The Settlers of Catan Review

One of the most award winning board games of the last twenty years is the 1995 game, The Settlers of Catan. The game itself is a light mix of tactical strategy and trading. Without much effort, you can pick up the game, open the box, and soon be off trying to be the ruler of this small little island that is rife with the oddest of resources.

The game begins with the randomly created board being laid out. Hexagonal tiles are put down, each representing a certain resource (brick, wood, wool, wheat, and stone) that will be necessary throughout the game. These resources are then given numbers (between 2 – 12) and laid out around the board on top of the resources.

Each player then puts down their opening towns, as represented by a small house, is placed in the corner of three tiles. During this initial set-up, each player will end up putting down two of these towns, giving them the possibility of up to six different numbers that might provide them with resources.

The Settlers of Catan Strategies

These first moves are very important as each tile is going to give players certain resources on the role of the dice. Having a strong range of numbers means you will see more resources earlier in the game. Other players choose to “hoard” a certain resource to the best of their ability so they can receive whatever they need through the trading aspect of the game.

Items like wood and brick are going to be useful very early in the game, but resources like stone and wheat will become much more important later. Keeping an eye on who is going to have what you need later in the game is just as important as making sure you can start with enough resources to get your colony moving.

As the game progresses, you should be receiving more and more items for various numbers. The more you get, the more you will be able to trade with your fellow players, but be careful of the dread number seven. When a seven is rolled, everyone with eight cards are more must drop their hand by half. Also, the player that rolled it gets to render one tile barren until the seven is rolled again.

The last strategy of note is that of the development cards. These cards, which can be purchased for the resource combination of a wheat, sheep, and stone, provide the player with any number of game changing abilities. Here are a few:

  • Monopoly: The player is given all of one type of resource from every player.
  • Road Builder: The player can build two roads immediately.
  • Knight: The player may move the robber.
  • VP Cards: There are a few cards within the deck that represent victory points. They are free points to put towards your total.

Cards like this will give opportunities to players who are behind and trying to catch up, or give players that are already ahead a decisive lead. In a game with so much chatter with your fellow players, it is easy to forget that there are potential victory points sitting right in that very deck! It only takes ten points to win the normal game, so every little bit helps.

Final Assessment

At first some of the ideas of the game might seem a bit foreign, but that doesn’t last very long. The instructions take care in providing you with examples of how every function of the game works. The hardest part might very well be setting up the board, but by your second game it will go faster, and only take a few moments with your third game.

If there is any downside to this game, know that you are going to play multiple games, and lose nights on end. Not only is The Settlers of Catan a well balanced game with near infinite variations of board layout and play, it is unendingly addictive. After the first game, whether you win or lose, you will see a new angle of strategy you might not have thought of before.

Each game will take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the skill level of the players. With each passing game, you will start to see the board with a keener eye, immediately picking out the more viable patterns of victory. That is what makes Catan one of the top picks for board games, and has made it a staple for any board game enthusiast.

In the end, it is impossible for this game to be ranked higher. If there was such a thing as the board game hall of fame, it would have to go in there alongside classics like Monopoly or Clue. The Settlers of Catan represents a new generation of classic board games that you will get to enjoy for years.


You can read more about The Settlers of Catan instructions and gameplay at Zane Birdsong’s site about board games.