The Rivals for Catan is a 2-player card game variation of The Settlers of Catan. There’s also a Deluxe Edition that comes with plastic trays to hold the cards and 9 promo cards. Regardless of what version you get, it’s a great way to play a variation of Catan with only two people.
In the original edition of Rivals for Catan, the box will contain 180 cards, a Hero token, a Trade token, 2 dice (1 Production die and 1 Event die), and an instruction manual (see unboxing video at the end of this post). To keep the cards from getting disorganized, I quickly put together a foam core insert to prevent the cards from shifting around in the box.
Rivals For Catan comes with the basic set of cards for a standard game and three additional theme decks: The Era of Progress (which focuses on constructive development), The Era of Turmoil (more aggressive game play), and The Era of Gold (new card types). Each theme changes the game play and extends the victory points needed to win the game. Once you’re comfortable with all of the themes, you can combine all of the decks into what is called “The Duel of the Princes.” I like this feature as it keeps the re-playability level high so you can pick and choose which type of game you’re in the mood for at the time.
At the start of a basic game, each player gets 6 resource cards (wood, wheat, brick, wool, ore, and gold), 2 settlements, and 1 road that connects the settlements. Each settlement must have 1 road card between them and the settlements are worth 1 Victory Point (VP) each. Cities can be built on top of settlements and are worth 2 VP each, but you don’t count the 1 VP settlements underneath the cities. Each player will also draw 3 basic cards from one of the 4 stacks of 9 cards as their starting hand.
The starting player rolls the production and event dice and then completes the corresponding actions. The number rolled on the production die determines the resources that each player receives. For example, if a 5 were rolled, each player would add 1 additional resource for each resource card they own that has the die icon with a 5 on it. Adding and subtracting your resources is shown by rotating the cards with the correct number of icons facing you (e.g. 2 sheep icons facing you means you have 2 wool resources).
The event die has a series of icons on it, all of which are completed after the production die resources have been allocated. The exception to this rule is the Brigade Attack event (shown with a red club icon). When this event is rolled, anyone with more than 7 resources loses all of their gold and wool supplies prior to resolving the Production die. The other events are Trade (the player with the trade advantage receives a resource of their choice from their opponent), Celebration (the player with the most skill points receives a resource of their choice or both players receive resources if there is a tie of skill points), Plentiful Harvest (each player receives 1 resource of their choice), and Event Card (the player who rolled the dice draws an Event card from the stack and reads it aloud to resolve).
The Hero and Trade tokens are worth 1 VP each. They are awarded to the first player who builds cards that have a total of 3 Axe icons for Strength Advantage and 3 Scale icons for Trade Advantage. However, if that player’s totals ever fall below the opponent’s total or if the sum falls below 3, the advantage tokens are forfeited. Some cards’ only purpose are to provide a player with Strength (axes), Trade (scales), Skills (harps), and Progress (books) to build an advantage over the other player for action die rolls and tokens. Building a Progress point allows you to hold one additional card in your hand for each book icon you have built.
As far as the game itself is concerned, it’s fun to play and is great for when you don’t have 3 or more people to play Settlers of Catan. The only clunky portion that could be improved is having to rotate the resource cards every time you gain or lose a resource. This means you either have to carefully lift the card off the table to rotate it, or slide it up/down, rotate it, and then slide back into place while trying to not disrupt your other cards. Since that action is 50% of the game, it can get tiresome of having to fix your setup each time. I would have preferred to just have glass tokens to mark how many of each resource you have (much like Viticulture) versus having to rotate the cards.
The game is also available for mobile devices to take the game on the go and for when you don’t feel like setting up the physical game. I’ve played the mobile version quite a bit and I have to say, it’s a great conversion from the physical copy.
Overall, Rivals for Catan is a great game for 2 players to get a Catan-like experience. Besides the clunk card rotation aspect, it’s one of my favorite games.