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Designed by Klaus Teuber
Since its release in 1995 Settlers of Catan has sold millions of copies globally, and many would credit this game as being responsible to the surge in interest in board games.
Settlers of Catan is a game where players explore and settle the fictional land of Catan. Settlers of Catan follows the model of possession is nine tenths of the law. The player who arrives first to a new place on the board and builds a settlement has in effect claimed that space, preventing other players from settling too close to them.
The game has a clear end point; when a player reaches ten points, the game ends at the end of that player’s turn.
The game board consists of 19 hexagonal tiles, in turn these are bracketed by 18 tiles representing water. The players construct the board anew each game, meaning the ‘board’ is different each game. The 19 tiles are set up in the same shape for each game, but with individual tiles being placed anywhere, the variance in the game board is high.
Tiles represent the five commodities that players need to gather in the game; stone, wheat, wool, brick, and wood. These account for 18 of the tiles; the last tile is a desert tile that produces nothing.
Game variance is further raised by the placement of counters on the 18 tiles hat produce a commodity. Each counter has a number from 2 to12. The dots under the number indicate a greater or lesser probability of that number being rolled. There are four dots on the 8, and one dot on the 12, for example.
In a player’s turn, the first thing that player does is roll the two dice. The number they roll indicates which of the hexagonal tiles will produce a resource in that turn. Resources are produced for whoever player has a presence on that tile. It is quite possible for a player to receive no resources in their own turn, and receive resources in the other players’ turns, depending on which numbers are rolled. This mechanic encourages players to pay attention when it is not their turn.
To gain points players must expand their settlements into cities, and lay roads that lead to new areas and build further settlements. Players can also use their commodities to buy development cards that may raise their score, provide them with an army, or give other advantages in the game.
Klaus Teuber’s game does away with the older roll and move mechanic and even the static game board that were features of almost all board games in prior to the 1990s. In so doing he created a game that rewards tactical play across a variety of situations. There is no one true tactic that can win every time, as the layout of the tiles, and the counter placements means that the board changes and a commodity that can be common in one game may be scarce in the next. These changes keep the game from becoming stale after a few play throughs.
Settlers of Catan is best played with four players, although three player games are also possible. An expansion makes the game suitable for five or six players.