While Settlers of Catan is not my favorite board game (Puerto Rico takes that honor), it is still the first which I recommend to anyone who is looking to try a new game.
This is due to the extremely well-blended mix of chance and strategy which makes the game fun and exciting for geeky board game fanatics (like myself) and more "normal" people alike.
Settlers of Catan is made for 3-4 players and suitable for ages 10 and up. In it, you are a colonist looking to settle the newly discovered continent of Catan. To accomplish this you build settlements which generate resources. You then use these resources to build roads, soldiers, cities, and more settlements. In the game, each settlement is worth 1 victory point, while each city is worth two (a city is an upgraded settlement). The first player to get 10 victory points is the winner.
There are two parts of this game that set it apart from any other: resource generation and game setup. I'll start by discussing the latter of the two. Each time you play Settlers of Catan the board is totally different. So, it will take a lot longer for you to get bored of this game compared to a game like Risk or Monopoly. During each game, players will have to learn to adjust their strategy based on the layout of the board. To make the board, you shuffle up all of the land and sea tiles and place them randomly in this shape:
The last step is to distribute little tokens numbered from 2 to 12 on the land tiles, putting one token on each tile. The closer a number is to 7, the more likely the tile it is on will give resources to players with settlements nearby.
After the board has been created each player places two settlements on the board and the game then begins. This is when the second unique part of the game comes into play: resource generation. The first thing you will always do on your turn is roll two dice. The total value of the numbers rolled will tell you which resources are generated on your turn. Just look on the board for the tokens with the matching total and any players with nearby settlements will get resources. These game mechanics do a great job of keeping everyone interested in the game at all times, since everyone has a chance of getting resources on anyone's turn. Also, the use of the tokens for deciding which resources are generated is designed as an almost perfect compromise between luck and strategy which keeps the game light, yet interesting.
In the game, you can also trade your resources with other players. Trading is a really tricky part of the game because you need to make sure the trade you are making with someone else doesn't help them more than it helps you. Also, it aids in keeping the game interesting to all players at all times since you can trade even when it's not your turn.
If you enjoy playing Settlers of Catan then I suggest you check out some of the expansions there are for it. These supplements add new rules, new pieces, and support for more players when playing Settlers. The expansion I suggest buying first is the 5-6 Player Expansion
, which (as the title suggests) adds pieces to allow for 2 more players to play. For more information on it check out my review on the 5-6 Player Expansions. The next expansion I recommend buying is Cities & Knights of Catan
, which dramatically alters the game in many ways such as allowing each player to use knights to attack opponents and defend the island against barbarians. If you want to learn more about this expansion, I have written a review on it as well. There are two other major expansions to Settlers of Catan: Seafarers of Catan and Traders and Builders of Catan.
Settlers of Catan is one of the best lesser-known board games out there today. It's challenging for both casual and hard core board game players and, since every game is different, it will take a lot longer to get old than most other games. Since it appeals to both a young and older audience, it also makes a great addition to a family board game night. While the game's retail value is $42 (it increased with the release of the latest edition), you can usually find it on amazon.com
for around $33. Currently you can only find this game online, at local gaming stores, or at a Borders or Barnes and Noble. However, I'm sure it will be at your local Target/Walmart in a couple of years as it is becoming extremely popular.