirates section.  Some things will still need to be introduced more broadly to avoid repetition – for example, crews will be part of the Explorers & Pirates preamble since multiple scenarios make use of them.
  • All of the graphics will be redrawn.  The same colors will be reused for the most part, but there will be plenty of changes.  For example, number tokens will reflect the English language version of using a single consistent size of numbers with dots below them.  Land hexes will have a yellow border to differentiate them from edges where no roads can be built (for example, the mouth of the river pieces in “The Rivers”).

It is my hope that the rules are a bit more clear with less use of inline graphics, which hopefully gets us a Guide that is not significantly longer than Revision 13.  At this time, I’m still thinking of what to do for a Live version at the moment; for now, the Live version project will be on hold in order to try and finish the PDF version in a timely manner.

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