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Settlers of Catan

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Settlers of Catan is a multiplayer board game invented by Klaus Teuber.

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History Kosmos[?] published the game in Germany in 1995 under the name Die Siedler von Catan. It won the Spiel des Jahres 1995 and Deutscher SpielePreis[?] 1st place 1995 and the Origins Award[?] for 1996.

Settlers is perhaps the first German-style board game to reach any degree of popularity outside of Europe. It has been marketed as "The Settlers of Catan" in the United States by Mayfair Games[?]. It has been said that the original Siedler actually consisted of the game we know as Siedler today and the first expansion set, Seefahrer. Whatever the case, both the original game and the expansion are available (at a bare minimum) in both Europe and the United States -- where Seefahrer is marketed as "The Seafarers of Catan". It has been translated into English, French, Italian, and Japanese from the original German.

Overview Settlers is a 3-4 player game which takes about ninety minutes to two hours to play, unless one uses the 5-6 player expansion, in which case the game lasts correspondingly longer. The premise is that the players are colonists on the uninhabited Island of Catan. The colonists tap the abundant natural resources of the island to build settlements, roads, and cities, as well as to purchase development cards which represent further progress towards civilization. Because the production of resources is controlled by dice, there is a significant amount of luck involved, but expert players can still distinguish themselves by clever negotiation and trade. It is difficult for any one player to produce all the raw materials necessary for advancement, so the trading of commodities is critically important. The winner is the first to accumulate ten victory points, which are mostly awarded for building settlements and cities, but also for other achievements.

TerrainProductionColor
PlainsGrain 
PastureWool 
ForestLumber 
HillsClay 
MountainsOre 
DesertNothing 
Water(trading
advantage)
 

The Board The board consists of 37 terrain hexagons; nine water, nine ports, four plains, four pasture, four forest, three hills, three mountains, and one desert. The 19 land hexes are shuffled and arranged in a central hexagon. The nine ports are then shuffled and placed at every alternate space around the edge of the island, with empty water hexes filling in between.

Each land hex, apart from the desert, produces a specific natural resource for players who build settlements or cities adjacent to it. After the board is assembled, a production token with a number from two to twelve, excluding seven, is placed on each hex. At the beginning of each turn, two dice are rolled, and all terrain hexes marked with that number produce their distinctive commodity. Because of the probabilies for two dice, hexes marked with six or eight are much more productive than those marked with two or twelve.

Roads, Settlements, and Cities Roads are placed along the lines between two hexes, while settlements and cities are placed on the corner intersections between three hexes. At the beginning of the game each player places two settlements anywhere on the island and a road extending from each. Further roads can only be built as extensions of existing roads, and further settlements can only be placed on those roads. Cities can only replace existing settlements, like hotels replacing houses in Monopoly. Cities have double the production of settlements, and count for two victory points each as opposed to one each for settlements.

Two cities or settlements, whether friendly or otherwise, can't be built on adjacent intesections.

The Robber There is also a robber token which begins the game in the desert. Whenever a seven is rolled, the rolling player relocates the robber to any other hex, and steals a commodity from some player with an adjacent settlement or city. Furthermore, the hex on which the robber stands becomes unproductive for as long as the robber remains; even if the production number for that hex is rolled, adjacent players get nothing.

DevelopmentCost
Road1 Lumber1 Clay
Settlement1 Lumber1 Clay1 Wool1 Grain
City2 Grain3 Ore
Development Card1 Wool1 Grain1 Ore

Trading Raw materials are represented by commodity cards, which the players can save, trade, or use to build roads, settlements, cities, and development cards. Only the player whose turn it is may trade or build.

Also there is maritime trade, or trading "off the island" so to speak. A player with four identical commodity cards may trade them in for one other commodity of any type. A player with a settlement or city adjacent to a port may trade in commodities at a more favorable ratio, but never one-for-one, so it is usually desirable to trade with other players if possible.

Development Cards and Victory Points Because settlements and cities can't be built adjacent to each other, the board often becomes crowded, and it is difficult to find room to expand. Furthermore, each player is limited to four cities and five settlements, so it is difficult to win without finding another source of victory points. Players therefore use their resources to buy development cards.

Development cards occasionally represent direct contributions to civilization, such as a library or church, and as such directly add one victory point to the total of the purchasing player. More often, however, they are soldier cards. A soldier card allows the purchasing player to relocate the robber and steal from another player. Also, whichever player has played the most soldier cards, with a minimum of three, is awarded two victory points for having the largest army.

There are also a few development cards which don't contribute directly to victory points, but are useful in other ways, such as Road Building (build two roads), Year of Plenty (get two resources of your choice), and Monopoly (steal all resource of one type from everyone).

The final source of victory points is building the longest road on the island, with a minimum of five segments. The player with the longest road is awarded two victory points.
However, the victory points for longest road and largest army are only temporary; another player who builds a longer road or larger army takes over those victory points as well.

Its Popularity

Settlers has become popular in part because the game mechanics are relatively simple. New players don't suffer for long, as they do with more complex board games, the dreaded, "Oh, and here's another rule we forgot to tell you." Furthermore, players who are behind can still set short-term goals such as building a city in a certain space, and happily trade towards that end without worrying about victory. No one gets eliminated, and no one loses settlements and cities which have already been built. These features make the game very suitable for family play.

A more subtle contribution to Settlers popularity is that gamers (typically women) who have an inclination to cooperate more than to compete aren't shouldered aside as in more bloodthirsty board games. Hyper-competitive players may get caught in cycles of embargo and robbing revenge with each other, while a cooperative player angers no one, trades freely with everyone, and quietly wins.

At the same time, there is considerable depth to competitive strategy. In serious games everyone needs to pay attention during all players' turns. The production and trading of commodities is public, but the commodity cards are held face down, which means that an alert player with a perfect memory can know everyone's exact holding, whereas the inattentive player will often be wondering (or asking out loud), "Does anyone have grain?". Commodities have an intrinsic value based on what they can be used to purchase, but their trading value changes from moment to moment based on shortages and surpluses. A sharp trader will know the distinct value of each commodity to each player at each turn, and use this information profitably.

Expert games tend to come down to close finishes, because everyone is aware of who is leading, and the leader is most likely to be hurt with the robber. Furthermore, the rest of the players will usually absolutely refuse to trade with someone on the verge of victory, knowing that they could unwittingly provide the commodity necessary for the tenth victory point. Seldom does any one player produce all commodoties necessary to win, and being forced to use maritime trade can be a severe brake on one's progress.

Expansions

Because of its popularity, there has been a new expansion every year for the game to add new possibilities and generally to make the game larger and more fun to play.
An exhaustive list follows:

  1. 5-6 player expansion (1996)
  2. Seafarers/Seefahrer (1997)
  3. Seafarers/Seefahrer 5-6 player[?]
  4. Cities and Knights/Städte und Ritter (1998)
  5. Cities and Knights/Städte und Ritter 5-6 player[?]
  6. Alexander der Große und Cheops[?] (1998)
  7. Das Buch[?] (2000)
  8. Troja und Die Große Mauer[?] (2001)
  9. Travel Box[?]

Other versions

There are also other Catan games which aren't technically expansions because they're standalone:

  1. The Card Game/Das Kartenspiel[?] (1996)
  2. The Card Game/Das Kartenspiel Expansions[?]
  3. The Starfarers of Catan/Die Sternenfahrer von Catan[?] (1999)
  4. The Starfarers of Catan/Die Sternenfahrer von Catan 5-6 player[?]
  5. Starfarers Figurines/Die Fürsten der Völker[?]
  6. Starship Catan/Sternenschiff Catan[?] (2001)
  7. Abenteuer Menschheit/The Settlers of the Stone Age (2002)
  8. Die Siedler von Nürnberg (1999)
  9. The Settlers of Canaan (2002)



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