The boardgame I’ve played the most times, by far, is Settlers of Catan – and that’s not something I expect to change by time I reach my deathbed. Sure, it’s obvious, but it’s also a sweetspot of strategy and competition, as early co-operation turns to bitter rivalry and even the merest mention of sheep can reduce grown adults to shivering balls of purest hatred. I gravitated towards Lukáš Beran’s free, boardgame-like Expanze, which made no secret of its Catanic ways, with mixed excitement and anxiety. Excitement: Catan! Anxiety: But is it just a cheap’n'nasty, slavish rip-off?
No, it isn’t. It’s based on Catan’s essential mechanics – the gathering of brick, wood, sheep, ore and wheat, and the spending of these on the expansion of your agrarian empire – but it goes off and does its own thing with them. Better still, it turns them into a surprisingly workable singleplayer game.
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