After the actual Settlers of Catan itself, my favorite Catan product might well be Elasund: The First City of Catan. (Settlers of the Stone Age is strong competition for that title, though)
Elasund is a tile-laying game where you are building a city on a grid with the first player to get to ten victory points winning.
The Catan part of the game is that the columns of the grid are numbered two to twelve (but no seven) You roll 2d6 and buildings within that column produce gold or influence cards. Sevens let the active player choose a column and players who have victory point cubes in that column lose resources.
Building buildings requires resources AND building permits, which are placed on the board. AND you can use someone else’s permit as long as you have more of your own. And larger buildings can knock down smaller buildings.
There are more details to the game, like spending lots of gold to build the church or building walls or covering up windmills for points. There’s a lot going on in the Elasund and I’m not going to go over the rules in detail. (Other folks have done that)
But here’s the thing. It is a knife fight in a phone booth. I think I have to play Reef Encounter to get more of a claustrophobic sense of confrontation. Elasund is very confrontational and things can get very nasty very easily. Conflict isn’t just taking a spot someone else wanted. It is stealing their building permits and knocking down their buildings. And conflict isn’t an option you might take. It is an integral part of the game and it will happen.
And, yes, I consider that to be a point in Elasund’s favor.
I do think that Elasund isn’t super intuitive BUT that might just be me. The end game tends to be brutal with lot of buildings getting bulldozed and I have never done well. AND a game being tough and having a real learning curve is NOT a negative.
For a group of my long distance buddies, Elasund was a standby. We’d get together and Elasund would hit the table after Notre Dame. I don’t think I’ve even played my own copy of Elasund but I still have it in storage because it is that good.
I know I can really enjoy non-confrontational games. (So many of them can be played solitaire without any changes) But I do like me some conflict and Elasund really delivers.