TABLE GAME REVIEW: The Settlers of Catan

Game_Box_MayfairThis week at GS Table Games, we look at the “Godfather of Gaming” Klaus Teuber’s benchmark game,  The Settlers of Catan!




So I am going to go out on a limb here: the Germans make quite possibly the finest board games around. If you want proof, then play The Settlers of Catan, the BMW 7 Series of the board games world! Designed by the board games’ Steve Jobs, Klaus Teuber, The Settlers of Catan is the fastest way to learn how to deal in commodities, expand your empire, and block your enemies by military power and economics sanctions. The game has appeared in one of the funniest The Big Bang Theory segments (“Has anyone got wood? I need wood for my sheep!”), and even has its own Star Trek version.

Picture yourself in the era of discoveries: after a long voyage of great deprivation, your ships have finally reached the coast of an uncharted island. Its name shall be Catan! But you are not the only discoverer. Other fearless seafarers have also landed on the shores of Catan: the race to settle the island has begun!



The first true variation to the game is in building the game board with its hexagonal terrain tiles: a beautiful island with mountains, pastures, hills, fields, and forests and surrounded by the sea, you either plan its layout or leave it entirely random. You then place two small houses on spaces where three of these terrain hexes meet as your starting settlements.

The game begins by rolling two dice. Each terrain hex is marked with a die roll number. Each player who owns a settlement adjacent to a terrain hex marked with the number rolled receives a resource produced by this hex. Hills produce brick, forests produce lumber, mountains produce ore, fields produce grain, and pastures produce wool. Trading in these commodities with the game and the other players, you can expand across Catan, building roads and new settlements, or upgrading your existing settlements to cities. For example, a road costs 1 brick and 1 lumber, and if you do not have the necessary resources, you can acquire them by trading with your opponents.

Each settlement is worth 1 victory point and each city is worth 2 victory points. If you expand cleverly, you may be the first player to reach 10 victory points and thus win the game! Thus games can be quite quick, or you can make it an epic evening in by increasing the points target.



The Settlers of Catan is quite simply one of the most brilliant games of modern times; unlike, say, Monopoly, the winner cannot be decided by someone getting lucky with the dice in the first rounds and buying up lots of properties in the first two rows whilst avoiding rents & taxes. In Catan, you can bluff your way in deals with your opponents on the commodities you need, and move “The Robber” (the game’s criminal element) around to your advantage. And what I like about The Settlers of Catan so much is that it is so understated (German engineering again!). The packaging, components, etc do nothing to betray how totally immersive the game is, or promise to be anything more that what it is.

As stated earlier, there are plenty of variations and expansion packs available, as well as an excellent iPad app. If you are just thinking about getting into strategy games, then this is the place to start, and the benchmark by which you measure all the others…

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Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: SilverFox

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