Settlers of Catan Game Review

Settlers of Catan Description

Dawn breaks over the horizon. A new land has been discovered by the powers that be. Rich with resources and wide-open realms to conquer, who is to settle this land and become Lord of all that is Catan?

Settlers of Catan is a dice-based crafting game, where players acquire precious Victory Points by establishing sprawling settlements and magnificent cities on the unexplored continent of Catan. Laugh, pillage, and earn your claim to the throne with your close friends, and even closer enemies before all hope is lost.

The Review

Settlers of Catan is a luck-based shopping spree hellscape that quickly accelerates out of control, severing family ties with a record-breaking one hour of play time compared to the three required by a traditional Monopoly experience. And I love every minute of it.

In short, the game outlines players taking the roles of pioneers who seek to inherit the Lordship of Catan by establishing settlements, trade routes, roads, and towering cities to race to the Victory Point objective required to complete the game (10 normally, modified by whatever expansions you whimsically attach to the base game).

Dice are rolled to determine what resources are produced for each player, and different combinations of resources can be spent on a variety of ways to accumulate more points or become excommunicated from your local game store.

On paper, ‘tis a simple dice game with trading, fun, and low stakes for the whole family. In practice, it becomes a political nightmare where one, should a grim fate befall them, might be willing to trade a “Brick” and their first-born child for one unit of “Wool” they need to construct a settlement that will keep them in the game, instead of allowing the rest of the players to accumulate a hand of resources so massive it boggles the mind.

All players, depending on their positions, can produce on any turn’s die roll. This creates a sense of shared experience not held by many games that will force players to take a break until the turn order swings all the way around the table to them. Instead, all players can accomplish something on anyone’s turn, should the dice favor them and their guile in economics prove fruitful.

On the topic of trading, this game integrates nearly every concept of monetary ebb and  flow I slept through in my high school Economics courses. By introducing a variety of precious resources, ALL of which are necessary, and the means to trade them with other players based on need, a supply/demand relationship forms for each resource clever players must be able to navigate if they are to succeed. Never before have I felt a profound love for extorting my family members out of every sheep they poured blood, sweat, and tears into raising, which I immediately sell to black market sailors to build a road I have been vying for the past 30 minutes. Now, with Settlers of Catan, this strange pleasure becomes a regular occurrence.

Catan is a great game. It’s simple to grasp, and is quite adept at undoing years of couple’s therapy. And yet, it allows players space to laugh, scream, and let loose all of the tension that builds between one another. It’s a therapeutic experience explicitly BECAUSE it is so un-therapeutic.

My only honest critique of the vanilla Catan experience falls within the nature of its foundation: dice. While risk assessment, economic strangleholding, and strategic placement and purchasing are all elements of the game, it is usually the difference of one or two lucky dice rolls that allow a player to accelerate development beyond the other players’ ability to compete.

This problem is increasingly remedied with the addition of new expansions and scenarios that ramp up the strategic element of the gameplay, but with it comes a mixed bag of ingenious and engaging mechanics, as well as a number of other lackluster aspects that will be covered another day.

All in all, Klaus Teuber has cultivated a magnus opus of a family game that cannot be sold short. It is practically your citizen’s duty in order to fight for the wheat-woven throne of Catan at least once. I am grateful for every abysmal trade offer and unlucky “7” that is rolled.

I rate this game 2 Wheat for your Wool. Fantastic gameplay with artistically simple design.

Game Raiders Rating Scale

Patsy Evans
Author: Patsy Evans