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The Settlers of Catan


One night be phone rang and when I picked up my cousin said, "Hey. Come over and play this nerdy board game with us!" and looking for an excuse to nurture my inner nerd I agreed to go. When I arrived I saw what looked like a really complicated game being set up. My cousin was in the corner with the instructions, brows furrowed and shouting random things about the game to us as we inspected all the various parts and pieces. Needless to say that we were not experts at strategic Eurogames, but I had heard that The Settlers of Catan was a good place to start so we set up, sat down, and started to play.

Catan is a game based on strategic placement of settlements, roads, and cities with the goal of acquiring resources to build more settlements, roads, and cities. A specific number of victory points are attached to each item (1 for settlement, 2 for city) and points can also come from other places (like having the Longest Road or the Largest Army) and the first person to 10 victory points wins. Gathering resources proved to be a game of chance and strategy as the roll of the dice determines what resources are to be collected, but the placement of your buildings determines whether or not you get to cash in on the roll. My first two settlements were both placed adjacent to Wheat fields both under the number "8" disks. So everytime an "8" was rolled I would get two wheat cards, and when I replaced one of those settlements with a city I would get three (having a settlement gets you one card, having a city gets you two). Inadvertently I had monopolized the Wheat market which proved to be quite useful when bartering.

The true character of your friends and family really comes out during trading. Those who are demanding and stingy usually make enemies pretty quickly, but their ruthlessness can end in victory. Those who are too generous usually get walked all over, but they worry less about getting stabbed in the back. I was careful not to make enemies too quickly, but I did do one pretty vicious play that gave me quite a rush.

In the game there is a robber who not only steals half of your cards but also camps out on your resources and prevents you from collecting. When a player rolls a 7 everyone with 8 or more cards loses half their cards, and the player gets to move the robber wherever they wish. In addition there are knight cards that allow you to move the robber and to steal a card from the adjacent settlement or city. Towards the end of the game my brother and I rolled a 7 (we played on teams since there were so many of us) and negotiated that we wouldn't move a robber to a certain place if that team (who was winning) would give us some absurd amount of ore, then we immediately used the knight to move the robber to that spot and took another card from them. Mean, huh? Well, they won anyways so don't feel too bad for them.

Overall we throughoughly enjoyed the game, and even though the rules are more complicated than your typical "roll and move" board game it is easy to catch on once the game gets going. We've "settled Catan" a couple of times since then, and even though I may not know much about Eurogames, I have to say I have joined the masses that adore playing The Settlers of Catan.


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