Bookmans Game Night – Catan
Need a new game to play? Itching to find the perfect thing to do this weekend? Search no more! Bookmans recommends Catan to obsess over this weekend. Plans made: check.
Klaus Teuber’s Settlers of Catan was originally produced in 1995. Catan (as it is called in recent years) was quick to find a fond place in the hearts of game enthusiasts and casual players alike. The game has won many awards since it’s debut and has been often acknowledged in popular culture, including TV shows like South Park.
Catan is won by scoring Victory points, which can be earned by building settlements and cities around the map. Players receive resources each turn and core gameplay centers around managing those resources in a way that will allow you to further expand your empire. Unlike many other strategy board games focused on colonization (e.g. Risk), Catan is pacifist friendly, meaning there are no combat mechanics in the game. One might be inclined to think that a lack of combat would make for a conquest game with few ways players unable to meaningfully interact, but with Catan this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
You see, Catan is a social game. And no, not like Farmville. Often in strategy games (Chess comes to mind) turns are taken in contemplative silence, calculating the most optimal play. Contrarily, in Catan, the “turns” are very loose and free-form. Like any other board game, the dice are rolled in a rotation, but otherwise players are free to interact and build without restrictions. Players are encouraged to discuss and negotiate resource trades with each other, which results in a constant flurry of cards changing hands as players haggle with one another to get the resources they need.
Structurally, Catan is unique in the way it allows for players to interact, but that attribute alone wouldn’t be enough to call it a “great game.” Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, summed it up nicely when he said that “All the best games are easy to learn and difficult to master.” So does Catan fit that bill? In short, yes.
Part of why we play games is for that “Aha!” moment when suddenly the rules click and we come up with a great play or a novel solution to a problem. Catan is full of these moments. Every time I’ve played Catan, I’ve managed to learn something new about the game. Though it has a small and simple set of rules, the game offers great depth and freedom. On your first playthrough, it may appear that things are rather straightforward. Collect resources and build settlements – but as the game progresses little nuances begin to reveal themselves. The way that each resource offers it’s own sort of value becomes more apparent, and quickly you find yourself realizing how you could have better positioned your cities on the board. Rather than including a thick strategy guide in the box, the game is designed in a way that allows new strategies to lay themselves at your feet as you play. This ensures that the game still feels rewarding each time it is played. It’s this aspect of Catan, the discoveries through trial and error, that truly set the game apart.
On the box, Settlers of Catan is recommended for players who are ages “10 and up”, and I think that’s a fair assessment. Some of the larger strategic concepts may be lost on younger children. The game can played in groups of three or four, making it the perfect game-night choice for the typical nuclear family. Expansions are available that will allow for up to six players if your family or group of friends is on the larger side.
I want to add that Catan and countless other rockin’ board games can be found at Bookmans, so be sure and stop in and peruse our ever-changing selection. And we want to hear from you! What is your favorite choice for game-night? Drop us a comment or send us a tweet @bookmans!