Kelv's Random Collection

A random collection of my contributions to the world.

Diary: My Obsession with the 1483 Series

Posted by kelvSYC on 12-9-2017

For this week’s update, I’m going to peel back my collection, and show you what is arguably the worst game that I have, and why I continue to have it and even try to enhance it.

During the craze of cashing in on the popularity of Axis & Allies, the Michigan-based company Guild of Blades Publishing Group had published a series of games that used mechanics similar to that of Axis & Allies, but tried to also change it thematically to suit different historical eras and added complexity for the sake of realism. One of their games, which I had found in an FLGS early into my days collecting board games, is Europe 1483, the first game in the 1483 series.

So why is the game that bad? The premise of the 1483 series is that it is a “massively multiplayer board game”, with support for at least 16 players for Europe 1483 alone and almost 100 players with the full set of expansions (which covered the whole world – fortunately, no single release of the 1483 series actually had whole world support).  Aside from the fact that it’s difficult to gather that many players, the micromanagement aspects (each player had to manage its diplomatic relations with other players, and a sizable contingent of neutral nations), and the hyper-locality of gameplay (players had to take turns one nation at a time, even if players located on opposite sides of the game board, with no realistic expectations of interacting with each other, could take their turns simultaneously) made the game a long slog. This is in addition to the heavy defender’s advantage in combat (make more notable in that the Guild of Blades combat system, unlike Axis & Allies, uses ten-sided dice) and the fact that there are no real clear objectives beyond a loose “benchmarking system” (which disincentivizes the major world powers of the time in favor of medium-sized nations where the benchmarks were a more challenging but more realizable objectives) makes it that bad of a game.

More on that game after the break.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 13

Posted by kelvSYC on 12-3-2017

The final version of 2017-1 is coming along OK.  For those of you who are in the beta program, the final version is adding in most of the Stobie variants under various sections, and I’ve tried to make it so that the building cost references not break across pages.  I’ve also reduced the sizes of some Catan Geographies maps, but still, my draft is still five pages longer than the public beta.

Part of what makes the inclusion of Stobie’s content, which was all featured on the old University of Catan website, is that it’s not a coherent scenario or variant, and, because it was on the old University of Catan website, is really old (as in, almost 20 years old – likely predating C&K). It had a few interesting ideas (hex drafting), but a few real stinkers (equal probability number tokens, 20-point 3-player games, etc.). Another one of the things that I had to overcome was the nonstandard terminology (can you guess what “pick-a-card” or “unexposed army” was?), and the fact that some of their options were mutually exclusive.

I’m hoping that I will be able to release 2017-1 final within 3 weeks (ie. In time for Christmas), but I’m not willing to commit to a “drop dead date” at this point.  Still, for those of you not in the beta program (still open to signups), you just might need to wait a bit more.

Additional development notes after the break.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 12

Posted by kelvSYC on 11-23-2017

It’s the Thanksgiving long weekend in America (well it is a five-day weekend for me anyways), and so I’ve decided to put some time into making the final version of 2017-1.  I haven’t had a lot of feedback with regards to the first beta version – either because 450 pages is a lot to chew through, or (more cynically) people are more into the fact that there is any kind of a new release.

I’ve also noticed that the English language community is more averse to officially-provided material, and seemingly more content with 1) house rules, 2) homemade boards (almost to the point of intellectual property infringement – Catan Studios generally allow the creation of one homemade set for personal use only if you already own a copy, and people do share photos of their homemade creations all the time – however, there are people who try to sell their work, which Catan Studios is known to aggressively pursue), 3) rule interpretations, and 4) strategy discussions on the base game (and maybe C&K). This is often in sharp contrast to the hearsay that I get from, say, siedeln.de, which is more scenario-focused.  (Again, not being a German speaker, and the siedeln.de community being notoriously hostile to non-German speakers, I don’t know if this is actually true.)

All in all, aside from probably a very dedicated group, there is much less of an incentive to keep the Guide current compared to six years ago, when I had stopped all work on R14.  (Part of the reason why I stopped work then was that I didn’t actually have access to my board game collection.) Call it apathy, but it does seem that the final version of 2017-1 could be the last version for the foreseeable future.  (I can’t even bring up the Live project that was announced on this very blog – I’m just not that interested in it anymore.)

Still, if you are interested in proofreading and copyediting the Guide, the door is still open, and will be for another bit.  Please give me your email contact in the comments section below, and you can enroll in the beta program.

As usual, more development notes after the break.

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Diary: Guide to Miscellany – Update 1

Posted by kelvSYC on 11-4-2017

Now that the Scenario and Variant Guide is in a place where I can take a step back, it’s probably a good time to get some work done on updating that other Guide I keep around on my blog.  Yes, a new revision to the Catan Card Game and Rivals for Catan Guide to Miscellany is under development.  It’s going to be completely rewritten from the ground up, and it will probably be more than 50% longer than the one before it – and that’s because I’m probably going to, for the first time, include an actual rules summary.

If you’re here for the Scenario and Variant Guide updates, you can still sign up to become a proofreader (head to that blog post for more), but right now I don’t have anything to add on that front as I await feedback before releasing a second beta.

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Catan Scenario and Variant Guide 2017-1 Beta 1

Posted by kelvSYC on 10-29-2017

It’s been six years since the last version of the Catan Scenario and Variant Guide, but now the next version is now in beta testing.  Beta testing is on an invite-only basis, as I’ve been mentioning in the updates.

At this time, I’m still not ready to make a general release of 2017-1.  As a beta tester, you would be responsible for proofreading and trying to find errors or other things that are not mentioned in the rules.  The release of the final version will be contingent on the feedback that I have received and the amount of changes considered necessary.

As usual, the beta version of the Guide is available on the Guide’s own page; however, the PDF file is encrypted, and beta testers should have the keys needed to open and read the file.  If you are a beta tester, and you do not have a key, please reply to this post, and I will try to get the keys to you as soon as I can.

Beta versions are provided on an as-is basis, and is provided under a do-not-distribute provision.  (The final version will not be an encrypted file.). I do reserve the right to take down beta versions of the Guide, either because of unauthorized distribution or (more likely) because the final version will be ready for release.

Beta tester signups are still open – simply send me an email, and if you are approved, you will get the keys as stated above.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 11

Posted by kelvSYC on 10-28-2017

Now that the English version of Legend of the Sea Robbers is in my hands, it honestly didn’t take too long to add the four scenarios to the Guide.  I’m probably going to release a beta fairly soon – the only real missing portion that I have to add is a section on the base game chapter about 7-point no development card games.  (Also, there is probably a few Bonus Section stuff I have to fix, but since I only offer Bonus Section rules as-is, it’s not a high priority)

I’m hoping that I can release the Guide before the English version of Catan Scenarios: Hawaii is released (the first Catan Geographies line scenario to require Seafarers!).  Partly because it’s an Essen release which would delay the 2017-1 version to 2018, and partly because it’s likely going to be a bit of work (like Rickshaw Run, it has full components).

The development of the Guide is definitely in its home stretch at this point.  If you want to be a beta tester, then don’t forget to sign up.  I’ve had a few people expressing interest at this point, but so far all of these are from people I’ve encountered in my personal life.

And don’t forget, after the break there are some fun tidbits!

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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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