Candamir : The First Settlers of Catan is a role-playing adventure game based in the Catan universe. In Candamir, players are the actual settlers who are attempting to grow the settlement and are competing to see who can contribute the most to the settlement.
Appearance: Candamir’s game board and pieces are of good quality with some great layouts to make the game easy to learn and pick-up. Most of the information you’ll need is right there on the board, keeping the game simple. However, the actual art is not particularly good as you can tell from the box cover. It’s not horrible – it’s just not good.
Rules / Ease of Learning: The rules for Candamir are not particularly complex and thus easy to teach. Each player receives one of the four character boards; who each have different skills in one of 4 skill sets. Which character you receive dictates your strategy for the rest of the game quite often.
Players start in the centre of the board where the settlement is and move through the larger game board’s forests, plains and mountains in search of lumber, hides and ore. Each of the squares on the board are covered by tiles which contain resources, experience points to upgrade your attributes, and victory points. Deciding on which tile to move to is much of the strategy of the game.
The actual movement in Candamir is dictated by the movement cards that you play, and depending on where you move to you will be forced to fight the animals that populate the island of Catan. This can be potentially beneficial as you can gain hides and experience from such combat, but it is also dangerous as you can lose health doing so. In addition, you can encounter Candamir and help him chop wood or take part in an Adventure which is drawn from the adventure card. All tests in the game are dealt with by an attribute + die roll difficulty challenge.
When you’ve collected sufficient resources, you can then aid the other NPC settlers on the board by fulfilling their wishlists. If you are able to do so, you get to place your points on the board. Each wishlist must be fulfilled in order, so sometimes you’ll have to wait for another player to complete his tasks before you can fulfill yours. You can also use the various NPCs to build additional items to aid you in your tasks.
Gameplay: Playing Candamir : The First Settlers of Catan is very muc an RPG version of Settlers of Catan. There is some limited interaction between players, but with such a large board (respectively); it’s mostly a race to get to the right tiles before the other players. The real strategy of the game is deciding where to go and how to best get the resources you need with both the abilities your character has and the items they might find.
There is a lot of random luck in this game though – from what tiles you draw to the movement cards you get to the die rolls to succeed at tasks. This can make the game frustrating for some players as the best laid plans can fall by the way side. However, the interesting adventure cards and the fact that the game doesn’t last that long (an hour to an hour and a half for 4 players) makes sure that the pain doesn’t last too long.
Overall, Candamir seems to fill a strange RPG / Development niche that isn’t very populated. There’s a lot less ‘combat’ than pure RPG adventure games like Runebound or Talisman have and yet it provides the satisfaction of character development that are the major source of fun for these games.
Conclusion: I’d definitely recommend trying out Candamir if you can get your hands on a copy. This isn’t a game for everyone and while the mechanics are solid, there’s also nothing exception here either. Still, it can fill as a gateway game to more hardcore adventure games for Eurogamers or a good family game as well without the multiple-hour commitments of other adventure games.