Settlers of Catan is one of the most complicated and addicting board games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. The in-depth rulebook can be a little intimidating initially, and it’s almost impossible to explain the rules to an inexperienced person without giving them a mild panic attack, but once you play the game everything becomes clear.
Winning this game is so rewarding because it feels more like a game of strategy than a game of luck. When I finally won it felt more rewarding than, sadly?, most things I’ve accomplished in my life. Winning in Catan > my 6th place high school hurdles medal. The popular board game has spawned countless expansion packs that enhance the original. Settlers of Catan acted as a gateway drug to the Cities and Knights expansion pack, which in my opinion, is superior and enhances gameplay in every way. I can’t go back now, I can’t settle for just Settlers of Catan anymore as it’s boring compared to the expansion.
All the Catan games revolve around getting a certain amount of points, done by building and expanding settlements and gathering resource cards through trade between players and dice rolls. In my experience games take around 2 and a half hours, but depending on how familiar the players are with the rules it can lengthen or shorten the game accordingly. Whereas other games like Monopoly or Risk can become a chore as the game drags on, Catan doesn’t suffer as much because of how competitive the game forces players to be and the strength of one player’s position doesn’t necessarily weaken the opportunity for other players. In fact, other players can enforce an embargo on the player in first to decrease that player’s chance of winning.
The hexagonal board changes at the beginning of every new game, so each game has a unique experience. The initial placing of the starting settlements is one of my favorite parts of the game. Luck plays a factor for sure, but going first isn’t as huge of an advantage. If you play smart and come up with a good strategy, you can win, just be warned that making adjustments during the game is just as important as coming up with a strategy.
As I mentioned earlier, Settlers of Catan has spawned a variety of expansion games. Cities and Knights and Merchants of Europe are the two that I have personally played and both are fantastic and better than the original in my opinion. Cities and Knights is a more complex game, and the added features enhance the strategies needed to win and give the impression that something is always happening. Whereas complexity makes Cities and Knights better, I felt that Merchants of Catan is a much simpler game. The map is expansive and unlike the original games with hexagonal board pieces. The style makes the game quicker paced, but the vast European map has a familiar feel and is less cramped than in the original. I would recommend Cities and Knights to people that already love Settlers of Catan and Merchants of Europe to people that love Catan and want to play with a unique map.
This game does have some drawbacks, it can be too complicated and long for some people. The game can only be played with 3-4 people, which can be restricting at times. The online versions of the game are…lacking. Catan Universe is free, which is great, but it has a confusing interface, takes up all of my computer’s RAM, and it’s still working out numerous bugs that freeze the game. Playing with the AI is cumbersome as it never seems to want to trade and playing with other players online suffers from people abandoning midgame. The 5th edition of Settlers seems to be a lower quality of the game despite being the next edition. The price of the game isn’t cheap, on Amazon the game is ~$45 and the expansions are just as pricey. The colors of the pieces are bland, and the expansion colors of mud brown and forest green left me hugely disappointed. I had some trouble with the Cities and Knights dice too as the green and blue castles look identical to one another. I’m not even colorblind. For the price I wish the cardboard was of a little higher quality as well.
As nerdy as it sounds I enjoy playing this game more than going out on the weekends. For anyone looking for a fun and rewarding game to bond over with some friends then this is the perfect game for you.