Developer: USM
Price: $3.99
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★½☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

rivalsforcatan04Given my current love of all things card games, I was actually really looking forward to trying Rivals for Catan. I wasn’t too big into the original board game but this offshoot seemed pretty fun. And it is, in theory. However I have to spend so much of my time fighting against the UI it’s become pretty difficult to enjoy myself.

Rivals for Catan is still about land development, as well as constructing roads and settlements, but there’s a lot less player-to-player interaction. It’s more of a rush to see who can accumulate the most points instead, although there are a few cards and conditions that can mess with rivals. Each turn players roll dice to determine special events and produce resources. Those resources can then be used to hire special point-granting characters or to construct a number of different buildings with various effects. The Era of Gold/Progress/Turmoil and Duel of the Princes modes change things up more by adding new cards and encouraging more diverse strategies.

I really do enjoy all the intricate strategies that can be used throughout a game of Rivals for Catan. I can focus on resource production, protection from occasional bandit raids, simply try to put out as many special characters as I can, and more. There’s a fine line to walk between expansion and general development that I always enjoy walking. It took me a few attempts to really get a handle on the rules thanks to the poorly constructed UI, but once I did I started having fun with it. At least for a few rounds.

rivalsforcatan02It’s just that interface, man. Rivals for Catan‘s UI is good for a few things, such as knowing which piles to draw cards from or which resources you can pull from when paying for a new building, but everything else is remarkably unintuitive. For example, I have no idea why the display for how many overall resources I have has to be toggled on and off. WHy can’t it just stay on? Actually building anything is much, much worse, though. Cards that can’t be played (roads, settlements, buildings, etc) are grayed out, but they’re so dim and their icons are so small it’s a struggle simply trying to figure out what I actually need to have in order to pay for them. There has to be a better way of displaying that extremely important information.

There’s fun to be had with Rivals for Catan, it just requires a herculean amount of effort to find it at this point. I’ll admit that the more I play the more familiar I become with each card and its cost, but I shouldn’t have to work off of memory when deciding what to stockpile. That’s just a terribly awkward way to go about it.

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