The Settlers of Catan
Every now and again, a certain standard of board game rises from the kitchen table of it’s original country of birth, and takes a stroll into being an internationally acclaimed best-seller, spreading far and wide all over the globe.
Settlers of Catan is one such game!
The game was designed in Germany by Klaus Teuber, and first published as “Die Siedler von Catan”. It wasn’t long before it’s popularity escalated, and it was later to be translated into 30 languages, selling over 15 million copies across the globe by 2009, just five years after its release in Germany.
Popularity like that, doesn’t come for free, especially not in the highly competitive world of board games, where it really takes something special to reach worldwide recognition.
Settlers of Catan has earned it’s place amongst the greats by being that radical sort of board game that can be enjoyed on a number of different levels; beginner and expert alike can enjoy the game together because;
- It is simple enough that anyone can learn how to play.
- It has enough scope for tactical input that hardcore gamers will develop a long term love affairs with it.
- It has enough of a luck element that everyone who plays at least has a chance of winning.
The game can be played by 2-4 players, although it is more exciting with 3 or 4. It is suitable for all ages, and is widely available across stores, and online. The game takes between 90 minutes, and 180 minutes to play, so it is a bit of a long-haul, but well worth it for the gameplay.
The board itself is beautifully original, somewhat resembling a hexagonal jigsaw puzzle. The land tiles are placed before the game begins, and form a honey-comb pattern. These are then surrounded by water tiles, which altogether make the sum of the island of Catan.
The aim of the game is to score victory points, and the winner is the first player to score 10 points. Players score a point per settlement owned, and two points per city (which are basically upgraded settlements.) Points can also be scored for other achievements, such as building the longest road, or having the largest army.
First, each payer places their game piece on the intersection of three hexagons. Then the roll of the dice sparks the race for resources.
In order to settle players must build; but before they can build, they must accumulate resources. Types of resources are specific to the land type of the individual tiles; some tiles give out grain, some ore, or for the arid desert… nothing.
Two dice are rolled at the start of a turn, and the total of the roll corresponds with numbers on the hexagonal tiles. This determines which resources are awarded. Players with settlements on any tile adjacent to one which displays the corresponding number, gain resources.
The number “7” is the crazy number for this game, and when rolled leads to dangerous losses of resources for players; It is the wild-card so to speak!
The resources, when accumulated, can then be used to build settlements, cities, and roads, which lead to victory points!
But the game goes deeper than a roll of the dice; choosing where is best to begin on the board, making decisions about how to build, and where is optimal to build at a given time, and playing for victory points, all influence the outcome of the game!
Another interesting element, is the ability to trade resources. This can occur from player to player, and also “off the island” with what is effectively a bank. Resources can only be traded off the island at a poor ratio of 4 of your own resource cards, for one of the banks’. This ratio can be improved by settling on ports, giving the player an advantage on trades!
The fact that the game has so much room for tactical input has even lead to it being the centre of huge tournaments, such as the Gen Con Indie tournaments. Settlers of Catan is very easy to learn, so new gamers should not be intimidated, but over time you will begin to see the elements of skill creeping through; it is at this point that the game becomes very addictive!
Such is the popularity of Settlers of Catan, that many different versions have been released. The original has been published by several board game giants, such as Mayfair Games and Capcom. Other versions include expansion packs to the original game, such as the seafarers, and extensions which allow 5-6 players to join in.
But the enterprise of Settlers of Catan does not end with expansion packs; there are Catan dice games, card games, on-the-move games, spin-offs, and stand alone versions such as the family edition, and of course (as is the case with every popular board game) the Star Trek edition! Perhaps the most unusual, and okay we admit, largely irrelevant addition to the series, is the “Catanimals”, a collection of stuffed animals released by Mayfair, and only mildly relatable to the board game.
It’s okay thanks Mayfair, we just want to play Settler’s of Catan!
This highly addictive, internationally acclaimed beast, is highly recommendable, both for a relaxed long evening with the family, or for a tense battle of will power between friends.