Town planning is a very difficult affair. Well, it is if you’re trying to build and someone else has the town planner’s ear. You may not get the prime spot that you need, or you may find some of your existing buildings being zoned for destruction to make room for something bigger.
Elasund: the First City feels like a game of tenders, bribery and corruption. It kind of feels right at home in South Africa….
Published in 2005 by Mayfair Games, Elasund a game set in the Settlers of Catan universe. It is the 2nd game in the second game in the Catan Adventures series of games.
For the TL;DR version click here
What’s in the box
Specs on the box:
- 2-4 players
- 10+ plus (You can teach it to a 10 year old, but I think they would have difficulty with the strategies)
- 60 – 90 minutes (expect your first few games to go a bit longer)
In the box we have tiles. Lots and lots of tiles. Tiles represent buildings or wall sections. They come in different sizes, some are coloured and so are player specific, while others are neutral so anyone can attempt to build them.
In order to build your buildings you will need building permits which are little round tokens. There is a set for each player in the box. You will also need money, which is represented by a deck of cards. There is a 2nd deck of cards which represents influence that you can hold within the city. The more influence you have the easier it is to do things that are not normally allowed.
Additionally there is the rules book, and a board as well as a set of victory cubes and markers for each player and each player has a player aid which will help to remember their player colour as well as all of the actions of a turn.
Elasund is the first city to be built on the shores of the Island of Catan. It starts off as a small trading settlement but it’s up to the players to realise its potential and expand it into the great city that it can be.
As a player you will need to construct buildings in the city of Elasund. This is no easy task, as securing the right number of permits and finding enough space within the walls to construct your buildings is tricky. On top of that, you have to deal with unscrupulous contractors using their influence to bulldoze your beautiful buildings!
Setup can take a few minutes; there are quite a few pieces to sort through, if they were not packed away correctly then it can take some time. Having a system and keeping the different coloured player pieces together makes setup a breeze.
Lay out the board and adjust the walls according to the number of players. The game scales well, increasing or decreasing the play area based on the number of players. Each player receives their starting resources and buildings. Then everyone places their starting buildings on the board and you’re good to go.
Each round starts with a player rolling 2 dice. The number rolled represents where the resources will come from, just like in Catan. The wooden ship will be moved to the appropriate row in the harbour and players with buildings in that row will gain either gold or influence. Roll a 7 and the ship will become a pirate (a.k.a robber for Catan players), and steal resources from any player that has an appropriate building in its row. The player who rolled the 7 decides where to send it.
I’m going to discuss building now. It’s a bit tricky to explain so use the next image(below) as a visual reference.
Next you can choose to build up to 2 buildings. They can be any combination of Buildings, walls or parts of the Church. In order to construct a building you will need to have sufficient building permits on the board and the building must be able to cover those permits and then you must pay the gold cost.
Permits have a value of 0 to 4. Some buildings require just 1 permit others can require up to 3 of them; the value of the permits does not matter, yet. Only the Church and city walls do not require permits, just a cost in gold.
NB: you don’t have to use only your own permits; you can use other player’s permits in your construction, provided that your permits that are being used have a higher combined value than any other player’s permits that are being used. Then you have to pay the other players for the use of the permit in addition to paying for the building. So you can use your permits to get money from other players or to deter them for building, or you can use their permits to build your buildings!
The building is placed and the permits are returned. If you place a larger building on top of a smaller building then the smaller building is destroyed and returned to its owner or the starting pile if it is neutral. This is urban renewal. If you want to build over another building of the same size, then you will need to know the right people and spend a pair of influence cards of the same colour in order to do so. It’s who you know, not what you know. The neutral buildings will let you place one of your victory markers on them, to show ownership and count as points.
The next thing that you can do is place a building permit of yours in the same row as the ship. You may also pay influence to place that permit in a different row. If you do not want to play a permit then you may receive 2 gold from the bank. So this means that in turn 1 you cannot really build much as you won’t have any permits on the board until after the build step.
Finally you have the chance to perform a few special actions. i.e. call in some favours. You may spend influence to either place a permit, get 2 gold or to move any of your existing permits to another location on the board.
Building walls will either grant you bonus influence or allow you to build a watch tower, to keep an eye out of the pirates/robbers. The watch towers let you place a victory cube on the board and when the pirates do come you can gain a card that they steal.
Some squares on the board have 1 or more windmills on them. These are used for trade. Every time you cover up a windmill you gain trade. As you move up the trade track you can place victory markers on the trade track. If your building is demolished then you will drop on the trade track and remove victory markers.
The church is a tricky building, it is built in a 3×3 grid, 1 square at a time. It can never be demolished and it will demolish any building it touches. It can be used as an offensive weapon or defensively so that others cannot destroy your buildings with it. Each square places a victory marker for the person that builds it.
The first person to use all 10 of their victory markers is the winner!
The rules are simple. The interplay between players is what makes the game. Wheeling and dealing, trying to not have your buildings destroyed while trying to convince people to destroy other player’s buildings. This can cause rapid changes in the leader board.
But the land is hotly contested, as in Catan, the numbers that come up most often are favoured and everyone wants to have their buildings there so they can gain the most resources. Unlike Catan there is a mechanic in place to ensure that the same number is not rolled twice in succession. The ship is either moves 2 rows up or down the board. In addition to that you can destroy other players buildings and then gain their prime real estate.
What to build and where to build are key. Even the placement of your permits requires careful planning; the right permit in the right spot can disrupt a player’s turn or at the very least force them to pay you some of their hard earned gold.
There is a lot of strategy involved, I’d say even more than Catan. There is no deck of development cards that can give you a quick boost, no chance of a player desperately in need of a trade that they are willing to give you whatever you desire. You live and die by your wits and your ability to influence the higher ups.
I really enjoy this game. It’s got a lot of player interaction without direct conflict. It’s the type game where you will receive those “Oh, don’t worry I’ll get you back for that” looks :). There are different ways to place your markers so you can make a comeback if you suddenly find yourself knocked back.
Can I play this at a braai?
By all means. Be warned, if you leave the table to turn the chops, it just gives everyone else more time to plot against you!
Thanks to Boardgames.co.za for the review copy of Elasund the First City.