You would have probably heard about Monopoly, Cluedo, Risk or Scrabble. The traditional boardgames that most of us grew up with back before the days of the Apple product invasion. Even way before computer games were that much fun to play with.
What about Settlers of Catan? Ticket to Ride? Le Havre? These were the few boardgames that I started playing when I was in the late 20s. Lately, my family have been bitten by the Settlers of Catan bug, we have been having weekly sessions ever since. This is a game published by Klaus Teuber back in 1995. Although it isn’t as old as Monopoly, it has sold almost 15 million copies. Sad to say, there isn’t a shop here that sells Catan, I had to travel 450km to the capital to get my hands on it. But boy, it was worth it.
The premise of the game is simple, you build settlements and roads, upgrade them to cities and then earn points to win the game. The hexagonal tiles, which can be randomized each game, is the fictional island of Catan, and we, the players, are settlers trying to gain a foothold on the island itself.
The game is good for 3-4 players, and if you have more players, you will need to buy the extensions, of which there are several, allowing you to add more players and having a much larger island.
On each of the hexagonal tiles (land), there is a number affixed to them, which is also randomized. This will ensure that no game is the same, giving the players a variety of scenarios and situations to overcome. Each turn, the player will roll two six-sided dice, and the total will determine the land tile that will ‘produce’ for that round. There are 5 resources : wood/lumber, clay/brick, ore, sheep and wheat.
For example, using the map above as a guide, if the player in blue rolls a 4, everyone gets a brick/clay since they each have a settlement adjacent to the land tile in the center which is producing brick/clay. But if you notice, there is also another 4 on the table, on a tile producing wood/lumber. The player in orange has two settlements there, giving him/her an additional two wood/lumber during the same round.
Why 7? Seven is the most commonly rolled number in any game.
The eagle-eyed readers would be wondering by now, why isn’t there a 7 on the board? Seven is actually a much-hated number for any settlers playing the game, except the player who threw that number. Because by rolling a 7, the robber get activated, not only does it allow the player to ‘steal’ a card from one of the other players, it also stops all production coming from that particular land tile in which the robber lands on.
There are a couple of important rules while playing the game. During a player’s turn, he/she gets to ‘barter’ with the other players, exchanging resources. These resources can be used in various combinations to build roads, start settlements and upgrade cities. There is also a particular card called a Development Card, which gives the purchaser certain special abilities.
One of the abilities is to start an army of knights. A knight card can be played in order to move the robber, without throwing a seven. Getting a group of three knights and above, will give you the title of Largest Army (worth 2 Victory Points).
Each settlement is worth 1 Victory Point, a city is worth 2 Victory Points and the player with the Longest Road (continuous) will get 2 Victory Points. You need a total of 10 Victory Points in order to win the game.
Some Development Cards can give you Victory Points on its own, while others allow you to get resources for free or even build 2 roads without having to use up any resources.
Actually, once you play the game, you can make your own rules as you go along. For instance, my family choose to play till 12 Victory Points. In some games, we restrict the bartering. You could even neutralize the robber effect by implementing a rule that allows the player who rolled a 7, to just pick any one resource from the bank.
These are some of the tips that were used at one time or another during our games.
- try to build roads and settlements, to get more resources
- build on similar numbered tiles, you get two resources each time
- buy Development Cards
- haggle your way to getting what you want
- steal, steal, steal!
Settlers of Catan is a good go-to game if your family is into boardgames. A game usually lasts around 1-2 hours, it is plenty of fun as you try to build alliances and break them in order to win. With the randomization of the tiles and numbers, you will get plenty of variation each time. Drawback? For the avid gamer, I guess the reliance on a good throw of the dice (luck) would be a downer for them. There were some instances when we were playing, the game was won with one good throw of the dice, giving the winner the necessary resources he/she needed at the most opportune time.
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