Catan: Review

Catan

OVERVIEW

Our Rating:

Catan is a game about collecting resources and using those resource to help build you settlements. Do whatever you can to get the necessary resources to help build your roads and make your new cities. Beware of other players trying to block your path and steal your goods as it is a race to be the most dominant colony in all of Catan!

Catan was recently featured in one of our favourite lists. Check it out on
Best Gateway Board Games for Beginners

RYAN'S REVIEW

My Rating:

Likes

  • Good game mechanics.
  • Trading adds a lot to the game.
  • Set up and game play are very easy.
  • Decent replay-abiliy with randomness of the board set up.

Dislikes

  • Slow moving at the start.
  • Not a tonne of strategy.
  • One person can get stuck, thus having no fun (not always).
  • Can make enemies quickly (maybe a pro?).

Intro/First Impressions

If you’ve found this page, or any new board game for that matter, you have heard of Catan (or formerly, "Settlers of Catan”). You have probably read some reviews and heard all your gaming friends tell you how much they love, and maybe hate, the game. I will review the game if you’ve never read a full review, but to our regular readers, this is to give you a sense of what I think about the game in hopes that some of you have the same opinions and can follow my recommendations in the future! My quick thought is that I enjoy the game, its simplicity, and most of its mechanics, but it’s not my favourite game.

Thoughts

Catan is one of those gateway games that get people sucked into the realm of the board game world. For that I love this game and will always have it as part of my collection. This game was one of the first ones I played, and even before doing so, I was drawn to it because of the sheer popularity of it. You can find this game mentioned amongst friends, in memes, and even on TV, for good reason.

The game is very simplistic in its mechanics. Collect resources, build stuff with those resources, and settle (build) Catan faster than your friends to win. You could teach your grandma, or more likely any new player, how to do that, which is why it is a must for anyone’s collection.

Catan Player Inventory

The mechanics of the game do get a little more complex, obviously, as you only get resources when the dice rolls the number you have a settlement on (or you make a trade…more on this later), and you only build on your turn. These additional rules, along with the rest that make this game interesting, are what keep even experienced players coming back for more. I won’t go into all the rules, but just know that the mechanics or functionality of this game are almost perfect.

Almost perfect you say? Yes, almost. There are a couple things I don’t like about the game. The first is the luck involved and the second is the pace.

The luck involved kind of sucks. If you are having an unlucky night and your number just isn’t getting rolled at the start or throughout the game, you are in trouble and probably aren’t going to have much fun. You need the dice to roll your number so you can continue to build or get development cards, and if that doesn’t happen, you sit and watch everyone else build out.

Catan Resource Cards and Development Cards

There are a couple things they have implemented to counter this. The first being where the "numbers" are placed on the board. You can build on different numbers to change your luck, or move towards higher probability numbers. However, if you aren’t able to build in the first place, this doesn’t help you.

The other thing they do to mitigate the luck issue is the trading aspect of the game (i.e. you can make trades with any other player to get what you need. “I’ll trade you two wood for one brick”). However, you still need resources to be able to trade. It seems like every game we play, someone is stuck not doing anything and having no fun at all. Pro tip here: If this happens to you, your new mission becomes blocking others from getting anywhere!

The second thing I don’t fully like, even though I understand why it has to happen, is the pace of play. At the start of the game, things move very slowly. No one is building and many turns pass simply collecting resources. Then as you finally start to get a good flow of resources and are able to make things happen, someone is one Victory Point away to finish the game.

Yes, I get that this is somewhat simulated to real life and building an empire, but doesn’t mean I can’t dislike it. That being said, though, it does seem like there are usually a couple people one turn away from winning when the game ends, so obviously they have tested it enough to know how to keep it close.

Things move fairly slowly because there is a rule that can punish people who hoard resource cards. I love and hate this rule, and so will you. As someone who likes to bide my time and make lots of big moves at once to catch my enemies off guard, this becomes very hard to do. I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder as much as a planner. Some people *cough* Kaitlyn and Charlene *cough cough* are serious about their card hoarding, so I’m glad this puts a stop to that, or at least makes them think twice about it.

The set up for the game is really easy, and one of the things I like about the game. As you get more experienced, you simply layout the tiles in a random order before picking your starting spots. The beauty of this is that it creates massive replay-ability. You can have a different board every time you play.

Yes, sometimes there will be very unfair boards, or all of one resource may be in one corner… but who cares?! That adds to the fun of it. Either everyone will be trying to get into that corner creating chaos… or there will be some major trading going on… which brings me to my next favourite part…

Trading!!! Grrrrrr. I enjoy you so much! Kind of. As mentioned, you can trade with your fellow players throughout the game. This adds a total wild card to the game. You can be playing with stingy players who won’t give up anything, or savvy players who will only do 2 for 1s… because they are scum like that. You never really know how this will shake down, and as you can tell this can create alliances or total trade embargoes on players and the result usually involves trying to convince everyone else to join your embargo, adding a bunch of passion (read: anger and excitement) to the game.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to convince everyone to stop trading with Whitney because she is going to win if we give her what she wants.

Ryan

The other thing that can change the game dramatically are the development cards. For those that don’t know, these cards can help you throughout the game by allowing you to do things like move the robber (more on this bugger in a bit), collect all of one kind of resource, gain victory points, etc. Even though the game works really well without them, this adds the much need element of surprise.

When someone has a development card, you don’t know what they have or how it could change the game in their favour, so you have to be suspicious of them. Most of the game you can somewhat predict what your opponents are going to do, but as soon as they have one of these cards, you have to be cautious, and potentially move a little faster.

Catan Robber

The robber. This little bugger can block (i.e. steal) your resources so you can’t get them. He can be moved throughout the game it a few situations, but adds another layer of strategy and fun to the game. Again, he can cause you to become super slow moving at the start of the game, and thus make it no fun… or give you a very strong advantage if used correctly. Either way, he also goes by the name of the enemy maker in my head, because whoever uses him against me is now my sworn enemy.

Conclusion

Overall I do enjoy this game, and we continue to play it, especially with new people because of its simplicity and overall balanced game play. For me, the amount of luck involved, especially early in the game, detracts from it a bit. That being said, however, I know that is what makes this game work so if you go in with the attitude that lady luck might not being on your side that night, then you will be OK. It is a game you will find on most board gamers' shelves, and hopefully this review will help to show you that there is a reason for that. Pick this game up if you are starting out into this board gaming world.

About the author

Ryan

I love playing board games with my family and friends when I am not busy playing sports or working away. Check out my full Bio on the About Us page!

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