What is Catan?

By Devin T. Quin

Thanks to the Internet we now live in a world of instant gratification, where vast fortunes and celebrity careers are launched and lost with just a few clicks of a mouse.  Before we relied on word of mouth, observation and experience to build fame.

Due to its “low-tech” nature, the old-time approach is apropos to the world of board games. I predict, however, that in ten years time every single American household will have a Settlers of Catan game tucked away in the closet next to Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit.


The Settlers of Catan is an award winning board game from German game creator Klaus Teuber, published in America by a company called Mayfair Games.  In Catan you play the leader of a tribe of pilgrims landing on a new island called Catan to establish a thriving settlement.  The object of the game is to establish a better settlement than your opponents, gauged by achieving “Victory Points” for reaching goals.   To earn victory points you must gain resources, such as wool, lumber and grain, in order to build settlements, cities and roads. Resources are acquired through trading with other players and the random rolls of the dice.  Balancing elements such as village robbers, harbors and knights are available to give you an advantage or help you squash an opposing colony flat!  


The closest analogy one can make when describing Catan to a new player is it combines the thrills of Monopoly, that of accumulating wealth and making shrewd deals with the turn based strategy elements of Risk or Axis and Allies.   Catan has few rules, though they can seem cumbersome to new players.  Don’t worry- even a novice can be a master within a few rounds of play.

For experienced players needing to add a little spice to their game, Mayfair games offers expansion sets with more rules, pieces and play scenarios.   In one set, Seafarers of Catan, the player must build ships in order to explore vast tracks of ocean looking for new islands to conquer.  In another entitled Cities and Knights the emphasis is on diplomacy and strength, as invading barbarians require all players to help each other survive to the next round.


Right now, Catan is just one of a thousand board games being played amongst a hardcore group of gamers who still love to get together at conventions, libraries and friend’s homes for an afternoon of gaming.  Popular software adaptations of Settlers of Catan, both on Xbox live and the iPhone platforms, are increasing the exposure of mainstream America to the Catan phenomenon.   Cottage industries are sprouting up selling Catan T-shits, bumper stickers and alternative custom sets.  This rabid fan base is still bubbling under the ground of most people’s attentions, but it will only take a few more years until Catan is a household name.

Catan isn’t hard to find.  It’s already being sold in popular book stores, games stores and, of course,  Forbidden Planet!   Do yourselves a favor: march right out and pick up a basic set of The Settlers of Catan and find out what all the hub-bubs about! It will take a moment to learn, but a lifetime to try and stop playing the most addicting board game of the past 10 years!

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