Can’t Stop Playing Catan!
by Lyn MacNamee
Catan’s got it all: strategy, skill, competition and fun — the perfect combination in a board game.
“Clear the table,” Jenny said, unwrapping her box of CATAN. “Here’s a game you’re gonna love.” She was so spot on, ‘cos with one round done, we couldn’t wait to play again.
Origins of Catan: Trade, Settle and Build
We discovered Catan in 2016, so I was surprised to find it’s been around for years.
The game’s inventor, Klaus Teuber, was a German dental technician who much preferred dreaming of Vikings to fixing false teeth.
He imagined an island where intrepid settlers built homes and roads, traded for goods, yet still weren’t above the odd raid on a dark night. And with this simple scenario, he launched the Settlers of Catan in 1995.
Catan is a game with plenty of strategies — and a little luck.
First, you create an island from randomly-numbered tiles. Fields, mountains, forests and mines — the combination’s different every time you play.
Collect resources by rolling the dice, and use the cards to build settlements, roads, cities and armies. Each building is worth a point or two. Expand your reach and trade with the “enemy” — or work with an ally against a common foe.
Yes, you’ll need 10 points and a cunning plan to win.
“What’s your secret?” I asked my son-in-law, who beats me every time we play Catan.
“I don’t really have one,” he shrugged. But I reckon he has a few.
Paul always converts his settlements to cities. Not only does a city give two victory points, he also gets two resource cards when he rolls the right number.
Choose The Best Numbers
Statistically, some numbers come up more often because of the combinations on two dice. 5+1, 2+5, 3+3, 4+2 or 5+1 all make six. But 12 only has 6+6, so you’re far less likely roll it.
So if you place your first settlements on numbers like 5, 6, 8 & 9 you’ll quickly collect resources. That’s how Paul gets the ore and grain he needs to build those cities.
Create A Monopoly
Occasionally he corners the market on one resource. Sometimes the island has clusters of fields, forests or mountains. So, Paul will fence them in with cities and roads as fast as the cards allow. That stops other players from getting a resource and gives him plenty of resource cards to trade.
Buy Investment Cards
9-year-old Owen has a different, but equally effective strategy. He buys investment cards like they’re going out of fashion.
With piles of knights, monopolies, road cards and more Owen has all sorts of powers each time his turn comes round.
Avoid The Robber
Amongst all the resource hexagons lies the forbidden desert, home to the dreaded robber. This little piece can cause havoc by blocking any tile he’s on. And to move him you need to roll a 7.
Like everything to do with the game of Catan, this is a mixed blessing. When you move the robber to block another player you also get to steal one of their cards. However, if you have eight or more cards in your hand when the 7 is thrown, you must return half your cards to the pile.
Many Catan Variations To Try
The Catan world has grown mightily since the original game won the 1995 German “Game of the Year” award. Four Expansion packs: Seafarer, Cities and Knights, Traders & Barbarians and Explorers & Pirates have been added to the original Catan, giving fans four new games to play. There’s even a Game of Thrones edition!
You can also get extension packs, which allow five or six people to play instead of the usual 3-4. There’s a two-player version in the form of a card game called Rivals of Catan.
Naturally, there’s also a Catan world online plus big tournaments in America and Europe. There’s even a World Championship. Look out for the next WC in 2020.
Addictive Fun, Even When You Lose
I’ve learnt heaps about being a good loser since we discovered Catan, because Owen, Jenny and Paul — not to mention 7-year-old James — almost always pip me at the post.
Nevertheless, Catan has me hooked. I adore the strategy, the companionship and the good-natured rivalry in every round we play.
But, most of all, I love those rare moments when I’m the one who says “10 points — I win!”