Catan Review: A Board Game for the Ages

Editor's rating:
8.7
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Reviewed by Talia Tucker
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We like

Catan is the best-selling German game of all time

Since the game board is made of hexagonal tiles it can be reconfigured in many different ways so the replay value is very high

There are a number of expansion packs available

It’s paced well

It inspired creativity

It inspires positive social interaction and improves logic and social skills

Very easy set up

Easy to gameplay after the first run through

We don’t like

Some say that the game depends too much on luck

How it works

Catan is a multiplayer board game that some may know as Settlers of Catan. It was rebranded in 2015 by its creators. It’s a strategy game where players attempt to dominate their opponents by creating settlements, roads and cities. For each turn, players roll the dice which will decide which resources the island produces. The Players then collect the cards that tell them their resources which may include grain, wood, sheep, stone or brick. Players must keep building up the island in order to reach 10 points and win.

The board game requires that players place big hexagonal tiles, that show a resource or a desert, down at random. They’re placed into a honeycomb formation and then surrounded by water tiles, which may or may not contain trading ports. There are also disks with numbers corresponding to dice rolls. They are placed down on the resource tiles. Then each player has two settlements which are placed on the borders and intersections of the resource hex tiles. Players then collect their resource cards based on which hexagonal tiles their last house is next to. The robber piece is then placed on the desert tile.

Each player’s turn could consist of playing a development card, rolling the dice, and collecting a resource card. However, if a 7 is rolled then you may turn in resource cards for better ones, trade cards at the ports or trade cards with the other players. In the event that a 7 is rolled, the player moves the robber to another hexagonal tile and then steals resource cards from the other players who have adjacent structures to that tile.

Points are won by building up settlements and cities and by having the biggest roads and armies. Gathering specific development cards is another way to gain points. When one player has earned 10 points then he or she wins the game.

Catan is an award-winning game and is among the most recognizable names in board games even if you have never actually played it. It appeals to board game enthusiasts and novices alike.

Age Range

Age Range

According to the manufacturer, the game is intended for players aged 10 and up. This game is designed for 3 to 4 players and is worth about 60 to 90 minutes of gameplay. Catan is strategy based but it also relies a lot on luck. So that makes it suitable for almost anyone to play and enjoy.
Ease of Use

Ease of Use

The game begins with players placing the hexagonal tiles or hex tiles randomly down on the table with the number tokens on each of the land squares. The tokens are labeled from 2 to 12, excluding 7. Each players puts two settlements with a road on the borders and intersections of the hexagonal tiles. The player will get the resources next to the second settlement they placed and then the game can begin.

Each player rolls the dice and the number that they get determines what the hexes will produce for that turn. Then each player who has an adjacent city or settlement to the chosen hex will get a resource card and add it to their hand. If a player rolls the dice and gets a 7 the robber is put into play. If players have cards that are over 7 then they lose half of their cards. The robber is then moved which allows that player to block any land hex from producing anything when its number is rolled. The active players also get to steal a card from anyone with a settlement next to that hex. Another feature is trade. There is a limited amount of hexes of each resource type so there is a substantial wait time while players wait for their number to be rolled. Trading allows them to keep building while they wait. Another stage of play is when players are allowed to use the resources they have gained through trade or production. They can build roads or buildings or choose to buy development cards. There are 3 types: soldiers, progress and victory points. Soldiers let you move the robber without a 7 having been rolled. Progress cards let the player do things like build more roads and collect extra resources. The victory point card just rewards points. There are only 5 in the entire game. The first player to 10 points wins the game.

The game is recommended for kids and adults ages 10 and up. People generally pick it up very easily. However, because of the amount of rules, many people usually need a practice round before mastering it in their second run.

Something worth mention is the Catan rule book. It’s complete with pictures of the full board and set up with very detailed descriptions. It also has an almanac with even more in depth descriptions. This makes it very easy for new players to pick up the game.
Design

Design

The actual board itself has hexagon shaped pieces that represent the land and the sea. For each time you play, you put these hexagonal pieces in a random configuration on the table. This makes it so that the board is different every single time you play. This gives it endless possibilities and variety in the game play.

WIth the game you get 120 cards, consisting of 95 resource cards and 25 development cards. It also has 96 components made of wood, broken up so that there are 24 of each color. Of the components there are 16 cities shaped like churches, 20 settlements shaped like houses and 60 roads shaped like bars. There are 19 land pieces, 6 sea pieces, 9 harbor pieces, 1 number tokens, 2 dice, a robber and 4 additional special hex tiles. Everything is very sturdy. The game board is designed to last since the pieces are interchangeable and the game will be put together and taken apart many times. All of the game pieces are all made from wood as well.
Cost

Cost

The price for Catan can be a bit more than other board games. However, Catan comes with a lot of pieces. It has 120 cards, 96 wooden components, plus all of the game pieces and dice. Additionally the actual board of the game itself can be rearranged so it’s really like buying several games in one. It has seemingly endless possibilities so that no two games of Catan are alike. The game is of good quality and the pieces are wooden. A lot of time and effort was put into this game and its longevity justifies its price tag.
Logic Skills

Logic Skills

At its core, Catan is a game all about strategy that can teach children and young adults all about real world economics. The game and how it’s played is a microcosm for real life economic principles like trade and territory and there’s a lesson to be learned about resourcefulness.

There is an economic feedback loop throughout the game. In the beginning the resources are produced at a slow pace. But as the game goes on and you have been successful in building settlements and cities, then the volume of resources that you start to produce really ramps up. At that point you can keep building and developing at an accelerated rate and watch your labor start to pay off. This is where the excitement of the game and sense of achievement comes in.
Every turn you take is very important for later moves in the game. If you’re successful early on and make clever movies in the beginning then you are at an advantage later on because you’ll have the opportunity to gain more and more points and build up your settlements faster. So it’s wise to be careful about planning and managing your resources, particularly in the beginning of the game.

This isn’t a game that you can win by mistake but it also isn’t a completely strategy based game either. It’s a nice blend between using logic and being competitive and just having fun.
Social

Social

Negotiation is a big part of Catan. Whoever rolls the “7” gets to place the robber wherever they want so they can potentially block whoever is winning or in some cases take revenge for a prior move. This opens up the game to negotiation and social engagement to determine who exactly is winning at any given moment. It can be a really great bonding tool.

Another feature of the game is trade. Resources can be traded between all of the players freely. Successful trading is paramount to the game. Players who don’t trade at all will be at a much bigger disadvantage than those that do and those that do it successfully. Most of the interaction happens during trades. Trading is an inherently positive part of the game so it garners positive interaction and development of social skills.

This game appeals to many different people across several generations. It has something for everyone. It is a classic game to board game enthusiasts and it is very creative and imaginative and will hold the attention of those who just play board games for fun. Since it appeals to so many, all can play it and enjoy it together no matter what their interests. It is a great game for socializing and bonding.

Conclusion

Catan is definitely a great choice for board game lovers and novice players who only want to have some fun. Settlers of Catan, rebranded to Catan in 2015, is the best selling German game of all time and it’s widely known throughout the word. It won the Spiel des Jahres award in 1995, which is Germany’s award for the game of the year. However, since then Catan has grown to an international audience and people all over the world are able to enjoy the strategic board game.

The main goal of the entire game is to just keep building up settlements on the fictitious island of Catan. It’s a game that combines strategy, luck, diplomacy and creativity. It rewards those that are able to use their resources wisely. One of the main features of the game is trade. Those that are successful with trade, especially early on typically fare better. By way of social interaction and strategic negotiation, you’ll be able to advance and rack up points.
The game is designed for players ages 10 and up. It’s designed to be played by three to four people at a time so it’s ideal for families or just a group of friends. One round of the game can be completed in around 90 minutes so it’s a decent amount of time to keep the attention of family members of any age.

The game board is made of hexagonal pieces or hex tiles and they can be rearranged in a multitude of ways so that each round of the game is different than the last.
The main objective is for players to build as many roads, settlements, and cities on the island of Catan. Essentially the goal is to earn as many victory points as possible. This is done by continuing to expand settlements and cities on the island of Catan. Successful trade and strategic negotiation can really get you ahead in this game.

This is truly a creative, interactive and fun game that children and adults can enjoy. And if you haven’t had enough, there are also game expansions available as well as a card game. It’s a game that has been around for ages that many will recognize and know as a household name. It is well made and very fun and competitive so it will be a mainstay in homes for many years to come.
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