Review: Settlers of Catan

settlers

Publisher: Mayfair Games

Number of Players: 3-4 (up to 6 with expansion set)

Playing Time: 2 hours

Release Year: 1995

Year I got it: 2002

It’s a cross between: Go Fish and SimCity

Number of Plays to Obtain Proficiency: 1. The game is a little long, but in a fun way. By the end of the first play you pretty much know what needs to be done to win.

Replayability: Enough of a party game that you can replay it as many times as you want, especially when you are with people you like, and especially especially when it’s late and everyone is feeling a little crazy.

Social Interaction: I don’t think they make a game that’s more social than this one. You’re constantly trying to trade your resources with the other players on every turn. Everyone wants to have a say in every trade, and everyone wants to one-up each other. If there is but a single person in the group who likes to ham it up, they will find plenty of opportunity.

“I’ll trade you two sheep for a wheat! Anyone? Okay, I’ll throw in a brick! Two sheep and a brick for one wheat! Come on, it’s just one wheat!”

Settlers of Catan, or Set’lers, as we like to call it, is a game that four players, six with the expansion, or any number if you want to play teams, will have fun with. I first played it in college when my good friend Paul brought it out, and I had to buy it myself not soon after.

The game starts out in the setup. The gameboard is laid out with a number of hexagonal pieces all fitted together to form an island. You are playing as the settlers of this island. The hexagons represent various resources that are supposed to be found in that area of the island, and they are placed randomly on the board so that every game is different. Then, markers are placed on each hexagon indicating how much of each resource will be produced there. These markers correspond to the numbers 2-12. Choosing which resources to play on at the beginning of the game influences the entire rest of the game.

On your turn, you roll two dice. Whatever numbers come up on the dice, the hexagons with those numbers marked on them produce goods for everyone who has a town on them. Then, the trading begins. There are 5 resources that can be traded: Sheep, Wheat (or Grain), Rock (or Ore), Brick and Wood. Once everyone has the resources they want (or are denied them by the other players), the build phase of the turn begins. You can build roads, new settlements, cities, or buy chances at cards with random effects with your resources.

All the phases of the game are fun in their own way, it’s like you’re playing three different games. Rolling the die means people get free stuff! It’s like a bonanza, and everyone is grabbing for the resources they are supposed to be collecting. Trading is the funniest part of the game, with people one-upping each other, offering to trade sheep for sheep, and all sorts of other things. The build phase is happy, especially if you’re like Melissa who likes building games (she likes to play Warcraft II just to build her town, and doesn’t want to actually defend it). It’s like a mini sim-city type game.

There are a couple strategies that can help you do better at settlers if you’re playing for the first time:

  • There’s nothing like a monopoly. Try to build your settlements in places where you will be the one in control of one particular resource. If you do this correctly, people will be begging to trade with you the whole game.
  • This becomes obvious about 10 minutes into the game, but too late to help some newbie players. Play your settlements next to resources that are marked with 6’s or 8’s because these are the numbers which are rolled most often with a pair of dice.
  • Essentially the only way to be competitive (read: mean) in this game is to block off someone’s road by building your road in their way. I recommend you do this and cackle with glee.
  • At the beginning of the game, you mostly need brick and wood, but at the end of the game, you’ll need more wheat and rock. Sheep are mostly worthless. Plan your settlement with this in mind!

Set’lers is a great game. It’s a pity you can only play with 4 players if you don’t have the expansion, but if you have three good friends I recommend getting together with them and cracking this open for some fun. It’s especially a stay-up-late kind of game, and if you are the type to drink (I am not), it might be fun while you’re doing that as well.

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