Photo by Nathan Jongewaard. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
(Read my earlier post about the game Carcassonne, and my dislike of most boardgames.)
The board game Settlers of Catan has been around since 1995, and has been awarded many prizes. Over 15 million copies of Settlers of Catan and other games in the series have been sold. However, I'd never heard of the game until a couple of years ago, and didn't play it until last week. Now, I'm sorry I waited so long! I love this game.
I bought the iPad version of Settlers of Catan ($4.99) and played it with my seven-year-old daughter on Saturday. My wife was running errands, so Jane and I added a computer player to the mix. I'm glad we started with the iPad version, because the software handles the scoring and other mechanics of the game, and it was a good way to understand the rules (which are pretty simple). However, the playing board is pretty small on the iPad, and because players are supposed to keep certain cards hidden from view, there is a clunkiness to the digital version of the game. (Carcassonne, on the other hand, is wonderful on the iPad.)
The object of Catan is to be the first person to get 10 Victory Points, which are earned by building settlements and cities on an island made of 30 hexagons representing different kinds of terrain), and by acquiring certain Achievement cards. In order to build roads, settlements, and cities, players need to collect resources: bricks, ore, grain, sheep, and lumber. A big part of the fun of the game is trading resources with other players.
While Jane and I enjoyed playing Settlers of Catan on on the iPad, we loved playing the large, attractive game board version. ( I bought it for $43 at an incredible gaming store in Studio City, California called Knight Ware Inc. I went there on "Boardgame Day" and enjoyed watching a dozen or so folks at two tables playing some kind of sword and sorcery game).
When we play the board game version, my wife joins Jane and me. I don't think it would be much fun with two players. (I searched online and noticed that people have come up with various sets of modified rules for two players. I haven't tried those yet, and would be interested in hearing if they make the game fun for two players.)
There's one problem with the board game: it's too easy to disturb the small wooden pieces on the board with a clumsy throw of the dice. After about the third time my seven-year-old daughter did this, I downloaded a free dice rolling application for my iPhone and now we use that instead of rolling physical dice. Problem solved.
I found out that there is a travel edition of Settlers of Catan! As I plan on doing some traveling with my family in the near future, I just ordered it.
If you're like me, and have avoided boardgames because you figured they all stink as much as Monopoly, Risk, Parcheesi, and Sorry, I recommend you give Settlers of Catan (and Carcassonne) a try. I never imagined I would enjoy board games, but these two titles have changed my mind.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.