Sunday, June 21, 2009

Settlers of Catan Board Game Review by ChristineMM

Settlers of Catan Board Game Review

Settlers of Catan is a board game created in Germany by Klaus Teuber. It is about ten years old and has won many awards.

The manufacturer states the game is for ages 10 and up. Honestly if your child is bright or has an interest and patience for board games and has decent thinking skills they can play it at younger ages, perhaps as young as age six. Four or five may be pushing it but you know your kids best! The majority of the game does not involve reading. In this base game, only rarely used specialty cards need reading and there are graphics on each card so bright young non-readers may be able to remember the meaning of the card from memory linked to the visual. Otherwise, a parent can help the child with the less-used specialty cards and keep confidentiality.

Before I explain the game basics, I need to explain that Settlers of Catan is the base game. You can play Settlers of Catan by itself. Later once this is mastered and if you like it, if you want the game to become more complex you can choose to buy an add-on component game (an "expansion" game) such as Cities & Knights (barbarians attacking cities and knights fighting or protecting) or Seafarers of Catan (ships) or Barbarians & Traders. When you have an expansion set, you then combine pieces from the add-on set to make the base game larger. Then all the rules expand to be more complex. You can add on one game (Cities & Knights) or two games (Seafarers) or all the games at once (four games total). As you can imagine if you use all the games at once the game is quite complex with many layers of action taking place.

Also the base game is a four player game. You can buy an add-on set to boost the player numbers to six.

Note you must own the base game, Settlers of Catan, to play the game. You cannot start with one of the add-on games and use that as a base game (i.e. Seafarers).

The gist of the game is that people are going to settle in an unpopulated land. The land you occupy has natural resources (ore to mine, wood to harvest for paper) or farming capabilities (growing grain) that give you resources you can use to build wealth, expand your settlement and become more powerful. The person to gain a certain amount of points wins the game. (To learn more about game play see the link at the end of this post to view a free online tutorial.)

One interesting thing is that each time a new game is set up the board is reconstructed in a random manner so the game is never the same twice (such as the prime spots you'd want to occupy are always different).

The cool thing about the game is that with each person's turn, every player is involved. There is no sitting idle while one player takes their turn and does their thing. There is a lot of action such as proposed trades being made, upgrades, and some switching around of game components that can help one player and suddenly hinder another. Due to the fast pace and interaction with other players, sometimes best laid plans to take action on your next turn are ruined. This helps keep players on their toes and constantly thinking about the next best move to make, making fast changes, adapting to those changes and learning good sportsmanship in the process.

The more the games goes on, the more complicated the game gets. So instead of getting bored half way through or close to the end, the pace picks up and it becomes more complicated and requires more thinking skills. The game is therefore exciting right up to the end.

My kids learned this game in no time (ages 9 and 11.5). It is so logical and clear that they were able to teach me and my husband to play. It is the type of game that you completely understand after playing one game, it's not a horribly complicated game that leaves you feeling stupid at trying to understand the directions.

The game is addicting because once you learn from some mistakes you want to play again to see if some new strategies will work better, or perhaps really much of it is controlled by the other player's actions or the unique layout of the board, I'm not sure.

The game can take 90-120 minutes to play depending on how it goes.

This is "good clean fun". Kids, teens and adults like this game.

I know three adults who would absolutely love this game, they are all people who normally don't play board games. I know the action, the pace, and the thinking skills involved as well as the bartering and entrepreneurial type skills are things those people enjoy.

My boys feel the base game alone is too boring once they were playing with the Cities & Knights expansion pack. My boys recommend that a family start off with the base game and one add on, either Seafarers or Cities & Knights, whichever you choose. Then they suggest buying the other one you didn't get, and lastly, Barbarians & Traders. They feel that owning them all is optimal!

I myself think the base game is fine just as it is, it is NOT boring and would recommend a family start with just that game. However I do like the extra action and more thinking skills required when playing Cities & Knights.

I know later this year, either for a birthday or Christmas, I'll be buying the rest of the games!


There is a free online tutorial about how to play the game here: Settlers of Catan Prof Easy page

Official website of manufacturer of Settlers of Catan

Wikipedia page for Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan base game (core game)
Full retail: $40.00

Settlers of Catan expansion to play with 5-6 players
Full retail: $25.00

Cities & Knights Expansion
full retail: $40.00

Seafarers of Catan Expansion
Full retail: $40.00

Barbarians & Traders Expansion
Full retail: $40.00

Note: expansion sets for each expansion kit to make it for 5-6 players are all available separately.

There is also a "mega bundle pack" of all the games and the expansion sets for all to be 5-6 players:

Disclosure: I bought these games for my family's personal use.

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Sheila said...


I just love Settlers too! We always take it camping every year, and it's amazing how many other people manage to "wander" over to our campsite and check it out.

The kids love it, and it's great for them to do with friends or cousins who would otherwise want to watch TV.

Have you ever played Carcassone? It's fun, too, but it takes a lot less time. And it's easier to explain. But we love it; same concept, you can add more to it to make it more complicated and fun.

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kec said...

Agree wholly with your review. We learned to play over a weekend of camping with other families. My 6 year old can hold his own, though he does tend to get tired by the end of the game.

We are looking forward to adding the expansion sets to our collection over time.

dstb said...

My kids really enjoy Settlers of Catan and even pooled their money and bought themselves the Cities and Knights expansion pack. They also like games like Risk and Axis & Allies. These games are really not my cup of tea, so I resisted learning how to play Settlers. When I finally did play, I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoy it because you are involved even when it is not your turn.

Based upon Sheila's recommendation above, I had my sister buy Carcassone for my son's birthday. A great game. Easy to learn, but still requires strategic thinking. I think it is a new family favorite.