There are few games I have ever played that I have found as thoroughly enjoyable as The Settlers of Catan (Catan from now on). First released in 1995, it won the prestigious Spiel de Jares (Game of the Year) in Germany the same year. Brought to America the following year published under Mayfair Games, Catan has celebrated 20 years of success with numerous expansions, translations, and even released mobile versions of the incredibly popular title.
Are you ready to trade your way to victory and become the most successful Settler? Hide yo’ sheep, it’s Settlers of Catan.
The setup of the game is incredibly easy and within it, lies the replayability factor of Catan. Once the “frame” is assembled, the terrain tiles are shuffled and distributed randomly creating a new experience with every play. Once the tiles are revealed, the 18 number tokens are placed clockwise starting in any corner and skipping the sole desert tile. Once all the tiles have a token, place the Bandit miniature in the Desert.
Now that the board is ready, each player chooses their color and takes the associated houses and roads. Then, each player rolls both dice, and whoever scores highest gets to place one settlement and one connected road. Placement continues clockwise until the last player, who places twice. At which time placement reverses order. This means that whoever places first, also places last. Once everyone has placed two settlements and two roads, the game begins proper; so let’s roll with it.
At the beginning of each players turn, they roll both dice. Whatever number they roll, is the resource that is produced. Every player with a settlement bordering the number rolled gains one of the corresponding resources. Then, the acting player is free to negotiate the trading of resource cards among the players.
However, if a player rolls a seven, they may take the Bandit and place it on another tile. If another player has a settlement or city bordering that tile, the acting player may take a card from that player. In addition, that tile will not provide resources for players until the Bandit moves again.
Players want resources to not only expand their holdings by building new settlements and improving them to cities (which each provide victory points), they also want to purchase Development Cards. These have a wide range of functions such as providing victory points, moving the Bandit, and taking resources from the bank. For an in-depth analysis of all of the rules of Catan, check them out here.
The game ends when a player declares that they have achieved ten (10) victory points. This can be achieved through building, receiving one of the two achievements (which can change hands during the length of the game), and through Development Cards.
Component Quality (4.5/5)
Catan may not have especially detailed components, but it is not to say that they aren’t well made. The settlements, cities, and roads are made well enough, but instead of using a perfectly opaque paint, a more transparent coating was used. While this reduces the vibrancy of the pieces, it does give the game a certain “homey” feel to it. I ran into the “small card” problem again, but I resolved it by buying a full-size set of cards. The tiles are sturdy, almost too sturdy. Many of them still have rough nubbins on the edges where I couldn’t cleanly break them off the stock. However, it does not hinder the setup of the board.
Catan is one of those games where the long game is more important than the short game. Similar to Risk, I find myself thinking many moves ahead, trying to figure out not only which directions my opponents are building, but if it would be beneficial to stop them. While the game advises that games take an hour on average, I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that ended before then. Depending on your players, great deliberative sessions can be had during turns, and while the game itself plays quickly, it is the trading and “hmm-ing and ahh-ing” that takes forever.
I however, love strategic games that play a long game. Catan is a staple among my peers and I emphatically give it a 4.5/5
Wil Wheaton and friends play The Settlers of Catan
Wolfie’s review from iSlaytheDragon.