At a Glance: The Settlers of Catan changed the board game scene for good and is a modern classic. At its heart, it is a down-to-earth gateway to a larger world.
The Settlers of Catan (now simply known as Catan) is a Euro-style German game for 3-4 players that was first released in 1995. On each turn, dice are rolled that correspond to resource spaces on the board, and all players who have settlements adjacent to what was rolled collect those resources. Players then use those resources to build features like roads, settlements, and cities. However, during all this, a roaming thief steals valuable resources from players. After gathering resources, players may trade with each other. Trading can be crucial, because it is likely that you will not automatically have all the resources you need just based on where your settlements are. If you do not wish to trade with the other players, you may also use Maritime Trade by turning in sets of identical resources. All this comes together and acts as a sort of race. The first settler to get to 10 Victory Points is the winner. Several things provide VP’s like settlements (1), cities (2), having the Longest Road or Largest Army (2), and finally there are Development Cards that sometimes provide single VP’s as well. If at ANY point during your turn you have 10 VP’s , the game immediately ends and you win.
Catan is a fickle but fun island. The luck of the dice can really sway the game in a certain direction, but the tactical choices amidst all that are significant nonetheless. Avid strategic gamers can find enjoyment here because you are building an engine so to speak, in order to get to 10 points, but the dice and player interaction is attractive to those who may never have delved into this style of game before. I think part of Catan’s success lies in the many flavors it provides. Aside from the tactics and interaction, you also have some fun luck in the dice rolls, and a little nastiness too when the robber gets moved around.
This game has become a legend at this point, and for good reason. Simply put, it is a solid game, and I also appreciate it for opening up the board game market a bit. Nowadays there are so many great Board Games, including Euro-style games that have been wholeheartedly embraced in the USA. Components are OK, and honestly the game doesn’t LOOK exciting, but it is like a cheese that looks unassuming on the outside but contains some great complex flavors once you bite into it. And now, there are so many expansions and variations that further spice up the Catan-iverse. Catan is a great gateway game into the larger world of hobby board gaming.
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