The Settlers of Catan
From Mayfair Games
The overall objective of this game is to be the first settler to have 10 victory points. How do you get victory points? These are obtained a number of ways. You get one point for each settlement, two for each city, two for the longest road, two for the largest army, and a variety of other options in the development cards.Players take turns by rolling the dice and cashing in on certain resources if they have a settlement touching that particular hexagon. Once you have enough resources, you can cash them in to build a road, settlement, city, or obtain a development card. An added twist to this game is in the interactions between players. I have never played a game where you are competing against the other players but also have to work cooperatively in order to win
The cooperation comes into play when you need a particular resource in order to build a settlement but you are nowhere near that resource tile. You are then forced to trade in order to get what you want. Suppose you have a surplus of sheep. I mean, your hand is full, but what you really need is some brick. You don’t have any settlements on brick and you never will. You will have to either cut a deal with another player, hope you have a sheep port (more on ports later,) or have at least four to trade for anything. See where cooperation can be handy?
Now, ports. The developers were really thinking when they created the trade rules. They must have foreseen those players that want to do everything on their own! This game caters to them as well. Remember that surplus of sheep from earlier? Well, let’s say I don’t want to trade with another player OR the other player is trying to hustle me. At this point, I can either trade four sheep outright for any resource I want. The other option is to have a trading port. There is one for each resource (sheep, brick, wood, wheat, and ore) where you can trade at a 2:1 ratio. There is also a port where you can trade whatever resource you want at a 3:1 ratio. So if I have a sheep port, I can trade in two of my sheep for another resource I am really needing. Ports are your friend!
There is another twist of the robber and the number seven. Anytime a seven is rolled, everyone must discard half of their cards if they have seven or more. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the person that rolled the seven gets to move the robber to any hex that he or she wants. Painless, right? Wrong! That resource is then blocked anytime the corresponding number is rolled. This means that if I have a settlement that lets me cash in on some brick every time an eight is rolled but the robber is put there, then I am not getting any brick until another seven is rolled and the robber is moved. As if that isn’t bad enough, the person that rolled a seven gets to pull any resource card they want from anyone who has a settlement on the newly blocked resource hex.
The uniqueness of this game is that it changes every time you play it. The overall rules are the same, but the hexagons can be placed in a different order every game. Personally, I love this feature! Your strategy can (and usually does) change from game to game.
Number of players
3 to 4 players. I suppose you COULD play with two if you were just dying to conquer the land of Catan. The issue with just two is that you would be forced to cut deals with the other person — I am far too competitive to do that. Sometimes you have to work the system and that is hard to do with just two settlers!
There are two reasons I think you would pick this game up: you played it with a friend or you are a hipster to board games. For the first type, the game is extremely easy to learn. The rules are easy to explain and are pretty straightforward. (Hopefully you play with someone that can explain rules well!) For the latter player, you are forced to rely on the rules provided. Fortunately for you, the rules/almanac are also straightforward. There are a few instances where the rules get pretty wordy, but in the end you shouldn’t have a hard time knowing what to do. The rule book/almanac include pictures that are a great help when the words become intimidating. The almanac serves as a glossary of Settler’s vocabulary — super useful! And, if all else fails, the game will go on if you decide to go rogue and change a few rules.
It usually takes us anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to play. This can be stretched if you have some slow-pokes you are playing with — you know who you are! These are the settlers that love to take their time and over analyze all of their trading possibilities.
Overall, I would give the artwork a 7.5 out of 10. The hexagons didn’t necessarily depict the appropriate resource card in the best way, but it is not difficult to identify which card you get. Each resource varies in color which helped in identification. After a few rounds, you catch on as to which resource belongs to which hexagon. There is a minimalistic feel to the game that can be a breath of fresh air in a world that is consumed by flashiness. The roads, settlements, and cities are simple, colored pieces of wood. I think that the uniqueness doesn’t come from the artwork, but rather the variable nature of the game itself.
Play with ‘That Guy’
Confession: I totally stereotyped this game for the nerd gamer. I ranked it up there with Dungeons and Dragons. I know, right?! I even talked my husband out of buying it. However, once I played it, I realized that The Settler’s of Catan was actually fun! I enjoyed trying to build the longest road or try to monopolize the brick resource. I hated when someone rolled a 7, but threw a party on the inside when I rolled a 7 and got to move the thief! I felt as if I was somehow channeling my love for Oregon Trail, but in board game form and without dying of cholera. All this to say, I think that given the chance, Settler’s is for anyone.
Game Night Pairings
I think that Settler’s lends itself nicely to just good conversation with good friends. I don’t recommend dressing up, especially for the first time players (see above comment!) You could very easily turn this into a drinking game. Anytime a 7 is rolled, drink. Anytime a high probability number is rolled (8 or 6), drink. So, grab a stein and your favorite ale and get rollin’.
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Image source: catan.com