Board Game Session Report for March 13, 2003: Settlers of the Stone Age, Carolus Magnus, Sunda to Sahul


Danger Planet session. 3-player Settlers of the Stone Age, 3-player Carolus Magnus, 3-player Sunda to Sahul.

Settlers of the Stone Age

Players were Scott, Jeff, myself. New players to the game were: Scott, Jeff, myself. Jeff had the first turn.

We spent 13 minutes going over the rules and setting up the game.

This is a resource-management game on a map of the world.

The goal is to collect ten victory points.

Players start with three camps in Africa. These camps get resources from adjacent hexes when the number on the hex comes up on a roll on two dice.

Resources can be used to create an explorer, convert an explorer to a camp, or to move an explorer. They can also be used to promote the player's position on one of four technology tracks. Each of these top off at level 6 with the reward of a victory point for getting there first. Two of these tracks are needed to explore certain parts of the map which lead to bonus exploration tokens. One of the tracks boosts the movement rate of the player's explorers. The last track lets a player move the neanderthal or saber-toothed tiger.

Exploration tokens give victory points, some give the player a chance to change a resource producing hex in Africa to a barren desert (which encourages exploration as quickly as possible.) and some let the player move the neanderthal or saber-toothed tiger. Some points give the player a victory point for establishing a camp on it.

During a players turn, he rolls for resources that everyone gets. A seven means that players with more than seven resources must discard half his resources, and the neanderthal moves to a hex causing it to not produce a resource, and the player may steal a resource at random from a player with a camp adjacent to the neanderthal. There's a saber-toothed tiger in America, as well, that acts as the neanderthal does.

So, what I'm trying to say is this game is basically like a cross between Settlers of Catan and Starfarers of Catan, with a fixed board and wandering explorers.

The nice thing about a "settlers" game is that it's easy to get into because once you played one version, the rest are variants of the first.

It was interesting to be able to strike out and explore the world, leaving behind a wasting world.

Die rolls are frustrating as usual, because once I start losing out, either because of desertification or because of the neanderthal, I just can't make enough resources to camp on a new location and catch up on the rest of the game.

Jeff and Scott were in the lead, so the just started competing with each other, and ignored my request for trade because trading with me would benefit me more than them. If they did trade with me, it was because they were even closer to victory for it.

I wonder if there is any real strategy to Settlers, or if it's purely tactical.

Game lasted 82 minutes. Final scores were:

Click here to buy Settlers of the Stone Age at

Click here to learn more about Settlers of the Stone Age at

Carolus Magnus

Players were Jeff, Karl, Vitas. I was new to the game. Jeff had the first turn.

We spent 15 minutes going over the rules and setting up the game.

This is an abstract game with a kingdom theme.

Basically, each player has nine colored cubes of a combination five different colors. A cube is also placed on fifteen tiles with an even color distribution. These tiles are placed to form a circle to show adjacency to each other.

Each player also has ten castles.

Players start by bidding for turn order. This bidding works as follows: Players have discs with the numbers one through five on them. The first player places a disc, then the next player places a disc with a different number, and so on. Then turn order is determined starting with the lowest number, then the next highest, and so on. These discs are unavailable for the next round of bidding until players use up all their discs.

Each turn, a player places four of their cubes either on their scoreboard, or on tiles. If the player has the most cubes of a color on his scorecard, he gets a marker indicating so. Then the player moves the emperor to adjacent tiles clockwise up to the number on his disc. The tile with the emperor is resolved.

Resolving a tile is done as so: whoever has the most of the colors on that tile gets to put a castle on that tile. The castle counts as a point in favor of that player. Cubes on a tile count as a point in favor of the player controlling that color. If a player has the most points on a tile, he replaces castles with his own. If two adjacent tiles each contain a castle from the same player, the tiles merge to create one tile (leaving the castles in place.)

Karl perfered a three-player game because he's played it that way before and it was fun.

I couldn't quite get my head around these rules when I played the game, so the real competition was between Karl and Jeff, who were merging tiles left and right.

Overall, Jeff and I noted that the game isn't very satisfying -- that it's mostly tactical rather than strategic in nature.

Game lasted 45 minutes. Final scores were:

Click here to buy Carolus Magnus at

Click here to learn more about Carolus Magnus at

Sunda to Sahul

Players were Eric, Karl, myself. Eric was a new player to the game.

We spent 5 minutes going over the rules and setting up the game.

This is a puzzle tile-laying game with a colonizing theme.

The tiles are actual puzzle pieces representing a combination of land and water. These tiles must be played so that the land and water line up to make islands.

Players divide all the tiles amongst themselves face-up.

The turn sequence is: take a tile, place a tile, place a totem token on a node. Each player gets to execute the turn sequence twice. Tiles may be replaced if they're not playable at no expense. A node is a point at which land tiles meet.

There's nothing more to the basic game. Each token on a node scores a point. Tokens score two points on each node in a complete island.

The first advanced rule concerns lakes. A person who completes the final node in a lake gets to put a token in the lake. A lake score five points per node. A lake in a complete island scores ten points per node.

The next advanced rule concerns tribes. With this rule, when a player completes a node, he can add a token to the created node, or to an existing tribe on the island. A token in a tribe is worth the number of tokens in the tribe to each token.

Game ends when a player plays his final token, or the final tile has been played, or when no more tiles can be played.

The game can be played turn-based or in real-time.

Because Karl played before, I was eager to push ahead in the rules to add the ones I haven't gotten to yet.

We played three games and added an additional rule each time.

We played a real-time game.

First, we added Cooperation, which built on the tribes rule. Players must ask for permission to join a tribe of the tribes controlling player. This really wasn't at all a useful rule, I find, and should really be combined with the next rule for which it's significant.

The next rule we added was Challenges. Instead of placing a token, a player may choose an island, and pick one of his tribes to challenge another tribe. Dice are rolled to resolve the challenge and the winner replaces the top-most of the loser's token with his own in the loser's tribe.

The next rule we added was resources. A resource may be added to an island when a players adds a token to the island. The number of the resource must be less than the number of tokens on the island, less the number on other resources on the island. Resources add two times the number on the resource to the score of the player with the most tokens on the island. Four times, if the island is complete.

Karl was in his glory because he's quick to find tiles to play in real-time. Though, I think there should be a rule about having multiple tiles ready at once -- like play one tile with one hand at a time (if there isn't such a rule already.)

Eric has a problem finding patterns, so he scored poorly.

I very much enjoyed the thinking on-the-fly aspect of the game. In real-time, there is no analysis-paralasis that was a problem when we played this game turn-based. Even when I was losing this game, it was exhilarating to play it.

The final game was actually twenty minutes, Karl was running out of pieces to play towards the end and had to wait for us to play pieces that would benefit him.

Game lasted 15 minutes. Final scores were:

One rule I got wrong is that a player always adds a token to the island when he completes a node. This happens even for a challenge (and for a resource.) Though, I think, sacrificing the added token would be a deserving cost for doing either.

Click here to learn more about Sunda to Sahul at

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