Catalyst should be well received by engine building fans and even has some card drafting elements.
Theme and What is it?
The world as we know it has come and gone. Now is an age of rebirth. As part of this process members of the human species have manifest new destructive powers. These lucky few are called Catalysts. Your city must harness their power and gain control of the other cities around you before you are subjugated by a stronger power. Take your Catalysts into battle and string together their powers to create even more destruction and make sure your city comes out on top.
In Catalyst players recruit and deploy their Catalysts to gain victory and military points to become the strongest city in the region.
Catalyst is an engine building game with powerful combos. To start the Catalyst deck is shuffled and five cards are placed on the game board. The building cards are placed in stacks of similar colors with the least cost on top. Players receive gold coins based on their player position and the game is ready to begin. Players have three options on their turn.
1. Collect Contributions
2. Recruit Catalyst
3. Activate Catalyst
When collecting contributions, players receive gold coins equal to the highest costing Catalyst card showing on the game board.
To recruit a Catalyst player must pay the purchase price, which is the cost on the card and any up charges or discounts based on the placement on the game board. The players then place the Catalyst in front of them and must place them in an unoccupied building if they own an open one.
When activating a Catalyst, the player turns the card sideways and resolves any effects from the card. If the Catalyst is in a building, they would resolve the building effects after the Catalyst effects. Effects from Catalysts and buildings can give extra coins, allow players to recruit another Catalyst, earn military power, or give them the ability to activate other Catalysts and create super combos. At the end of a turn, all Catalysts that have been activated are removed from play and placed in the player’s scoring deck.
Once the entire Catalyst deck has run out the game ends and final scoring happens. Scores are tallied from the Catalyst scoring pile, military power, coins and a random bonus card that has drawn at the setup of the game. The player with the most points wins.
It took some time for me to really understand everything that was happening with Catalyst. The rulebook was a bit hard to follow, but once I had the basic idea things came together. It just took longer than I normally spend on a game of this weight. Another hang up was that I can usually find a youtube video of someone explaining or playing the game. If I am struggling I can see what I am missing in those videos. I received Catalyst very early and there were not any videos out to help with that.
Once I understood it, it did not take too long to explain it to the other players. We had the game running in a few minutes after a couple of practice rounds. The part of the game that was a bit of a hang up was the Catalyst combos. These can be a bit confusing at first and working through them took some time. But once everyone saw a couple of them, it went more smoothly.
Game Build Quality
All the pieces of Catalyst are very nice. The cards and cardboard are all industry standard or above. I also loved that it was a small box game. Sometimes games that can fit in a smaller box are placed in bigger boxes for no other reason than to look bigger so people are willing to pay more. That is not the case here. Catalyst is placed in a box that works perfectly.
I love the artwork on the items inside the box. The artwork on the outside of the box didn’t do much for me. I am not sure why it was used when there are way better pieces on the cards. The two feel like totally different stories.
I would say that if you weren’t interested in the game because of the box art you should check it out because the other artwork is really great.
What makes Catalyst a fun game is the attempt to build some powerful combos. For my group we never found it very easy to build big combos. We pulled off plenty of nice ones, but when someone hit a big one, it was something special. I am glad that we were not seeing them all the time, that made it an event when one happened.
Age Range & Weight
Age recommendation for Catalyst is 10+. I feel this is on target. I played it with my ten-year-old daughter and she had some struggles with it but eventually figured it out. I think that it may be tough for younger gamers to figure out the buildings and catalyst combos to make them work together the best way possible.
Catalyst was very enjoyable once we figured it out. I am not sure what it was that took extra time, maybe making sure I knew how to make combos work the right way. Who knows? But once I figured it out it was great to work through building them.
I also really enjoyed the artwork. It looked great. I just wish the box would look as nice as the pieces that sit inside it. The card artwork was way more my style. But that is a minor thing.
Catalyst should be well received by engine building fans and even has some card drafting elements. My group enjoyed it and have requested it a number of times. That always says something when that happens.
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