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VINE VOICEon May 6, 2008
I got this expansion along with the original game and played it after playing a couple games with the original rules. The basic changes to the original game include:

1) Instead of the development deck, you now have three progress decks (sciences, trade, and politics) which offer a broader selection of usable cards than the development deck and it's 90% knights and 10% events/actions. These decks correspond to three possible areas of improvement (see next item) and have some interesting effects (everything from allowing you to take cards from another player to pulling resources for free).

2) Cities can now be improved. You get a set of flip cards that you flip as you purchase city improvements. There are two benefits to city improvements: a) when you achieve the 3rd level of improvements you gain some bonus like the ability to trade two of any commodity for one resource or commodity (note: as commented on, this is not like the harbor benefit of 2:1 resources which limit you to trading resources for resources; however, it still comes in handy despite the limitation), and b) each improvement increases the changes you'll get to pull from one of the three progress decks.

3) The addition of an event die that you roll along with the standard 2d6. The event die will either move the barbarians closer (50% chance) or trigger a chance to pull from the progress decks (16% chance). As mentioned, city improvements increase your chances of scoring a card when one of the progress areas are rolled (i.e. if you get a 1 or 2 on the red die and a blue icon on the event die and you have the first city improvement in the science area, you can draw a card).

4) barbarians have been added on top of the robber that still plays as it does in the original game; the barbarians show up after the barbarian icon shows up on the event die (which is more often than not). When the barbarians reach Catan and if there aren't enough knights in play to protect Catan, then the weakest player (in terms of knights) who has a city will lose that city (it gets downgraded to a settlement) as it gets razed by the barbarians.

5) knights are now pieces in play rather than a drawn card; they can bump other knights and the roober and play a crucial role in dealing with barbarians: if the number of knights who are active exceeds the number of barbarians (= number of cities in Catan), then the players win and the player that contributed the most will receive a special Defender of Catan card (ties result in progress card draws) which gives you a victory point.

6) Lastly, to make things interesting, there are commodities now, coin, paper, and cloth (which correspond to iron, wood, and wool resources) which are primarily used to buy city improvements. You get them if you have cities (i.e. instead of getting 2 iron if you have a city next to an iron spot, you get 1 iron and 1 coin).

Yes, it's definitely more complicated than the original rules but it offers a choice for anyone who wants that complexity (me!). It makes the game deeper and in some respects fixes issues I had with the previous game (like the knights being way too easy to pull up off the development deck given their numbers).

Once you get used to the rules (one or two games will usually do it), things move along and tides can turn pretty quickly (like when you were unable to active your knights before the barbarians came and you end up losing a city...or when Catan still wins but you just handed your opponent a Defender of Catan card which secured another victory point).

All in all, if you liked the original game and are either bored with the simpler rules or want to mix up the game a bit more, then I highly recommend this expansion. The added rules and expanded progress cards and city improvements really evolve the game in a good way and bring out the best of this game.

Oh, and note that you need to use this with the 4th edition (Amazon made sure to label these with that big "New 4th Edition!!!!" tag...). I never had the original versions so it didn't matter to me but some reviewers seemed to have an issue with getting the wrong edition so...
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on March 6, 2015
Catan doesn't hit our table much. But when it does, this expansion is a MUST!

How it makes the game different:
1) city walls: allow you to add +2 to your hand limit when a 7 is rolled. There are a total of 3 city walls for each player, so if you play them all, your hand size limit will be 13

2) in addition to the 5 resources, there are now 3 commodities: paper, cloth, and coin. If you have a city on a wood number, you will produce one wood and one paper. If you have a city on a sheep number, you will produce one sheep and one cloth. If you have your city on an ore number, you will produce and ore and a coin. Wheat and brick produce per normal.

3) with these 3 new commodities, you can buy upgrades to your buildings, which give you special abilities, and also allow you to win cards for free with certain dice rolls. The cards are much, much better than development cards! a LOT more powerful.

4) development cards are not used, rather they are replaced by 3 stacks of new cards, each one corresponding to the new commodities paper, cloth, and coin.

5) each player also gets 6 knights to play on the board. The knights have many abilities. a) they can chase away a robber as if a 7 was rolled. you can then place the robber anywhere you want, stealing cards from EVERYONE who is adjacent to that hex. b) the robber can block other people in a race to get a road placed. c) they can fight away the barbarians (to be explained later). knights move along your own roads taking actions when they are active.

6. there are barbarians who slowly make their way toward catan. When they reach Catan, the barbarians fight all activated knights on the board. all players fight together against the barbarians. The player's total score is the total number of activated knight points. The barbarians score is total number of cities on the board. If there are more cities than activated knights on the board, the barbarians win and the person with the fewest knights fighting has to lose a city and replace it with a settlement. If there are more activated knights than cities on the board, the players win. The player with the most knights wins a victory point. If there is a tie for most knights, each player gets a powerful card for free.

7. It is also possible to earn a metropolis. This is placed over one of your cities, and counts as 4 points total. This also makes your city indestructible in case of a loss to the barbarians.

8. Victory is achieved at 13 points.

As you can see, this really changes the game. It takes a game that used to be really good (but got overplayed) and really refreshes it, giving it so much more to think about. There are many options, a lot to consider. I will ALWAYS play the game with this expansion. It just adds so much depth to the game. If you used to love catan but got burnt out on it, this may renew that first love you had for the game. If you currently still love catan, then this is a great addition. It still feels like catan. It is just SOOOO much better! SEAFARERS of catan is just ok. it doesn't change the feel of the game much at all. But this one is GREAT. BUY IT!
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on May 7, 2010
This expansion makes the basic game very very enjoyable, although it does extend the playing time quite a bit. In short, the expansion introduces two new aspects. One is building "knights" to protect from pirates that invade the island from time to time (decided based on a third "event" dice). The second aspect is a suite of 'new development cards' that give you much more options than the original set of development cards e.g. you can temporarily downgrade your opponents city, remove their roads, steal their knights etc. in addition to the monopoly, free road building etc. How do you get these development cards? Instead of buying them (like in the basic version), you get them also based on the event dice. However, to get them you need to 'flip' a book to get city extensions. In the basic version, all resources are doubled for a city - here three of the resources give you one resource and one commodity and these commodity cards are used to flip - so it is a cycle: you get commodity cards, you flip - flipping increases your chances of getting the development cards. This makes the game very very interesting with a lot more strategies involved.

One thing to know: The currently available version is 4th edition. The backs of the cards do not have any difference compared to 3rd edition. So they are *compatible*. The artwork in the flip books are a little different, but still recognizable (I have posted pictures). However, the basic 3rd edition has two 'natural' dices. The expansion needs a 'colored' red dice to decide the development card acquisition using the event dice. *UPDATE*: I contacted Mayfair customer service and they said they will ship a red dice 'free' to customers on request!
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on January 12, 2015
Settlers of Catan is one of my favorite board games, and after a bit of research, the consensus seemed to be that the Cities and Knights expansion was the best one to get. As it's my first expansion, I can't comment on how it compares to the others. Cities and Knights certainly adds a few interesting layers to Settlers, including many new and exciting development cards and a mechanism by which opposing players must occasionally work together to beat a common NPC-type enemy. (If steps aren't taken by all players to fortify Catan, certain developments, like cities, can be downgraded and must be rebuilt.)

The main issue with the expansion is that, with certain game setups, it gives players an incentive not to develop and rather to find victory points elsewhere. In these instances, Cities and Knights plays pretty much exactly like a standard game of Settlers, which goes against the spirit of using an expansion. With four players competing instead of only three, this issue is less likely to arise. Like Settlers, Cities and Knights works best with a full complement of players.

Even if you have a lot of experience with Settlers of Catan, this expansion has an intimidating learning curve. However, once everyone is on-board, the game plays nicely. You probably won't want to use Cities and Knights every time you play Settlers, but once in a while, it adds a worthwhile flair to an already great game.
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on August 3, 2016
Our family loves Catan and the Cities and Knights expansion is just fantastic. It’s everything you love about the original Catan, with additional resources and complexities. The expansion allows you to customize the game size depending on how much Catan you want to play. With Cities and Knights, you get additional resources depending on which hexes you have cities built on. Cities on the wood hex get paper resource, sheep get cloth, and ore gets coin. With these new resources, players can “upgrade” their cities to get more development cards. The development cards also have more options to enhance the gameplay. This expansion is a little more intense than the Seafarers expansion, but I enjoy the added complexity, once I understood it. The new pieces are the same quality as the original game and the colors match the original pieces. The resource sectors are also a good match with the original. The gold sectors look a little different from the original, but not so different that you can’t tell it’s a gold sector. My only complaint, if you could call it that, is that the ocean border pieces don’t fit together perfectly, and sometimes slide apart from each other, causing the internal sectors in the rest of the game to shift slightly out and away from each other. This is easily solved by just being a little careful with the pieces and the dice, to prevent shift and slide. With all these pieces, though, I can definitely see why people need a single box to hold all their Catan expansion pieces and parts. We had to purchase one ourselves, keeping in mind that we don’t have all the expansions yet, and will need expandable room to add the others as we buy them. All in all, we really enjoy playing the Cities and Knights expansion.
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on December 2, 2014
Bought this expansion after becoming a Settlers of Catan, or SoC fan in less than a month's time. We wanted to add more depth to the basic game and after reading reviews online, decided that Cities and Knights, or C&K, would be the proper fit. And fit right in, it did. This game is beautifully designed; the number of different ways in which a player can win is amazing. There are lots of strategies to consider during gameplay and even if one has the misfortune of losing a city when the barbarians attack (due to not having any active knights on the board), that person can still come back into the game and make a push for victory. Unlike SoC where resource production is heavily dependent on dice rolls (and thereby, a lot of luck), the addition of progress cards and the power of the aqueduct in C&K somewhat mitigates the requirement of having settlements or cities on high-probability numbers. Sheep, which wasn't such an important resource in SoC now has more value as it is needed to hire a knight to protect your city. I also can't stress the importance of grain throughout this game since it's the one resource that feeds knights every time an action is performed AND of course, is used to build cities. Brick is arguably the least important resource.

There are some people who feel that this expansion adds too much complexity and playing time and is difficult to follow. I don't entirely agree with this premise because C&K is so engrossing that even after finishing a long game, you will want to play more. People who are new to the Catan family should stick to playing SoC until they are comfortable and willing to venture further. The Seafarers expansion is NOT as complicated and is a good first-buy for those looking to add extra variety to their SoC game. You also have the option of combining C&K with Seafarers and SoC for an even more immersive experience. For others, well, set aside 2-3 hours of your time, grab some drinks and snacks, pull up your socks and other wearables, and prepare to battle away against your opponents for the coveted title of Prince or Princess of Catan.
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on April 30, 2017
This expansion adds a lot to the game. Heavy and light gamers alike seem to love the new rules. Not to mention they are not confused by all of the new aspects of the game. It fits right in with the original.
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on March 20, 2014
Settlers became my family's favorite passtime almost immediately after we opened it at Christmas, but in just a couple of months we were ready for a little something more. We reviewed a few different expansion sets and decided to give Cities and Knights a try, and it was definitely the right choice for us. We almost never play Catan now without playing Cities and Knights.

My wife and I were a bit concerned when we first opened it because it appeared fairly complex, and we weren't sure if our boys (10 and 8) would be able to handle all of the new rules and strategies, but a few beatings from each of them relieved those fears.

The only thing to know is that some people find Cities and Knights to shorten the game, but we've found it to generally lengthen the game. It's still fun, but it can make for a long night.

We purchased the 5-6 player extension set as well, but we have yet to play the game with more than 4. The one comment on the extension is that it increases certain progress cards that can radically change the game. Think carefully about adding those in and consider marking them (on the front) before combining decks. When a player holds two road building cards the entire game can change.
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on July 9, 2017
Great expansion to the Catan game. This was the first expansion used with the regular Catan game. I would highly recommend this expansion as the first one to try (I know there are so many).
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The game really makes Catan feel like a different game, a much more fun game at that. It gives players different methods to win and play the game and that. Every time we bring out Catan, this expansion is used and I hope we never play without it.
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