In the new Knucklebones magazine, Erik Anderson writes an article on the Top 10 Essential Games. Feeling a deck of cards is cheating, he goes on to the list, with Chess as the #1 spot (which he admits “If listing a deck of cards is cheating, this is close.”I agree, it is cheating but hey…) and his #2 choice is The Settlers of Catan made by Mayfair Games, a game in it’s default form for 3 to 4 players. Now, this isn’t the first time I have heard about this game and how great it supposedly is. I have seen it listed as one of the best if not the best board game from many websites that sell games as well.
In the game you setup hexagonal pieces that make up an island, this is apparently random in order so the game is different each time. Each pieces has a resource and is further enhanced with a dice number from 2 to 12, so if you roll that number you collect that resource if you have a settlement or city next to it… We really need a picture here.. An example might serve, you have a grass field who’s resource is sheep, on the top 3 sides of it is water, on the bottom left is a wheat field resource who’s resource is grain, directly below it is a mountain who’s resource is ore, and the bottom right is a forest who’s resource is lumber. You then add a dice value to each, here we’ll say 8 for the grass field, then 10, 3 and 4 for the others in order. You place your first initial settlement at the intersection between the grass field, the mountain and the forest, and then lay a road along the edge lines somewhere. Now, if you or an opponent rolls 8 on the dice you collect 1 sheep resource, if a 4 is rolled you collect a lumber resource as they are the areas you are next to. You want to be in a spot where you can collect the most resources so you can build more settlements (you get two at the start), roads (outside of your first two settlements, the rest must connect to one of the first two by a road), change your settlements into cities (raising the value or resources collected to 2, so in the above example rolling a 4 would net you two lumber resources after the settlement was changed to a city), or buying developer cards. Developer cards either move a thief marker, allow you to build roads without the resources required, give you extra points to the end game, etc.
Now the thief marker is moved on rolls of 7 on the dice, or, as noted, with a soldier developer card. The person who rolls it, moves it next to a settlement/city and steals one of the cards from the player who owns it. The resource that the thief is sitting on will not give up any resources to anyone near it until the thief marker is moved, so you don’t put it next to yours even if you stole from another player who is sharing the same resource.
During each player’s turn, the rolling player may trade resources with the others. They may offer a trade to him, or he may offer a trade to them. You may need one more ore to change your settlement into a city, so you offer a brick resource, which is refused, you then offer two bricks and somebody takes you up on that.
You get points for each settlement, city and for bonus stuff like having the largest army, longest road and the like. The game generally ends at 10 points, and goes fairly fast so long as people don’t spend too much time trading, or raising the end game point value past the rules stated end.
The game was invented in Germany by Klaus Tuber, who apparently is a well respected game designer, mostly because of the Catan games. Seems lots of the more well respected games (not the mainstream games like Monopoly, etc.) come from Germany, not sure why that is…
Anyhow, the game has lots of expansion packs. There is:
Settlers of Catan: 5-6 Player Expansion which as one can see, allows up to 6 players to play the game.
Seafarers of Catan: Expansion Game of Seafaring, Exploration, and Trade, which the Mayfair site says “Expand your Settlers of Catan game in new directions, add Islands, Pirates, Gold, Ships, Islands and Trade.
Explore and colonize the newly populated Archipelago of Catan. Building settlements, roads, and villages by trading commodities from the land and islands around you. Trade sheep and wood for a ship, bricks and wood for a road, build new settlements and improve settlements into cities”
There is Seafarers of Catan: 5-6 Player Expansion which expands the Seafarer’s expansion by allowing up to 6 to play.
There’s Cities & Knights of Catan Game and of course a 5-6 player expansion in the form of Cities & Knights of Catan: 5-6 player exp.
Replacement cards and stuff is available from Mayfair, along with lots of variations on it, like Settlers of Canaan, Kids of Catan and more.
So is it the best board game? I don’t know, but it sure gets lots of good ratings (click the links to the game itself and the expansions to see the Amazon reviews) from everyone, so it must be right up there.
The Wikipedia entry on Settlers of Catan has a far better description then I do…