I recently got my hands on what might be one of the most addicting games of all time….A board game known as the Settlers of Catan. Created by Klaus Teuber in 1995, Catan has grown to become one of the most successful board games of all time. Something, not even Teuber could have predicted. While an immediate success in Germany, Catan didn’t reach popularity in the states until the early 2000’s. Since then, it has become a classic amongst US gamers and is now being sold in 30 different languages.
So, some of you may be asking yourself, “What exactly is Settlers of Catan?” For starters, the game takes place on a newly discovered an island that is rich with resources. The goal of the game is to harvest and trade resources with the other players and to build the biggest civilization. These resources include, lumber from trees, brick from clay, wool from sheep, wheat from a wheat field and finally, ore from a mine. Each of these resources are incredibly important at different times in the game. For example, you will find yourself spending more wood and brick early on while ore will become king during the late game. Though it may seem like certain resources will wear out their welcome, they don’t as trade is possible. For example, if you have access to lots of brick, you could trade it with the other players for different resources. However, should you find your friends or family unreasonable, or don’t want them to have a certain resource, you can always trade 4 resources for 1 of any other with the bank. But that isn’t all, building a settlement (or city) on a port will allow for better rates through traders. For example, some traders offer 3:1 on any resource or 2:1 where the 2 has to be a certain resource such as sheep.
Speaking of resources, how does a player acquire these resources? Well, it is simple, when the game starts, players will take turns placing settlements and roads on the map. Once two settlements and two roads are placed by each player, resources are dolled out based on the tiles that the settlements are placed on. From here, every player takes a turn rolling two 6-sided dice. Now, say an 8 is rolled, every resource tile that has an 8 on it, produces resources for anyone that has settlements or cities on it. Now it may be tricky at first to know where to place but the game helps by giving a percentage chart for every potential roll of the dice. Naturally, 2 and 12 are the least common with 6 and 8 being the most.
Now that leaves us with 7, the number that is statistically rolled the most on a pair of 6 sided dice. Once a player throws a 7, then its time for the robber to come into play. Firstly, all players who have 8 or more cards in their hand must immediately discard half of them, rounding down. From there, the robber may be moved to a tile on the board or stay put in the desert. If placed on a space, you randomly steal a card from a player as well as deny resources to anyone on the tile. But that isn’t the only way to play a robber.
Development cards, can be purchased by spending a single ore, wheat and sheep. There are several forms of cards, some allow you to build roads, gain victory points or even steal resources from everyone. These are less common however than the almighty knight card. Playing a knight card allows you to move a robber on any of your turns. I find it is always a good idea to have at least one in your hand at all times. Not to mention, playing a knight card brings out the worst in all your friends as they try and throw each other under the bus to keep you from robbing them.
And that is what truly makes the game great, like monopoly, people play sides. They will sweet talk you if they have what you want, or shun you forever if you place the robber on them. Its these turns of characters and fairly deep strategy that really makes Catan shine. For example, a friend of mine declared war early on by playing a robber on one of my best tiles. We went back and forth, robbing each other and avoiding making any trade with each other. However, the second another player got ahead in score, our attentions shifted and suddenly, we had a new target.
All in all, the Settlers of Catan is a masterpiece of gaming and has been called the game of our generation. While the jury may still be out on that, there is no doubt that this game is a blast. Go buy it!!