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Catan: Dawn of Humankind

This entry in the popular Catan range of games isn’t so much new as new look. It’s what’s been described as a reboot of Klaus Teubner’s 2002 game The Settlers of the Stone Age (KOSMOS/Mayfair). Benjamin Teuber now shares the design credit but the games are essentially the same with only relatively minor tweaks to the game play. Most striking are the bright new art from Quentin Regnes and the plastic minis in place of the cardboard standees in the original version of the game.

Dawn of Humankind is a 3-4 player game that follows the prehistoric human diaspora out of Africa. In the game, you’ll be moving explorers, creating campsite settlements and using them to collect resources. The hexes on the board represent different types of terrain, so generate different resources: each hex has a number attached to it and whenever the number comes up on a roll of two standard six-sided dice the campsites adjacent to a hex with that number earn those resources.

You’ll need the various resources to take the actions in the game. Moving your explorers costs a food or a hide (in Settlers of the Stone Age, it was only food that allowed movement). You’ll need to pay resources too to progress along the four tech-tree progress tracks. Advances on the tech trees give benefits (for example, increasing the distance you can move) and they also open up routes along which your explorers can travel. If you haven’t reached the requisite advances on specific tech-tree tracks your explorers will find themselves blocked off from reaching parts of the board. Again this mirrors the original game, tho’ in Dawn o Humankind the tech trees are shorter (four steps each rather than five).

You’ll need to watch out for the Neanderthal and the Smilodon (sabre-toothed tiger), which mostly turn up when players progress along their hunting tech-tree track. These prevent a hex from producing resources and permit a player to steal a resource from another player. The game also mitigates against players stockpiling resources: none of the hexes have the number 7 - the number that is statistically most likely to come up on a roll of 2D6. When a 7 is rolled in the production phase, none of the players collect any resources and any player who has more than 7 resource cards has to discard half of them.

Often you won’t have the specific resources you need for the action(s) you want to take, so this is a game where players should expect to negotiate and trade; and if you find other players reluctant to trade with you, or if they demand an exorbitant premium, you always have the option of trading three matching resources for the one different resource you need.

We love the new look of the game and pretty much all the components are an improvement on Settlers of the Stone Age, including the new double-sided board with a different side for each player count. As games are a race to be the first to reach 10 victory points (VP), games are tight. In our Board’s Eye View plays, the set collection bonus for having camps in all four continents and seizing the ‘Greatest Explorer’ marker were often deciding factors.

Catan Studio and Asmodee have done a great job with this refreshed edition. The Stone Age has never looked as good!

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