Chairman of the Board: Who needs sheep?

Illustration by Ed Appleby
Illustration by Ed Appleby

‘Settlers of Catan’ board game review

By Ed Appleby, Illustrator

In the world of board games, there are a few game changers for the industry. Games that change how board games are perceived, like chess, Monopoly, and this week’s game.

Settlers of Catan is a resource management game for three to four players, designed by Klaus Teuber and first released by Franckh-Kosmos Verlag in Germany in 1995 under the title Die Siedler von Catan. You compete against other players, attempting to advance your newfound society on the island of Catan by building settlements, expanding roads, hiring knights, and constructing specialized buildings. This is done by gathering five resources: wood, brick, ore, wheat, and wool. The first player to get to 10 points wins.

The game focusses on two very important elements: where you place your settlements and how well you trade with other players, not unlike Monopoly. Territories are given a number between two and 12, and resources are awarded by the roll of the dice to everyone with a settlement bordering that territory. Some resources are more common while others are more rare, so trading with other players is vital. As there are several ways to get points in the game, there are many different strategies that players can use to win.

The game is great fun and well-balanced. It’s simple enough that you can carry on a conversation during gameplay, yet complex enough to keep players engaged in the game, almost to rage-induced table-flipping levels. My one criticism is that you can sometimes find yourself in a no-win situation, which can reduce enjoyment of the game. But that can easily be turned around in the next game and, since each game usually lasts less than an hour, that won’t be long.

Settlers of Catan is considered the icon of European-style board games, and can also be considered one of the best games ever made. The gameplay is simple enough for new gamers and deep enough to keep more experienced players engaged. I recommend it for everyone who wants to up their gameplay to the next level.