Sunday 19 November 2017

Review: Catan Board Game

Review of the strategy board game Catan, great family fun for 8+ years

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Catan used to be marketed as the Settlers of Catan and it is a well-established strategy game where you are seeking to be the first settler to conquer the island and make it yours! I have to admit that I had never heard of it, despite all the awards it has won and many of my friends who love board games told me it was a firm favourite from their games cupboard.

The Premise
After a long voyage, you reach the uncharted island of Catan and you need to collect resources like wool, ore, brick, grain and lumber, which you can then use to build roads, new settlements, or even cities. But you are not the only new settler, you are racing against the other players, who have also just landed on the island. You are then encouraged to trade and bargain for resources and the savviest player will prevail. As you build you will gain victory points and the winner is the first to reach 10 victory points.

Learning the Game
There is a large and very clear rule book with the game. It has full pictures of the board set up, very detailed descriptions on turn order, and an almanack for more advanced rules and clarifications. I have to admit that I did feel a bit overwhelmed at first as there is a lot of writing to read but the Catan website is fab and it has a Prof Easy tutorial that takes you right through gameplay in a very easy to understand fashion. It certainly helped my 10-year-old's to understand.

Review of the strategy board game Catan, great family fun for 8+ years

The Game Board
The game board is very unique in Catan, as it is made up of lots of hexagon pieces and this is good, as whilst there is a suggested way to put them together at first, once you are confident with the game you can place them together randomly and this will then provide loads of variations on the game and hours of gameplay.

The pieces were easy to pop out of the frames they came in and are good thick quality cardboard. They are also coated in a sort of laminate so they could be damp wiped if they get dirty. The blue outside represents the sea and holds the hexagons together and the hexagons are the different kinds of terrain on the island. Each type of terrain connects to a resource, so lumber comes from the forest, just as you'd expect!

Review of the strategy board game Catan, great family fun for 8+ years

Setting up the Game
  • Layout your board
  • Put the cards in supply stacks sorted by their symbols
  • Place the robber in the middle square of the board (the dessert - later in the game, he will try to steal our resources)
  • Each player receives a set of games pieces, which comprises of cities, roads and settlements. There is white, blue, orange and red, one colour per player up to 4.
  • Before the game starts, each player places pieces on the board for 2 settlements each with a connecting road. You always place on the joins between the hexagon board pieces.
  • On placement of the second settlement, the player receives the resources that match the hexagons that he has built between. You keep these cards hidden in your hand.
  • Each player receives victor points for settlements, so everyone starts the game with two victory (or V) points each.

Review of the strategy board game Catan, great family fun for 8+ years

Game Play

Once the game is fully set up, you will start to take turns to roll the dice for gameplay. You roll the two dice and look for the number combination on the board. If the number is in a hexagon that is adjacent to your settlement, you can receive a matching resource card.

Also if another player has a settlement adjacent to the number you rolled, they can receive a resource card too. Once the resource cards have all been dished out for that turn you can look at the building costs card and see if you have enough resources to build something. So for example, a road is just one brick and one lumber resource cards. You replace those resource cards onto the main supply stack and can place your road on to the game board (roads and settlements must always be placed adjacent to each other).

As play continues you are encouraged to trade resources with the other players. If the other player you ask will trade with you and give you what you need, you can then go ahead and build during that same go as well. Don't forget that once you build another settlement you get another victory point or 2 points when you upgrade to a city. You don't have to swap one card for one card, you can offer more if you like. If no one will trade with you then it is good to know that 4 of the same resource can always be traded for anyone resource from the central stack.

Review of the strategy board game Catan, great family fun for 8+ years
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There are also Development cards that you can buy and you have to wait until your next turn to use these. There are various development cards that you play in different ways - Knights, Monopoly, Road building, Year of Plenty or Victory points  The Knight, for example, can help you ward off the robber and gain an additional resource card from another player.

You may also want to replace your settlements for cities as the game progresses and you do this by buying it with resource cards. You will gain two victory points for the city and in all future dice rolls, you'll receive two resource cards for each corresponding number that your city is adjacent to.

Review of the strategy board game Catan, great family fun for 8+ years

Watch out if you throw a 7 with the dice as this is a robber attack and any players with more than 7 resource cards must return half of their pile back to the central resource stacks. The player who threw the 7 can then move the robber to a hexagon of their choice and this then stops any player from obtaining resource cards from that hexagon if the corresponding number is rolled on the dice. They can also draw a resource card blind from the player who is affected by where the robber was moved to. Then even after all that robber movement, they can still build if they have the right resource cards to do so.

There are also two special victory point cards - the longest road, which can be won (once you've laid 5 road segments in a row) and then stolen off you by a player who builds a longer road (and you lose the victory points) and the biggest army which is first awarded to the player who has played 3 knights into the game and again this one can be stolen by another player who plays more knights into the game.

I'd say that about 80% of gameplay in Catan is about thinking strategically and being tactical and the other 20% is luck and for our family that made it quite a difficult game for our 10 year old's to grasp at first. With more practice, I think they would be fine but it was better when one parent paired up with each of the twins and we played against my son as his strategic thinking was more on a par with ours.

We enjoyed Catan, it did take some time for us all to get our heads around it and all the rules but once you have, it is great fun and can be played so many times without being boring or samish. I think it is a quality game that will last a long time and it is so nice to have a game that fits really well back into its box when it is packed up.

Review of the strategy board game Catan, great family fun for 8+ years

Expansion Sets
If you enjoy Catan, you'll be pleased to hear that there are a number of expansion sets available to help widen the appeal of the game. Ones to encompass 5-6 players, others to add more interest and scenarios, a junior version, card game versions and even special editions likes Game of Thrones and Star Trek. Have a look on the official Catan site for more information.

Useful Information
Players: 3-4
Game Duration: 45-90 minutes
Age: 10+ but great for both adults and children
Time to Learn: around 10-20 minutes
Cost: RRP of £44.99 but it is available on Amazon for £25.50 (#ad) and this is a great price as there is free delivery too.

Why not in this post for later?

Review of the strategy board game Catan, great family fun for 8+ years

Disclosure: I am part of the Blogger Board Game Club. I have been sent this game to play and review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

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