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Author: Klaus Teuber

Publisher: Kosmos 2004

Awards: none



With the release of The Settlers of Catan almost 10 years ago, a movement began which shook the world of boardgames like an earthquake and the consequences of which still can be felt today. Millions of copies of the Settlers were sold, and the game not only was followed by a number of expansion sets but also by a novel written by Rebecca Gablé. However, now Klaus Teuber once again has decided to bring a new twist into the world of Catan, and with Candamir the players now will be able to play a game based on elements of Mrs. Gablé's story.

In Candamir the players no longer are responsible for settling the whole island of Catan, but instead each player takes the role of an individual settler who has been washed ashore at the beaches of Catan and who now tries to build up his existence by grown corn, raising sheep and building a house. Thus, each player will receive a character card with one of four different characters (male and female versions exist), and each of this characters will have different starting quotas on four different attributes (which are Charisma, Dexterity, Strength and Combat Skill).

After chosing the characters, the preparation of the game and the setup of the board begins. The gameboard shows a part of Catan with a village in the middle. Around the village three different kinds of landscapes can be found: grassland, forest and mountains. Some of the spaces in each of these landscapes have been marked, and on these markers randomly drawn adventure tiles of the corresponding landscape will be placed. These markers remain hidden at the beginning of the game, since it will be the task of the players to discover the markers during the course of the game. Cards with resources (wood, iron and hides) and natural products (honey, mushrooms and spices) will be placed at hand since they are the trading cards in this game, and also stacks of event cards and movement cards will be randomly mixed and placed at hand for later use. As starting equipment, each player receives a wood resource card and also a marker with a Potion of Strength, and furthermore each player is handed a playing piece, ten victory point markers and one exploration marker. With these preparations done, the setup is over and the game may start.

The players now will play in turns, and in their turn in most cases they will continue travelling around the gameboard. Only if a character is at the Settlement the player may decide whether he wants to stay at the settlement to "Build and Brew" or whether he wants to go on a new "Expedition" on the board. At the beginning, the choice of the players will be to start a new voyage, since they will not have enough resources natural products to do anything in the settlement. To start a voyage, a player now is allowed to look secretly at two of the adventure markers on the gameboard and chose one of these as the aim of his travels by placing his exploration marker on it. Then the player may start the voyage, and the movement on the gameboard will be determined by drawing movement cards which had been mixed at the beginning of the game. These movement cards show the events which will wait for the player when he moves in one of the four directions, and thus he may decide in which direction his character should go. Often nothing will happen to the character and he may move freely, but it may also happen that the character either finds some natural products which he is free to take or that he might be challenged by animals or a random event.


A player is free to chose in which direction he wants to go and he may detour on the way to his exploration marker in order to avoid meeting a dangerous event like a bear, but for each new step a player takes he will have to draw a new movement card to see for what will now wait in the four directions. In total, a player usually may take four steps on the board while his turn lasts, but the number of allowed steps may be reduced when a character loses Life Points. The loss of Life Points is caused when a player does not manage to deal with an event, and when a player has lost all his Life Points he must abandon his voyage and is returned to the settlement and healed there. The events on the movement cards may be an attack by a bear or wolves, they may be an encounter with a character called "Candamir" or they may be a random event in which case the player will have to deal with one of the cards from the deck of event cards. In most cases, the player will have to "test" against one or more of his character's attributes by rolling a dice and adding the score of his attribute. If a added sum reaches a certain total, the test is passed and the player will receive a benefit (resources, potions, experience etc), but if the test is failed the character instead will lose one or two Life Points.

A player's voyage continues until he finally reaches the adventure marker with his exploration marker on top. The player then moves his playing piece back to the settlement and receives the benefit(s) printed on the adventure marker. These benefits may be resources, but they also may items which increase one of the character's attributes or even animals. The resources and the animals will be needed in the village to gain victory points, and here the above mentioned action of "Build and Brew" comes to a meaning. Whenever a player has collected enough resources or natural products to do something in the settlement, he may decide to stay in the settlement for one turn instead of going on a new expedition. On the one hand, a player may use his natural products in the settlement to brew different potions which either give him a temporally limited increase of an attribute or which may restore lost Life points. However, of even more importance are the resources since they will be needed to gain victory points.

A separate corner of the gameboard shows the settlement itself, and in the settlement different villagers wait for players who bring them resources. If a player can bring the correct combination of resources, the villager will reward the player with sheep, seeds or building materials (all of which will be represented by the player leaving one of his victory point markers at the corresponding house of the settlement). However, each villager has specific "which-lists" and only the resources which are needed to manufacture the item listed on top of the list will be accepted by the villager. Thus, a villager may for example be looking for two iron and one wood resource to manufacture a sword, and only a player who can bring exactly these resources will receive a victory point from that villager. The victory point marker then will be used to cover the item which was displayed on top of the "wish-list", and thus the next wish on the list becomes the new wish of the villager.

This is the way the players will get their victory points, but there is also an possibility to get additional points, since the first player who has fulfilled three wishes from the "wish-list" of one villager will receive one additional victory point which he may keep unless an other player fulfils more wishes of the villager than he has done himself. Furthermore, the first player who has successfully dealt with three event cards also will receive an additional victory point for being the "Hero of Catan", but here as well the victory point can still be lost if another player should succeed in solving more events than the current "Hero of Catan". The game will end with the first player to reach a total of 10 victory points.

A fact I had to observe about this game was that the rules were a bit difficult to explain to other players, be they Catan-freaks or newcomers to the world of Catan. Once the basic game is mastered, the game runs smoothly and it is quite easy to play, but on the way getting there it is a bit difficult for the game owner to teach. I would call myself an experienced rules teacher, but it required almost 20 minutes of explaining and answering questions to get the game going. Of course, there always is the possibility to start playing and teach as you go, but the game may well last for over two hours, and since each player will need to develop a strategy it is essential that everybody is familiar with the rules before the game starts.

This lengthened preparation phase in most is due to the in-depth gameplay which the game offers and the different options each player needs to take care of. In my outline above, I tried to give a concise description of the basic playing mechanism of the game, but some specifics like character special attributes and the gaining of experience were skipped to keep this review readable.

However, once everybody has mastered the rules, the audience will be rewarded with a really enjoyable adaption of an adventure game which takes place at the well-known world of Catan. Especially the story-elements of the game reflect rather well the chosen background, and a concise and well-developed set of rules makes the game rather worthwhile. What I liked a lot was the fact that each of the players in a four player game developed in a different way, but in the end decision on the victory of the game was found in a few, tension-packed final rounds which caused quite a bit of change on the settlement-board. Even a player who was not seen in the circle of possible winners may still have a chance to win, provided he can surprise the others with a few resource-cards which he has hoarded for exactly the right moment. This good, competitive gameplay comes together with a very nice graphical design, and in total I really have to recommend this game as being one of the highlights of the gaming-year 2004.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany