Expansions!: Catan: Cities & Knights

For those of you unfamiliar, the Cities & Knights expansion to Settlers of Catan moves the players beyond the initial settlement of the new land and into the building and development of more established cities (along with the need to defend them). It’s actually a substantial expansion, easily doubling the depth and strategic complexity of the game.

Shows the commodities flipbook, metropolis, barbarian ship, commodity dice, knights, and city walls.
New components!

But does it make any developments on the representation front?

Race

Well, native people still don’t exist, but as we’re moving out of initial colonisation and into the development of existing cities, thematically, this is slightly less of a problematic element than the original game. Slightly.

And we get another person of colour! There are 6 cards (of 47 depicting people) in the merchant deck that feature dark-skinned traders with camels, Middle Eastern dress, and lots of sand. 1 So that’s … something, at least.

There is a ‘Barbarian Ship’ that periodically attacks the settlers. While traditionally a negative, heavily racially coded word, in the game, it’s just a black ship and there’s no art of what the ‘barbarians’ look like. So we’re going to let this one slide.

It’s earned:

1 star

Gender

Interestingly, there are exactly the same number of cards depicting women in this expansion as there are in the base set (4), but there’s nearly double the number of cards depicting people, so the overall representation percentage falls dramatically. The cover art does include 3 women to 2 men, but that’s far outweighed by the fact that in this expansion each player gets 6 playable knights–all men.

Disappointing.

1 star

Sexuality

Well, there’s no longer a little hetero family on the cover, but there are a few wedding cards that offer bonuses. There’s actually not a clear bride and groom in the art, so it’s a stretch, but if you wanted to use this card to get gifts to celebrate your same-sex wedding, technically nothing in the game is stopping you. That bumps us up a star, to the ‘nothing actively preventing you from getting your gay on within one very slim opportunity’’ category.

1 star

Body

We do get a teeeeny bit more variety of bodies in this expansion. A few older people. A little more variation in shapes in heights. Not as much as I would like and still no people with disabilities, but it’s not ‘absolutely no variation from the single beauty mold’ like the base set, so:

1 star

Overall

Overall, some minor improvements in most categories. People who are not white men with the exact same conventionally attractive bodies exist at least, and there’s a very, very minor opportunity to queer the narrative. Still a long way to go, but significant improvements from the original and from the Settlers of America spin-off as well.

Race ★☆☆
Gender ★☆☆
Sexuality ★☆☆
Body ★☆☆
Overall Average 1.00

 

Notes:

  1. How and why they brought camels over the ocean to this tiny island is neither here nor there.

Expansions: Settlers of America

So I already had a follow-up article queued up on the Settlers of Catan expansion, Cities & Knights, but on my PAX panel, I was talking about the morning I dug through all my games for a Twitter rant on whether people who were not straight, white men existed within games I owned. And I was reminded of this gem of a game, which just barely passed this most basic test with a single picture of native woman handing a man blankets.

For those of you unfamiliar, Settlers of America is a spin-off (not an expansion, I guess–it plays standalone) of Catan focused on the westward expansion of colonisation in America:

A map of the board of Settlers of America
‘MURIKA

Similar dynamics of resource management as the original, but without the randomisation of the board. The main mechanism and victory conditions are a bit different–instead of just building your own settlements, you have to build railroads connecting your cities to others’ to deliver them goods; the first to deliver 8 goods wins. It’s… not as good as the original by far, and the problematic elements of the colonial theme are even worse.

But on a second look, I was actually wrong about it passing the representation test based only on that single native woman! I missed that there’s another solo woman pictured on the back of the resource card. My sincere apologies. This changes everything. Ha!

So I’ll make this fast and easy and just show you all of the cards that don’t have only white men on them upfront:

"Native Support" card, showing a Native woman handing blankets to a man.
There are two of these cards in the game, so I guess that counts double?
Shows a scene of people walking down a footpath with a train i nthe background, including 2 children, a man, and a woman.
Back of the progress card. Hark! A lady!

Race/Nationality

Native folk exist! Sort of! Their presence in the west has no impact on game play or your character’s manifest destiny 1, but at least they’ll give you blankets.

1 star, but I can’t even feel good about it

Gender

Two women live in the entire west! Woohoo!

1 star

Sexuality

Those two women are apparently very busy.

0 stars

Body

Pretty much the same thoughts as I had on the original.

0 stars

Overall

Hey, it improved .25 points on the original! That’s sort of progress, right?

Race ★☆☆
Gender ★☆☆
Sexuality ☆☆☆
Body ☆☆☆
Overall Average 0.5

Notes:

  1. This phrase is actually used in the game’s description. Gag.