Settlers of Catan is one of my favorite board games for beginners. The overall objective of Catan is to be the first settler to obtain 10 victory points. It sounds simple at first, but you will find yourself plotting against your friend in first place and teaming up with another to obtain the last piece of rock to complete your city.
How to Earn Victory Points
Victory points in Settlers of Catan are earned by collecting resources to build settlements, cities, and roads. You can also purchase development cards to earn the largest army (2 points) or randomly get a card worth one point.
How to Play Settlers of Catan
Players take turns by rolling the dice and if they have a settlement or city on the board next to the matching number, then they collecting that resource. Once you have enough resources, you can cash them in to build a road, settlement, city, or obtain a development card.
The twist to Settlers of Catan is how players will interact with each other when they need to trade. You won’t find many games where you are competing against the other players but also having to work together in order to win
Trading with Other Players
The cooperation comes into play when you need a particular resource in order to build a settlement but you are nowhere near that resource tile. You are then forced to trade in order to get what you want.
Suppose you have a surplus of sheep. You have several cards, but what you really need is some brick. You realize don’t have any settlements on brick and you probably never will. Now you will have to either cut a deal with another player, use a sheep port (more on ports later,) or have at least four that you can trade for one of anything. See how cooperation can be handy?
Ports in Catan
The developers of Catan must have realized that there will always be players that want to do everything on their own. If that’s your play style, there will still be opportunities for you to win as well.
Remember that surplus of sheep from earlier? Well, let’s say I don’t want to trade with another player OR the other player is trying to hustle me. At this point, I can either trade four sheep outright for any resource I want or use a trading port.
There is a port for each resource (sheep, brick, wood, wheat, and ore) where you can trade at a 2:1 ratio. There is also a port where you can trade whatever resource you want at a 3:1 ratio. So if I have a sheep port, I can trade in two of my sheep for another resource I am really needing. Ports are your friend!
If you thought you were having a tough time collecting the right resources, just wait till you roll a seven.
If you do, then the robber is now active and everyone must discard half of their cards if they have seven or more. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the person who rolled the seven gets to move the robber to any hex that he or she wants. Painless, right?
Wrong! That resource is then blocked anytime the corresponding number is rolled. So if an eight is rolled, you have a settlement on it, and the robber is placed there, you won’t be able to collect that resource until another seven is rolled.
As if that isn’t bad enough, the person that rolled a seven gets to pull any resource card they want from anyone who has a settlement on the newly blocked resource hex.
Number of players
Settlers of Catan plays best with 3 to 4 players. I suppose you COULD play with two if you were just dying to conquer the land of Catan. The issue with only two players is that you would be forced to cut deals with the other person — I am far too competitive to do that. Sometimes you have to work the system and that is hard to do with just two settlers!
Is Settlers of Catan Difficulty to Learn?
When you are setting up Settlers of Catan to play with someone new to board games, it will probably make the new player nervous based on the number of pieces being setup.
However, Catan is very easy to play and to teach. You should encourage new players to ask questions while you go through the first few turns. It’s a very visual game so it’s easy to learn if you just start playing.
If needed, the rule book goes into significant detail about anything you could possibly imagine. However, I prefer to use this five minute video of Catan and refer to the rule book while we play.
It usually takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to play. Catan can go longer if you have some slow-pokes you are playing with — you know who you are! These are typically the settlers that love to take their time and over analyze all of their trading possibilities.
Overall, I would give the artwork a 7.5 out of 10. The hexagons didn’t necessarily depict the appropriate resource card in the best way, but it is not difficult to identify which card you get. Each resource varies in color which helped in identification.
After a few rounds, you catch on as to which resource belongs to which hexagon. There is a minimalist feel to the game that can be a breath of fresh air in a world that is consumed by flashiness.
The roads, settlements, and cities are simple, colored pieces of wood. I think that the uniqueness doesn’t come from the artwork, but rather the variable nature of the game itself.
Play with “That Guy’”
Confession: I totally stereotyped this game for the nerdy gamer when I was first introduced. At first, I ranked it up there with Dungeons and Dragons. I know, right?!
I even talked my spouse out of buying it. However, once I played it, I realized that The Settler’s of Catan was actually a lot of fun! It was enjoyable trying to build the longest road and monopolizing the brick resource.
I hated when someone rolled a 7, but threw a party on the inside when I rolled a 7 and got to move the thief! It felt as if I was somehow channeling my love for Oregon Trail, but in board game form and without dying of cholera. All this to say, I think that given the chance, Settlers of Catan is for anyone.
Game Night Food Pairings
I think that Settlers of Catan lends itself nicely to just good conversation with friends. You should eat before because once you start rolling the dice, you will constantly be picking up cards.
I don’t recommend dressing up, especially for the first time players (see above comment!) You could very easily turn Catan into a drinking game. Anytime a 7 is rolled, drink. Anytime a high probability number is rolled (8 or 6), drink. So, grab a stein and your favorite ale and get rollin’.
Image source: catan.com