Game Night:  Catan:  Traders and Barbarians

Big Surprise!  On a recent visit to my Dad, I got some of the guys to come over and play some games.  One late night, after most had gone home, it was just Jeff, Dad and I.  Dad wanted to try a Catan version that hadn’t come out of the box yet.  It was Traders and Barbarians.  This is my analysis of the game, how it played and whether it is worthwhile to purchase!

Game Night: Catan: Traders and Barbarians!

What is Catan: Traders and Barbarians?

You may have already read about the massive house-version of Catan that Cally and I put together.  It’s a conglomeration of the basic set, seafarers and house rules.

Traders and Barbarians is one of the expansion sets that is really a stand-alone box, although you can use the tiles for other versions and I am sure we could incorporate knights and barbarians into our house-version!

But you may ask where did the “knights” come from?  I thought it was Traders!  This box set is really a set of 4 Catan variants and 5 scenarios or campaigns.  We chose the Campaign Scenario called Barbarian Attack, which I will refer to as Barbarians and Knights, since those are the two biggest additions to this version of Catan.

Building causes barbarians to come to your shores and slowly dominate coastal lands, which kills resource production.  The only real defense is to get ahold of some knights, which could spawn anywhere, but most often spawn in the castle.  The way to get these knights is to buy development cards.  Once you get knights, you have to mass them to outnumber barbarians, which then get vanquished and become victory points.  If knights are vanquished, you receive gold.

Catan: Barbarians and Knights

How is “Barbarians and Knights” different from Basic Catan?

In Barbarians and Knights, you do not play with the robber, and there is no card for “Largest Army”.  You use different development cards, which get you the knights.   The board is a preset hex built of three tiles on a side, which is a total of 19 hexes.  Also, gold can be traded for resources.  

Development cards end up becoming more valuable than upgrading your villages, expanding, and building new villages.  B&K gives you another way to win, since you can quickly gain a lot of victory points with knights that would otherwise take a few turns to gather what resources you need and then build.  

For example, if you focus on amassing knights, you can quickly defeat barbarians and gain victory points at a rate faster than normal resource spending would achieve.  If you lose any, you gain gold, which can help you buy more knights.

Compare that to sticking to the old strategies of just building, expanding to get more resources, and upgrading villages to get more resources with cities.  That method will quickly become vulnerable to the barbarian hordes, which will eventually stop resource production and if you have no knights, you can’t get those lands back.  Also, if you don’t have knights, you won’t be able to get any if your lands cannot produce the resources necessary for development cards!  That means there is definitely a point of no return.

If you are still going for the longest road, in the time it takes you to build your highway, and gain 2 points for that achievement, your opponents are kicking barbarians off their land for more points!  So you are forced to shift your focus to remain competitive.

Should you buy Catan: Traders and Barbarians?

B&K was actually a nice campaign within Traders and Barbarians and has some nice new mechanics.  We did not try all of the variants and campaigns, so this is not a totally fair evaluation!  

I am not sure that Traders and Barbarians is better than the basic game, and certainly not better than our house-version!  The lands were not totally random, and neither were the numbers.  In fact it felt like an episode in a campaign, because it was.  The basic strategy of gathering resources, expanding and building, are the same.  

Catan:  Barbarians and Knights was fun to play.  That campaign is advertised to take 60 to 90 minutes and that was accurate.  Since there are so many games to play in one box it seems like a good value, but it also means learning how to play nine different games (albeit with commonalities and similarities)  If you are a completionist, you have to buy it anyway, so you might as well try to play it!  

My verdict is that it is best to play your Dad’s copy or a friend’s who is a collector.  If you are like me and really need the tiles for your massive version of house Catan, then you should buy T&B for that reason and play it at least once.  If you do play it, I recommend the B&K!

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

  1. How many versions of Catan have you played?
  2. Do you own Traders and Barbarians?  If so, which variants have you played?
  3. What is your favorite version of Catan?
  4. Do you think they should sell expansion boxes just full of tiles?

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5 thoughts on “Game Night:  Catan:  Traders and Barbarians”

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