Monday, November 24, 2008

Settlers of Zarahemla: A Review

12:40 PM by Mike ·
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Another review here. This time we played Settlers of Zarahemla. I've got to say that I just enjoy the whole "Settlers" idea. I'd played Settlers of Catan a few times before and I think it's awesome. This LDS-themed version is just as good. It's built on the idea quite well and added it's own little touch.

When I looked at Settlers of Zarahemla, I didn't think I'd like not having individual hexes to place at the beginning of the game as in Catan. But, I've decided that it doesn't really matter too much. It's nice to have control over the design of the board as a player (I've tried to add that into the games that I'm designing), but it isn't as necessary as I had once thought. Settlers of Zarahemla comes with 5 pieces that make up the board: 1 five-hex piece, 2 four-hex pieces, and 2 three-hex pieces. These are laid down within the confines of the board. The board also includes a "score-keeping track." Around the edges of the board is a track with spaces labeled 1 to 12. Each player has a marker that moves along the board as the player's score increases. This was a nice touch. In Catan everyone just has to be aware of who has what score. This gives everyone an easy way to keep track. After setting up the board, the number tokens are placed on the board hexes. This was quite a pain. The instruction book tells you to place them on the board in alphabetical order. Not a big deal, right? But the letters on the tokens are extremely small and some strange looking font was used which added to the difficulty of reading the letters. Lastly, place the Gadianton Robber on the appropriate hex.

We then proceeded to place our settlements and roads. Not too much difference or difficulty there. Game play from here on out was pretty much the same as with Catan.

The game adds the possibility of building a temple. A combination of brick and stone will allow you to place one of your temple building blocks onto the temple, which is located at the top of the board. The first player to add 3 bricks to the temple becomes the "Greatest Temple Contributor," which is worth 2 victory points (similar to the longest road).

One thing that was weird was the Stripling Warrior development card. This allows the player to move the Gadianton Robber and steal a card from a player. It just seems strange to use a Stripling Warrior in conjunction with the Gadiaton Robber. Doesn't quite mesh with the Book of Mormon stories or theme.

The artwork on the board and the box is awesome. It really adds to the feel of the game (I think that artwork for games greatly impacts the experience; I'm not saying a game needs great artwork to make it fun and engaging, but it definitely helps; Too bad I'm not more artistic!). I was surprised at the thickness of the cards, but I just got done playing It Came to Pass, so I was comparing the two. The cards were fine, shuffling, dealing, etc. I did find that the wooden dice don't have the same bounce or something to them. But I'm sure that doesn't affect the numbers rolled.

Overall, I give this game a 5 out of 5.

I very much enjoy this game. It gives players a lot of options and makes winning difficult, as other players have those same options. A lot can happen in just one round of play. The only other thing I would add is that playing with only 2 players isn't as exciting as 3 or more. I know the box says 3-4 players, but the instructions explain what changes to make for a 2 player game. This make 2 games, It Came to Pass included, that playing with 2 players actually detracts from the experience. Overall, I enjoyed the game and am a fan of the Catan series, but are there some exciting 2 player LDS/Mormon themed games out there?

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