It's been 20 years since The Settlers of Catan first delighted tabletop gamers around the world, and the simple game of dice rolling, resource trading and point-scoring development has been a staple of the hobby ever since. Recently, Mayfair Games released a new fifth edition of this classic, along with several of its expansions.
In the base game, now just dubbed Catan, 2-4 players (or 5-6 with the extension) set up an island nation of Catan, which features hexes that correspond to certain resources and have a number on top. On a player's turn, he or she rolls the dice, then everyone with a settlement or city adjacent to that number gains that resource. Players then engage in negotiation in order to trade and collect the resources needed to buy roads, cities and development cards.
When players roll a seven, the robber moves and blocks resources and allows the rolling player to steal a card from another. Players score points by building cities, building the longest road, creating the biggest army (with cards) and more. The first player to score 10 points wins the game.
In the expansion, Seafarers of Catan, players create multiple islands on the board and construct ships to act as sea lanes, much like the roads on land. Players score points for building settlements on new islands. When a player rolls a seven, he may move the robber or the pirate ship in order to block sea lanes and steal cards.
The expansion Cities & Knights introduces several new concepts, such as commodities, which act like super-resources and which are essential to developing cities. Players use flip-charts to mark the progress of their cities and allow them to draw special new cards. Also, players must build knights, which come in three levels, in order to protect themselves from barbarian raids. Players also roll a third die to activate cities and the barbarians.
The expansion Traders & Barbarians brings many different variants and optional rules to the game. Players may use event cards rather than dice rolls to activate resources. A player may be named Harbormaster by building the most harbor points in the game. Players may want to play with rivers and bridges, or the fisherman scenario, or more.
The 5th edition of Catan and its expansions each come with a helpful insert to keep the components organized, and players can integrate the expansions in fun and interesting ways.
At 20 years old, Catan is a fun and engaging game for both young and old players and remains a wonderful gateway game to introduce people to modern tabletop entertainment. The base game can still delight seasoned gamers as well, and the expansions really bring some fun and interesting new dynamics to this great game. Of the expansions, Seafarers of Catan is probably the most accessible and fun for gamers, though they all pack a punch.
Time: 60-90 minutes
Cost: MSRP for the base game is $48, though both it and the expansions can be found in the $35-50 range. The 5-6 player extensions can be found in the $20-30 range.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org