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Tabletop Game Review: Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas



Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas by Catan Studio
Price: ~$65.00
3 or 4
90 minutes
Perfect for: 
Players who enjoy basic resource drafting/placement strategy and those who would like Catan to be a little more balanced.

Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas is a game of strategic balance. Players must collect sets of goods to build and expand their empire, achieving victory points through a variety of objectives and milestones before their opponents. Before we get into how the game is played, here’s how the publisher, Catan Studio, quickly summarizes this spinoff/sequel to Catan:

Settle, act, build — the basic Catan elements are all there in Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas, but this game includes an innovative displacement mechanism that opens up new possibilities for players and confronts them with new game situations that will require tactical adjustments. Nature can reclaim settlements already built, allowing another player the chance to build their own settlement on a coveted site. Fish, cocoa, and feathers enrich the barter trade.

In Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas, the playing areas is composed of hexagonal tiles, each representing a good (resource). Number tokens are placed on each tile, from 2 to 12, indicating the dice roll necessary to activate the tile. If a player has a city or settlement on the tile that is activated, they receive a corresponding amount of the resource type, depending on much representation they have there. Resources are then traded in for various upgrades to their empire such as roads leading to new areas to settle, building new settlements, turning settlements into cities, or acquiring objective cards which have actions players can take to assist them in obtaining victory points.

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The majority of the base gameplay is quite similar to the original iconic Catan, but Rise of the Inkas is a standalone game (not an expansion) that introduces a few new rule mechanics. Most notably, players move through “ages,” the start of each being triggered by achieving a certain number of victory points. Whenever a player moves into a new age, their current cities and settlements go into ruin, as indicated by a small miniature of vines that goes over the existing pieces. Ruined cities and settlements still produce resources for the original owner/builder but said owners may not expand (i.e. build new roads) from them, and most importantly they can be built over by opposing players looking to take over prime real estate. Additional differences primarily center around resource trade-in ratios including the introduction of specialty goods that have lower rates, and a bonus trading ability for the player with the longest road (which resets after every age).

What works Rise of the Inkas is the introduction of a balancing mechanic with the retention of the core gaming elements that made Catan so popular. With the ruining cities after each age, players can no longer rest on built-up epicenters of resource production—a situation that often made frontrunners untouchable in Catan. In Rise of the Inkas once reliable producers might quickly get swept away by aggressively shrewd opponents, thus changing the whole momentum of the game. And at the same time, Rise of the Inkas will likely feel very familiar to those who have spent years playing its predecessor, as the luck-of-the-roll remains the variable of chance that can severely alter the power paradigm, at least temporarily.

While Rise of the Inkas does a very good solid improving upon the base Catan, there are a few elements that potential buyers should consider before making a purchase. First, as a standalone offering, Rise of the Inkas commands a fairly hefty price tag. With that, players may note that while rule modifications are welcome, the gameplay is heavily similar to the original game and may not make the investment worth it if they are still enjoying Catan and its multitude of expansions. Next, the game component changes are a bit of a wash—the included card trays are a nice touch for organization and the revised miniatures are well-designed, but the lack of a tray cover means that cleanup and setup continue to be harder than they could be, and the plastic molding is a downgrade from the wooden pieces found in the original game.

Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas is great for players who loved Catan but haven’t brought it to the table in a really long time. While seasoned veterans of the franchise may find less novelty, new gamers who are looking for a fun entry into the world table-topping to learn about set collection and resource management should give this a look.

Recommended if you like: Catan, Ticket to Ride, Power Grid

Final Grade: B

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