Elasund: First City of Catan
by Klaus Teuber
published by Mayfair Games
Game length 60-90 minutes
Review by Ward Batty
Many years after the release of Settlers of Catan, the line is still going strong. Last year saw the release of Candamir: The First Settlers and it has been followed this year with the release of Elasund: First City of Catan. This time players are building up the city of Elasund. Players place cubes on the buildings they erect, they also may place cubes on some of the sections of the city wall that they construct as well as on their contributions to the city church. Players also get the chance to place cubes when they build on the board spaces with windmills. The first player to place ten cubes is the winner.
The biggest change in terms of game play is that, as with Candamir, Elasund is played on a 12 x 12 grid. Players still roll dice for production each turn, but this time the rows are numbered and players with a building on that row that is a production building will receive either gold or an influence card when that number is rolled. On their turn, players may build one or two buildings, and then they may place a building permit. The building permits are tokens numbered zero to four and must be placed before a player can build. Finally, players may spend influence cards to do one of four bonus actions such as moving or upgrading a building permit.
Each player starts with two buildings on the board. They have two additional buildings they can place, and there are a number of neutral buildings ranging from one to six spaces large. These require a certain number of building permits as well as gold. Unlike most boardgames from Europe, Elasund has a bit more of a "gotcha" element. Buildings require a number of building permits, but it doesn't specify whose permits are used. As long as you have at least one permit down and it is numerically superior to each other player's tokens, you may build. You must pay the players the cost of their permits, but if you have the coin, away they go. It is also possible to displace buildings that are the same size, for a cost of influence cards, or smaller buildings for free. Any cubes on those buildings are returned to their owner, so victory points on the board can be displaced, which is something unusual.
In theory the game takes 60 minutes to play, my experience has been more like 90 minutes. There is no trading, so turns should be pretty straightforward. But when it is possible to displace cubes of the leading player it seems to make the game run longer.
I'm a huge fan of the original Settlers of Catan. Most of the spin-off games are OK to me, but run enough longer that in the end I'd rather just play two games of regular Settlers. Elasund is my favorite new Catan game since the original, especially if the game playing time shortens to the promised hour. But even at 90 minutes, this game provides interesting decisions, unfolds nicely and the ability to displace cubes or be displaced certainly increase the game tension in a good way. There are also different paths to victory, which is always a good thing.
In a groundbreaking move, Mr. Teuber has a great site that includes demos of his games. To see a demo and get more of a sense of the rules of Elasund: First City of Catan, visit profeasy.com.
Author's note: This review originally appeared in Scrye magazine.
Ward Batty is a long-time game-player who has been with the same weekly game group for over twenty years. "I understood there was a pension." is his excuse. He writes a monthly column on the business of board games for Comics & Game Retailer magazine and has written articles and reviews for The Games Journal, Scrye, Knucklebones and Games International.