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Back in 1995, Klaus Teuber released his masterpiece, The Settlers of Catan. For many people, this route-building and trading classic was the ‘gateway game’ that introduced them into the hobby of modern board games. Fast-forward 25 years to 2020 and it’s sold more than 32 million copies worldwide! While these days it’s known as Catan, don’t worry – it’s still the superb game it always was.
You and your rival players land on the uninhabited island of Catan. It’s made up of a series of hexagonal tiles that represent various lush, fertile terrains, perfect for colonising. Number tiles – ranging from two to 12 – are placed on the terrain hexes. You all start the game by placing two humble settlements on corners of any two hexes, with a road leading out of it. Your aim is to acquire the right resources to construct more roads linking your settlements, building even more settlements, and also upgrading them into cities.
Two dice are rolled each turn, their total added together. Everybody with a settlement adjacent to the hex of that number gets the corresponding resource card (wood from the forest, wool from the sheep pasture, and so on). So, in theory, that ore mine on the eight is going to dish out resources far more often than the wheat field on 12 (a double-six is required, after all). At least, in theory… Dice, as you know, can be cruel!
Then, the active player can vocally attempt to negotiate resource trades with the other players, to achieve their goals. This is the real heart and soul of Catan, and where the much-uttered phrase, “Wood for sheep?” will be heard at some point…
There are also constant back-and-forth battles for claiming the reward of Longest Road or Largest Army. There’s a deck of Development Cards to acquire, which offer you additional benefits. There’s a barren desert, and in it, a robber who steals resources. Meanwhile, everyone aims to be the first to hit 10 points for having accomplished certain criteria (each city built is worth two points, for example).
For your first game of Catan, the rulebook suggests a set layout of the hex tiles and numbers. However, the set-up is of course modular, meaning you could lay out the island in any way you desire, thus creating a unique game requiring a unique strategy each time. No board game collection is complete without a copy of Catan!
If you can’t get enough of this classic Euro game then you should absolutely check out the many expansions available, such as Seafarers, and Explorers & Pirates (both of which involve many scenarios about sailing, discovering archipelagos and extra resources), Cities & Knights (barbarians are invading Catan and you must try to stop them!) and even a Game of Thrones: Brotherhood of the Watch variant, which is themed around George R. R. Martin’s hugely popular A Song of Ice and Fire series.