Review: Catan

Game Name: Catan (or Settlers of Catan) Published Year: 1995
Game Publisher: Mayfair Games Player Scale: 3 – 4
Game Designer: Klaus Teuber Run Time: 1 – 2 hours


As intrepid explorers who have found the bountiful island of Catan you will set about building up your empires; first there will be a meagre scattering of humble settlements and a few dirt track roads, but by the end of the game there will be cities, harbours (sort of) a labyrinthine network of roads, as you and your fellow players battle it out to be the greatest settler of Catan.Board

Catan could be considered to be the game that broke the industry into the mainstream and it’s easy to see why with sales in excess of 18 million copies worldwide since its release in 1995. Partly this is due to its simplicity and its high replay value – the modular board, numbering, and harbour changes means there a lot of possible board configurations.  You’ll find an open copy (or several) in every gaming café and store (with playing tables) in the world, this game is everywhere – and even featured in an episode of the Big Bang Theory (S5 Ep 13), and the joke will be all the funnier once you’ve played the game.

Very simply; the board is made up of hexagonal resource tiles: Sheep, Lumber, Stone, TilesBrick, and Wheat.  To build one of the three structures: Roads, Settlements, or Cities, you need a varying collection of resources.  In turn, each player will roll the dice, and whichever resource tiles share the number rolled will generate that resource for any player that has a building on one of its corners.   This means that some resources will be common in one game, and rare in another, all depending on which numbered tile is placed upon the resource.  An essential aspect of this game is trading, in most games, no player will (start) will easy access to all the resources, so player interaction in the shape of trade and negotiation is abundant in this game.

Catan is a very simple game to pick up and play, and it is great for beginner gamers as the dice rolling and negotiation will be very familiar territory for anyone who has played Monopoly, and it is this simplicity that makes this game so engaging and accessible, adult and children alike will very quickly get the grasp of the game and can quickly begin strategizing.  Luck or chance, however; play a significant part in this game, the tile layout, the resource numbering, the development deck (something else you can buy instead of a building which adds more tactics and gameplay options), and of course the dice are all random elements in Catan

In PlayThis can, in turn, lead to some frustration, games can be won by both wide and narrow margins even by experienced players when the dice and cards just do not work in your favour.  Equally though, as the board is very easy to read and to ascertain which player is in the lead, it does then become possible to block and hamper them by road building, making use of the robber and most simply refusing trading opportunities.

Player interaction is therefore very high in this game, players will almost certainly need to trade with one another, and then will very actively work against each other across a highly repayable modular board.  I have found that newer gamers love this game and call it back to the table time and time again, until their start venturing into deeper, more strategic waters.

Interested, you can pick it up here


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