Sunday, January 17, 2016



The groom's cake from our wedding.  7 flavors of geeky goodness.

Catan has played a pivotal role in my gaming life.  It was my gateway game, the one that let me discover the wonder of the modern gaming experience.  It also has been the most effective game I found to share that sensation with others.  Catan won me a trip to Origins in Ohio and with better dice rolling luck might have taken me to a castle in Germany.  It was present at our wedding as an edible delight.  We own numerous Catan games and accessories, including a plastic gaming board, playing cards, and even plushies of all the Catan resources.  Yeah, we like Catan.


Asmodee (formerly Mayfair)


Klaus Teuber

Elevator Pitch:

Players work on colonizing the island of Catan, by collecting resources and using them to build roads, cities, and settlements.

Personal Impression:

I don’t get to play Catan much anymore, but I’m still happy to join in whenever it is suggested.  While some of the rating is nostalgic, I still really enjoy the gameplay.  I love the dice rolling, rooting for the gods of probability to stay home, so you can get that key 2 with a city of ore.  The multiple paths to victory feel very different, I can win by circling the board with roads and settlements, or stay local and build up cities and perhaps a grand army.  The variable board setup make games feel very different as a resource might be plentiful one game, but scarce the next.  Not all game sessions are as fun, sometimes you get trapped and have nothing to do, the dice decide to hate you, or the resource trading is painfully protracted, but I find those less enjoyable sessions a small minority. 

Good for People who Grew up Playing:

Ease of Learning:

Turns are pretty simple, you roll dice, collect resources, and then optionally play a card, make trades or build/buy one of four things.   Winning is simple too, get 10 points by doing the half of dozen or so things that score.  There is more to it than of course, but not so much that new player won’t be able to understand what is going on.

Fidgety Index

Wooden settlements, road, and cities let you build a mini metropolis.

Universal Theme:

Gathering resources and building up a civilization on an empty island isn’t exactly relatable, but it matches up with the gameplay well.  Turning resources into buildings is logical except perhaps when you manage to make a road entirely out of sheep.

Player Count and Length:

3-4. Can increase the range to 2-6 with expansions and variants, but best to stick to the original numbers.  Game takes about an hour and a half, but can be longer if players take the trading aspect little too seriously.


Chances are you have heard of Catan even if you are not a gamer.  This means Catan has been wildly successful and spun-off countless expansions and variants.  The lists below thus aren’t complete, but should contain all the main items.

Seafarers adds scenarios that involve exploring islands around Catan.  I like being able to discover and claim new hexes as well as the increased usefulness of sheep for shipping lanes, though it does lengthen the game some.

Cities & Knights is many people’s preferred way to play Catan, but it does add length and complexity to the base game, as well as a bit more direct conflict.  The main additions are knights to protect you from barbarian invaders and commodities that allow the purchase of city improvements.   Seafarers is good if you want more of the same while Cities and Knights is good for a little different feel.

Traders and Barbarians is less a full on expansion and more a compellation of stuff, some rereleases of promos or mini expansions and some new.   It includes rules for 2 players and is compatible with just the base game or the other expansions as well. 

Explorers and Pirates  is the newest large expansion, Explorers adds five new scenarios to the game.  Play involves three islands instead of one with two needing their landscape to be discovered.  It also replaces cities with port settlements and provides gold to compensate for rolls where players get no resources.

5-6 Player expansions, available for the base game and the above expansions as well as Starfarers.  Good if you have larger groups of people, but extra players slow down the game considerably, so it might be best to split into multiple games.
Spin Offs:

Starfarers of Catan:  Catan in space!  Has overdeveloped and fragile pieces, but man are they cool.  Instead of building on an island, you are colonizing the galaxy, establishing trade with alien federations, and fight pirates.  Gameplay is a tad more repetitive than the original, but it is a fun change of pace.  Plus those pieces.

Starship Catan:  You Must Fight!  The 2 player version of Starfarers, you get build up your ship and complete missions.  Cool in concept, but painfully slow, which led me to eventually trade it away.

Star Trek Catan:  Good for the person who sees Catan and says, “that looks okay, but do you have anything geekier.”

Catan Adventures:  These games are ostensibly new games with limited crossover to Catan.  Currently there are two-- Canadmir:The First Settlers and Elasund: The First City.

Catan Histories.  A series of games based on historical time periods.  There are currently four: Settlers of the Stone Age, Settlers of America: Trails to Rails, Struggle for Rome, and Merchants of Europe.  These games still have Catan elements, but vary greater than other spin-offs. I have only played the first two, and was left unimpressed.  Trail to Rails was particularly disappointing.  It is a neat looking map, Catan hexes over America, but the game elements were not integrated well, and it ended being a monotonous drawn out affair.   

Settlers of Canaan:  A biblical licensed spinoff, play as a tribe of Israel and build the wall of Jerusalem along with your regular Catan duties.

Settlers of Zarahemla:  Similar is Canaan except for Mormonism and building a temple instead of a wall.

Catan Card Game:  Has an expansion that adds more decks.  Makes Catan into a 2 player game where you draw cards from communal decks and build a tableau of settlements and buildings in front of you.  You can choose to use different themed decks that alter gameplay or even build your own customized decks.  It isn’t as good as the board game, but if you only have 2 people it will provide some of the same feel.

Rivals of Catan:  A redesigned and streamlined version of the Card Game.  I prefer it as it removes some of the clunky rules from original and greatly speeds up gameplay.  Two expansions, Age of Darkness and Age of Enlightment provide themed decks similar to the original.

Struggle for Catan:  Another card game, but this one supports multiple players and the lack of dice makes it less luck dependent than Rivals.

Catan Dice Game:  Available in a deluxe version.  A quick filler, closer to Yahtzee than it is Catan.

Simply Catan:  Designed to help you learn Catan by starting with a simpler version and allowing you to work your way up to the full game.

Kids of Catan:  A version for kids that strips the game of any interesting decisions.  Might be useful as a teaching tool, but probably not much value beyond that.

Catan Junior:  A better attempt at developing an enjoying game for children.  This one simplifies the rules and keeps more of the Catan feel and strategy.

Catan Geographies:  Paper maps of various regions such as Delmarva or Indiana & Ohio with rules for the scenarios.  They generally don’t have great replayability, but it can be fun to settle on one’s home turf.

3D Collectors Edition:  A special edition of Catan with Cities & Knights includes that commemorated the games 10th anniversary.  It features hand painted tiles and pieces and a special hardwood case.  There is also a wooden edition for the 15th anniversary that replaces the Cities & Knights material with the 5/6 player expansion.

Introducing the Game to New Gamers: 

Help people place their initial settlements as a bad start can be ruinous in a game of exponential growth.  Try not to block them and give them room to expand on the board.  Make any trade that is at least neutral for yourself.


One of the more disappointing apps I’ve purchased.  The ai is awful, making consistently terrible decisions, and never providing any sort of a challenge.  The UI is finicky and you have to jump through multiple screens to make trades or pursue other activities.  Do not recommend.  If you need a fix, play online.


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