So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Game That “Settles” In, Never To Leave - Yeah!


Promotional image from Mayfair Games
One of the great family games of all time has to be Settlers of Catan.  Not only did it win the Spiel des Jahres in 1995, but it is the game that really brought German style games to the American market.  It has broken ground again in being one of the first German styles games to move into the mass market; Settlers is available at Target stores.

In Settlers, players are on a resource rich island, attempting to build their colony the fastest.  Players collect resources (wood, sheep, wheat, ore or brick) based upon the location of settlements they own, and then use those resources to build more settlements, roads which connect them, or upgrade the settlements to cities.  These, in turn, produce more resources.  Cities and settlements count towards victory points (as do a few other things), and the first player to ten victory points wins.  Negotiation is a big part of the game, since the trading of resources is allowed.  These negotiations are full of worries about helping the other players more than yourself, particularly if you are negotiating with the point leader.

A game being played with a Third Edition copy. (Image by Mikko Saari)
 The first reason this is such a great game is how reachable it is.  With some help, a child down to about age eight could play this.  After a time or two they could play on their own, though they won’t play particularly well.  Once the boy or girl hits double digits, however, this game will take off.  I have successfully taught this game to a lot of people.  Keep in mind, it isn’t the first game I teach people, unless they have had some prior gaming experience.  It is a greatsecond game.  I can’t stress that enough.  This game is a classic.

The second reason this is such a great game is that it has both dice and cards in it.  Most people are used to the idea of cards and dice in a game, but not necessarily together, and not used in this way.  These are not “roll-and-move” dice.  We are not thinking “draw a card, play a card”.  Dice are used to generate resources, and the resources are represented by cards.  This is a great game to break those notions of how dice and cards are used, and lay some groundwork for other games that use traditional game elements in non-traditional ways.

This game also has a modular board, which is a concept that is also life-altering when you first see it.  The “board” is made up of hexagons which are shuffled and set out, so the board configuration is always changing.  This means that your strategy and tactics need tweaking with every play, and Settlers stays fresh longer than many other games.

This game has some serious fans! (Image by Matthew M Monin)
Lastly, this game is fun.  I have played it somewhere around 25 times.  It’s not often the first game I pull out, but that’s mainly because I tend to play new games as often as I can.  It comes out every few months, and we enjoy it immensely.  In fact, most of our “Do you remember the time…” gaming moments come from Settlers games.

Settlers of Catan is a available at many game stores and online.  In my neck of the woods, it is also at Target and a Barnes and Nobles.  I highly recommend this game for your collection if you don’t have it already.  This game is a “must-have”.

Risk (Revised)
                Ages:                    8 and up
                Time:                     90 minutes
                Players:                 3-4



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