Game Review: The Settlers of Catan

Dubbed as the new Monopoly, the game Catan has quickly become a very popular game that had won several awards. One of which is an Oscar for board games. Die Siedler von Catan is widely popular that is why the game is available in sets produced in over thirty different languages around the world.

The Settlers of Catan is a multiplayer board game invented in the mid-1900 by a dental technician named Klaus Teuber. It was first published in 1995 in Germany by Franckh-Kosmos Verlag and the game was called Die Siedler von Catan. The original design was initially for a large game about exploration and development in a new land. In between the years 1993 and 1995, the game Settlers of Catan was refined and simplified into its current form.

However, after 20 years of being in the market, the manufacturers of The Settlers of Catan decided to change the name. Now, all new editions were sold or is being sold under its shortened name, Catan, since 2015. The widely known game is now housed in its new box that is portrait-shaped. All the arts were made by a single artist for it to have a consistent visual, like the covers, cards, and tiles.

The game has been doing well and had sold over 18 million copies ever since its release, remaining as one of the most popular board games on Amazon.

The following are the core game versions:

Product
Visual
Where to Buy

The Settlers of Catan

Catan Board Game 5th Edition

Catan

Catan: Junior

Catan: Family Edition

Catan Histories: Merchants of Europe

Star Trek Catan Board Game

The following are the major expansion packs:

Product
Visual
Where to Buy

Catan: 5-6 Player Extension

Catan: Seafarers Expansion

Catan: Seafarers 5-6 Player Extension

Catan: Explorers and Pirates Expansion

Catan: Explorers and Pirates 5-6 Player Extension

Catan: Traders and Barbarians

Catan: Traders and Barbarians 5-6 Player Extension

Catan: Cities and Knights 5-6 Player Extension

Star Trek Federation Space, A Two Map Expansion for Star Trek Catan

Catan Histories: Settlers of America Trails to Rails

Catan: Rivals for Catan - Age of Darkness Expansion

The following are additional options and add-ons:

Product
Visual
Where to Buy

Compact Catan Carrying Case by Citadel Black

MageCraft Travel Carrying Hard Case For Catan 5th Edition And 5-6 Player Extension

Catan: Dice Game

Rivals For Catan - Deluxe

Struggle for Catan

Catan: Chocolate Edition

Set of 6 Game Piece Holder for Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights and Seafarers Expansions

Gameplay

Catan playing time can take 90 minutes or less and involves three or four players. Some of the expansion packs can make it a longer game and more players can extend the game time as well.  It is designed to keep close competition in a positive way because this unique game rewards cooperation. In this game, one player’s success will benefit the others because a single roll can generate resources for multiple players. That is why if you only form a monopoly on a single resource you will never be able to win. You need to have a combination of different resources to get anywhere on the island.

Strategy and ingeniousness will help you keep up in the game and trades are almost always mutually beneficial.

Catan is a fictional island in the game where players or settlers will trade resources, build settlements, and establish roads as well as cities to connect them as they settle the island. Players will then race to earn 10 victory points and whoever gets them first will win the game.

Catan Board Game

The game board represents the island wherein there are nineteen hexagonal tiles known as “terrain Hexes” that are shuffled and laid out at the start of the game.  Each hexagonal tile represents one of five resources: brick, wool, ore, grain, or lumber. Each hexagonal tile has an assigned number between two and twelve that are evenly distributed on the board. Resources of each land type are represented by resource cards except on the unproductive desert in which players can build settlements by spending their resources.

Each player will roll two pieces of dice, and the number that’s rolled will determine which terrain hex produces resources. If a player has a settlement adjacent to the hexagonal tile containing the number that had just rolled, he will receive one card of the corresponding resource, if it is a city, it will be two cards of the corresponding resource. More resources will allow the player to build more or to upgrade settlements into cities.

There is also a robber initially placed on the board game that moves around to different hex terrain. If the robber is on the hexagonal terrain, the terrain cannot produce its resources until the robber moves again. And, if a player rolls a 7, the robber should move to the next hex terrain, and that player can also steal a resource card from another player. Also, if a 7 is rolled, all players that have more than 7 resource card have to give some back.

The player, who gets lots of resources, builds a civilization to get 10 winning points to win the game. Points can be acquired by building settlements, cities and building the longest road as well as by gathering the largest army. You can also get points by accumulating certain development cards that bring victory points. A player can score one point in each settlement that they own, and they can score two points for each city. Once a player has collected 10 points, he or she will present his or her total and will become the winner.

Extensions and Expansions

KOSMOS originally published Die Siedler von Catan and went through multiple editions. After which, it had undergone four more editions and was licensed by Mayfair with a name The Settlers of Catan. In 2015, the game Settlers of Catan simplified its name to better represent itself as the official base game and core of the Catan series. It was then formally renamed as Catan.

The game has been re-published in two travel editions which are the portable edition and compact edition. It also released a special gallery edition that was later replaced with a family edition in 2009. Also released were the anniversary wooden edition, deluxe 3D collector’s edition, and a basic beginner version called Simply Catan. In Japan and Asia, Settlers of Catan: Rockman Edition has an entirely new theme. Aside from a variety of editions released, numerous spin-offs and expansions were also made for the game.

The base game of the Catan series is originally for 3-4 players. But after an extension was made in 1996, the game now allows up to six players. After adding the 5-6 player extension, the game designer, Teuber, started publishing expansions for the base game. The game’s first expansion is the Seafarers of Catan. It was released in 1997 and was later renamed as Catan: Seafarers. Seafarers have the concept of exploration. The game has ships which enable the players to cross sea hexes and also have scenarios wherein players explore an archipelago of islands.

The second large expansion to the game is the Cities and Knights of Catan released in 1998. The name was later changed to Catan: Cities and Knights. The game’s concept includes Knights that should be used to defend the city of Catan from the invading barbarians. Aside from the original resources, there are three commodities that can be produced. These are paper, coin, and cloth. There are also improvements that can be bought for cities which gives benefits to players. Like the base game, Catan: Cities and Knights also released a 5–6 player extension.

The third major expansion was released in 2008 and is called Catan: Traders & Barbarians. Its set contains an official two-player variant where the Traders & Barbarians will collect a number of smaller scenarios. Like the game, all of its many expansions were also published by Mayfair Games.

A special edition of the game which is a 10th-anniversary collector’s edition was released in 2005. It comprises of the base game and Cities & Knights along with hand-painted 3D tiles as well as playing pieces.

In 2007, a fourth edition of The Settlers of Catan with a minor rule change was released by Mayfair Games. The fourth edition also came with new artwork, a deeper box, a locking frame, and an insert tray. But after its release, two more changes were made to this fourth edition. The first change was that the robber playing piece was changed in color from a black to a grey. While the second change was with the soldier development card. The soldier development card was renamed a knight.

Along with the base game, the Cities & Knights, as well as the Seafarers, had also released their own fourth-edition versions. Also released at the same time was the 5–6 player extensions.

The fourth large expansion was released in 2013 and was named Catan: Explorers & Pirates.

Two years later after the fourth large expansion, the Catan line was rebranded for the 20th anniversary of the series. The original Settlers of Catan game was shortened and simplified renaming it simply as Catan.

Variants and Scenarios

The first historical scenario pack named Die Siedler von Catan: Historische Szenarien I in German or The Settlers of Catan: Historical Scenarios I in English was released in 1998. Using Catan game mechanics, players get to re-enact the amazing building of the pyramids of Egypt as well as the expansion of Alexander the Great’s empire in this scenario.

Die Siedler von Catan: Das Buch zum Spielen was published in 2000 and is not available in the English language. It contains rules and pieces for 15 new scenarios and many variants. Soon after, a second scenario pack was released in 2001. This scenario was for Settlers with regards to the building of the Great Wall of China as well as the Trojan War 

In 2005, Atlantis: Scenarios and Variants were published and was available as a standalone item. This was a boxed set that is composed of a number of scenarios and variants like The Volcano and The Great River that were published in gaming magazines as well as in conventions. The Atlantis set added a deck of event cards that act as a replacement for the dice in the base game. Due to the use of the deck of cards, it gave players less random spread of resource production. These deck of event cards had been modified and was re-released in the Traders and Barbarians expansion.

Another standalone item was released in 2008 by Kosmos in German and Mayfair in English. It was called Catan Geographies: Germany. This game was derived from the original base game, Settlers of Catan, but is set on the historical map of Germany.

In 2009, Dragons and Explorers or Schätze, Drachen und Entdecker Treasures in German was published. This scenario pack for fans is composed of six new scenarios and the pieces needed to play them. This was then re-released in 2017. This 2017 re-release was updated with new artwork to be able to match the fourth edition of Settlers of Catan that was released in 2015. This Dragons and Explorers or Schätze, Drachen und Entdecker is somehow exclusive to German fans because it has not been published in English.

Catan: Oil Springs was introduced in 2011. It was an expansion designed by Erik Assadourian and Ty Hansen which was meant to draw attention to environmental issues. This scenario added oil fields that players can use to make other resources as well as to develop metropolises. It has a downside to it though because if too much oil is used, disasters can strike. However, oil can also be taken out of the game to help prevent disasters or to be used to claim victory points. This was offered as a free download or can be purchased from the Mayfair Games website.

In 2012, Catan: Frenemies was released. In this scenario, players are rewarded with favor tokens for helping their opponents. These favor tokens are redeemable. The ways to help opponents to be able to get favor tokens are by helping them move the robber harmlessly, by giving away some resources, or by connecting your roads to your opponents’ road networks. However, these favors might or might not be helpful depending on your circumstances.

Another expansion was released in 2013 and was called Helpers of Catan. In this small expansion Marianne, Sean and Jean will return as helper cards. Originally Marianne & Co. were opponents in Catan: Cities & Knights but in this expansion, they will no longer be the opponents. They will act as help or support which can be used during gameplay. This new expansion can be used with the Catan base game and Catan – Seafarers making the gameplay diverse.

Brother’s Game

Unknown to many, The Settlers of Catan had a secret past. Everyone probably knows about The Settlers of Catan because it is one of the most popular board games that had attracted millions of players around the world. It was so well known that the game had a series of expansions. However, players or even the fans probably didn’t have the slightest idea about Catan’s two brothers. Catan’s two brothers are Entdecker and Domaine. Unused mechanics from Catan’s design were used in Teuber’s succeeding games called Entdecker and Löwenherz or Domaine.

Catan Board Game

Master game designer Klaus Teuber envisioned something much larger. He desired to capture the essence of the stories about discovery and adventure in a game. He hoped to be able to build games that will allow players to experience the excitement of exploration, adventure, and development of these stories for themselves.

But instead of trying to put all of his interests together in one game, he thought that he should instead make a trio of games. In each game, he made it so that players will be able to focus on one aspect of his original design. Each game is exciting and interesting on their own because of their own theme.

The Settlers of Catan also known as Die Siedler von Catan in German was a game that focused on development and trade. This was also the first of the three brother’s game.

The second game called Entdecker has the same name in both German and English. Entdecker when translated means discoverer or explorer. The game was named as such because being the discoverer is exactly the role that players must take on in this game.

Entdecker starts with an almost empty field with just a few clues with regards to what the players must find are provided. The players are provided with a small number of coins each. Using the coins, players should invest to be able to send their ship out for exploration into the unknown. The explorations are being done with the use of tiles. Through each tile, the waterway that the ship can freely explore are shown. The tiles also can show a small amount of land that is ready for further exploration.

The goal of the game is to explore the island while earning points as you go through with it. Added to the game Entdecker was the creation of new outposts in addition to funding a player’s exploration. Players should use their limited resources to set-up new settlements and forts on the islands they will discover. However, the points will not go to the one who discovered the island. The points will go to the player who ends up with absolute control of the island. That is why players must hire adventurous and fearless scouts that will brave the jungles to negotiate with the natives that live on the island. This is just one of the ways to be able to further stretch a player’s strategy.

The third game, on the other hand, focuses on the unavoidable conflicts that arise between established princes because of the limited resources. This third game is known as Domaine by the American players, and as Loenherz by the Germans players. Although the game slightly differs in Germany, the idea is still almost the same.

In Domaine, the entire land is explored, settlements are built, and forests are tamed. To start, a player should stake their claim to the regions of the board also called domaines. Then players must hire knights that will defend their holdings. These knights are also used to help expand the land into the domaines of their opponents.

Like the fascinating adventure and discovery books that Teuber is interested in reading, these brother’s game also somehow tells a story. In the beginning, there is the Discoverer who fearlessly and bravely sets off into the unknown just to explore and seek out new lands. Then after him comes the Settler, who sets-up new outposts, and develops productive societies. Finally, there comes the valiant conqueror, who claims the various lands while establishing them into a single powerful kingdom under his own rule.

The Man Who Built Catan

The maker of the game, Klaus Teuber, developed The Settlers of Catan board game design in the 1990s simply as a hobby. This hobby started in the eighties when Klaus Teuber was unhappy with his company and his profession. Since then, he developed games as a means to escape and began designing elaborate board games in his basement workshop. To him, the games were his own world that he created.

In 1952, Teuber was born in a small village called Rai-Breitenbach which was tucked beneath Breuberg Castle located in central Germany. When he was a child, he would set up miniature fighters and ancient Romans. He would also use strings to create mountains and rivers as well as to make routes through the terrain. Later on, he made games during his mandatory military service to be able to entertain his wife and young son while in the barracks.

In 1988, while he was still running Teuber Dental-Labor, he built a game named Barbarossa. It is a game wherein players get to mold clay sculptures and tries to guess what their opponents’ figures represent. Teuber took seven years before he was able to show the game Barbarossa to a publisher. After he did, the game became a hit. The game was able to win the most coveted prize in the board-game world. Barbarossa won the Spiel des Jahres award in 1988.

Barbarosa was made while Teuber was reading a fantasy trilogy. He decided to make the game so that he can experience the novel The Riddle-Master in a game. This novel was written by Patricia McKillip and is about a man who wins a game of riddles against a ghost.

After the success of Barbarossa, Teuber went on to design many different games. Two of which had won Spiel des Jahres awards. Even so, he still kept working in the dental lab.

In 1991, his interest in the history of Vikings inspired him to make the game Catan. He became interested in Iceland and the age of discovery after reading histories of Viking life. He committed himself to design the game. It took him four years to finish the product perfectly.

In the beginning, the instructions consisted of a number of complicated mechanics but were eventually simplified. Then Teuber started experimenting with using hexagonal tiles as opposed to square tiles to be used for his board. This was a breakthrough moment and became the official board tiles of the game.

The final version debuted in Germany in 1995. This version is composed of 19 hexagonal cardboard tiles, two dice, a stack of resource cards, and some wooden houses. The game Catan sold out very quickly that the game designer himself did not have his own first edition copy. The first run of the game sold 5000 games and became an instant success in Germany.

Die Siedler von Catan or The Settlers of Catan won the Spiel des Jahres in 1995 and is Teubers 4th Spiel des Jahres. Spiel des Jahres winners during that time had been gaining a following in American hobby stores for several years. But it was Catan who paved the way for the Americans to be able to have access to Eurogames.

Eurogames most often called German-style games because a lot of them originated in Germany is a genre of tightly designed, strategy-based products. These games have fairly simple rules. They are also intellectually demanding but not too complicated. However, these games are more expensive. A game of Monopoly has a suggested retail price of eighteen dollars while The Settlers of Catan retails for forty-two dollars.

Teuber has developed a number of games outside the Catan world since 1995. Some of these include the medieval-themed Domaine and his recent non-Catan game called Norderwind.

Klaus Teuber is now the managing director of Catan GmbH, a business he runs with his family. Teuber and his sons, Guido and Benjamin, each hold the title of managing director; Guido focuses on the English-speaking market and Benjamin controls the international side and helps with game development. While his wife, Claudia is responsible for bookkeeping and testing new games.

Popularity

The Settlers of Catan was one of the first German-style board games to achieve mainstream success and popularity outside of Europe. It had sold more than 22 million copies in 30 different languages all over the world as of 2015. Even if the game requires a substantial amount of strategy, it is still very easy to learn.

Catan has won several awards and is one of the most popular games these days because of its incredible ability to appeal to experienced players as well as to beginners. The increased popularity of the game resulted in having higher popularity with regards to the tournament as well. The Settlers of Catan US Championship tournament has been increasing in popularity along with the game that more and more players are joining its qualifying events.

The game was so well received that a number of video games and mini-computer games were made based on its core game The Settlers of Catan as well as its expansions.

Aside from video and computer games, a novel about Catan entitled Die Siedler von Catan was published in 2003 by German historical fiction author Rebecca Gablé.

A short film entitled The Lord of Catan was released in 2014 starring actors Amy Acker and Fran Kranz. They act as a married couple in the film who are entangled in an intense game of Catan.

In television, the game Catan has made an appearance twice on the show The Big Bang Theory. It was also seen on the show, Parks and Recreation, as a favorite activity of Ben Wyatt, Pawnee’s resident uber-nerd.

In February 2015, a producer purchased the film and TV rights to The Settlers of Catan while in October 2017 Sony Pictures were reported to have been negotiating about the acquisition of rights to adapt the game into a film, which is a solid proof of the game’s increasing popularity.

This board game that present economic theory and land development spread to Silicon Valley and was dubbed as the new golf with entrepreneurs discussing business and building business relationships over a board game. Even Green Bay Packers were fans of the board game and would play it as a form of bonding exercise amongst the members.

Aside from an Oscar award, the game Catan also made a world record for largest game of Catan ever played. In 2015, 1040 participants which include Klaus Teuber himself came to Germany’s Spiel convention at Essen, Germany to gather around an expanded board. This event grabbed the so far record of 922 players from an event that happened in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2013.

Awards

Spiel des Jahres award is the most distinguished award in the game industry. Spiel des Jahres which is German for “Game of the Year” recognizes a new game that is exceptional in the areas of concept, rule structure, design, and layout.

The Settlers of Catan was honored in 1995. It was the fourth Game of the Year award for Klaus Teuber’s with Barbarossa being his first game to win that award. Catan won almost every other award for board games in 1995. It won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Board Game and the Meeples’ Choice Award. It also got first place at the Deutscher Spiele Preis.

1995: Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year

1995: Deutscher Spiele Preis 1st place

1995: Essen Feather

1995: Meeples’ Choice Award

1996: Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Board Game

2004: Hra roku

2005: Games Magazine Hall of Fame

2005: Gra Roku Game of the Year

2015: GamesCon Vegas Game of the Century

The game Catan is rewarding and fun. It combines strategy and luck to be able to win in the game. This game somehow also teaches players new ways of thinking, and it also presents a healthy competitive spirit. Klaus Teuber is a genius game designer that was able to create three incredible games that are unique in its own right. Each game gives the player unique challenges and opportunities. But when combined all together, the games present creation and development of a world that is very similar to our own.