Customer Reviews: The Settlers of Catan
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on January 5, 2008
The primary, and best, addition in this 4th edition of Settlers is a very nice interlocking border which is placed around the game tiles. This replaces the individual hex tiles of previous editions. No longer will your tiles/pieces scatter/split apart when someone accidentally bumps the playing surface! One side of the border has the ports "built in" but you still get a bit of randomness when assembling the pieces. The flip side of the border is blank "sea" on which you can put the included port tokens for a truly random placement.

The updated graphics are nice and colorful but take a bit of getting use to if you regularly play with an older edition.

The box has a vacu-formed type insert designed to hold all the pieces and keep everything neat.

All-in-all a nice upgrade to the 3rd edition.

It's a simple sounding premise: You gather resources in order to build roads and settlements to earn points.

However, there is a wonderful randomness which lends complexity to the game as the layout of the game board tiles differs with each play right down to the number on the dice needed to harvest a resource from a given tile. This makes *every* game unique. Strategy comes into play as you must determine the best location for your settlements and roads to get maximum value/points.

If you've never played Settlers, find someone who has a copy and give it a try. If no one you know owns a copy, go to your local comic shop. Odds are someone there will have a copy readily available and delight in teaching the game to a new player! It's easy to learn, difficult to master, and quick to play with a typical game lasting only an hour or less.

This is one of the truly classic games and belongs on the shelf of anyone who enjoys board gaming.
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on January 12, 2008
Settlers is one of the greatest games ever. I think it was originally created to teach capitalism. Here are my pros/cons:

*There is enough strategy for most gamers

*There is some luck which can make things interesting. If you want to
minimize the luck factor then use 12-sided dice

*Great interaction as you get to trade and barter with other players
(even when it is not your turn.) Kids can definitely learn the concept
of re-investing in your assets and great negotiation skills.

*You can change the boardgame set up everytime so you get a different
game everytime.

*There are 2 expansions (seafarers & Cities & Knights) & other add-ons to
change up the game to continue to make the game new and interesting.

*There are extensions that expand the game to 6 players.

*Also, there are ways to "gang up" on the leader, so there are many games
where virtualy every player will be close to winning which makes it more
fun than when one player blows out everyone every game.

*Setting up the board and clean up can be a little tedious if you are not

*purchasing the game, its 2 expansions and each corrsponding 5-6
extension can be a bit pricey. However, my experience is that the price
is worth it because you play this game so many time compared to other
games that may be cheaper.

Overall, this game is fun and can be re-played countless times due to the variable game set up. Well worth the money.
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on January 5, 2008
Settlers of Catan is an absolutely fantastic family strategy game. I won't belabor my discussion of the game, except to say that my wife (only a 'casual boardgamer', not as hardcore like me) and two boys (ages 8 and 10) have been playing it for over a year, many dozens of times, with continued enjoyment. I have successfully hooked other gamers in my family (brother in law, father) on it as well, so that it shares equal time with Monopoly in our family game marathons over the holidays.

The big point to take away about this new edition of the game is that, without changing any rules, the edition includes some very handy extra pieces, esp. an interlocking set of holders to fit the tiles into, which helps prevent incidental dislocations of the pieces on the board (so common with the older edition). For those of you who have the Seafarers of Catan extension, the holding tiles are much those included in that extension (except shaped to fit the Settlers hex board).
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on September 5, 2008
We are avid players of Settlers (and love it), but this newest edition has some flaws that make us wish we would have bought the 3rd edition. We have had the game for about 8 months, and the interlocking border (instead of the regular hexagon pieces in the 3rd edition) have never fit right. It takes three people to get everything into place, and even then the border warps and the pieces pop out. They interlock like a puzzle piece, and they are starting to wear out, so we have finally given up on getting everything together correctly. If you were worried about the 3rd edition getting bumped and jumbled, you simply had to set up the game on a tablecloth or piece of fabric. This newer edition is impossible to setup correctly, especially as it ages.

Also note you cannot use your old expansion packs with the newer edition, as the pieces are different. You now have to pay for all the newer versions of the expansion packs, how convenient.

We still love this game and will play it regularly, it just seems the "advancements" were not tested or well planned. It is also bothersome that they made the newer editions incompatible with the old expansions, you can easily spend $150 on this game and the expansions, and you would expect that investment to last... it is a board game after all!
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on January 25, 2012
I ordered this game, having played the third edition in the past, put the board together... and go figure, it doesn't fit. Obviously the hex pieces fit fine, but the ocean border doesn't. Either the whole thing warps up like a bowl when snapped together, or the middle starts popping out.

I figure that this might happen occasionally so I requested an exchange from Amazon. They sent me a new copy and I immediately took out the pieces, put them together... same problem.

If you manage to get a board that fits together, this is a really fun game, but clearly this edition has some issues with how they're cutting the pieces and I'm not the first to complain.

I'll be returning this copy and waiting for another edition to be released or a local shop trying to get rid of one of their third editions.
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on April 30, 2009
I grew up playing Monopoly, Risk, Chinese Checkers, whatever I could get my hands on (I realize Chinese Checkers seems a bit odd in that list, but I did play it sometimes...). I even would play Monopoly by myself when I couldn't find anyone else to play with (I know... I know...).

Now in my 30s, I try and have people over whenever possible (once every 2 or 3 months) to have a "Game Night" where we play whatever games the number of people over will accommodate. When my wife and I are on vacation, we play Rook or other games.

So, basically, I love games.

When I read a Wired article about this game (the title "Monopoly Killer" is why I bought the magazine), I had to rush out and get it (on Amazon... I figure saving money is better than playing the next day).

I was not dissapointed... I loved it. My wife loved it. Three different couples we had over loved it. Everyone loves it. The first time I've ever had a game that not a single person said "I'll sit the next one out". When we had to get up at 4am for a flight the next day, we played until 1am.

The only downside (which isn't really a downside) is that it's only 3 or 4 players. Not 2, not 5. However, there is a 5-6 player extension (which is being delivered to my house in 2 days). There are also a gazillion extensions for other game play.

I cannot rave enough about this game. I absolutely believe in 5-10 years (maybe sooner) it will become a household name (game) like Monopoly. If you like games that involve more than just rolling the dice (like Yatzee, which I will also gladly play), pick it up.

Not only is every game different, but there are many different strategies to try and get to the goal. Each of which will not work in every game (depending on the board layout).

To quote another favorite game of mine, it takes a few minutes to learn, and a lifetime to master.
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on September 19, 2010
Once upon a time, Settlers was a "must have" game. It's still fun to play, but newer games are better uses of your money.

In particular, I recommend:
Rio Grande Games Carcassonne Big Box # 2
Ad Astra

For those who are not familiar with Settlers, it is a family oriented German style board game. Like all German style games, the rules are simple, and the game is relatively short to play. Because it is family oriented, the strategic complexity is fairly limited.

Game play is simple. The winner is the first person to get 10 points. The board is randomly created and then players select their starting positions. Turns start with the first player and go around the table. Each turn, dice are rolled to determine what resources players get, then the player whose turn it is can trade with the other players and try to buy/build things that will get points or prevent other players from doing so.

There are several expansions that add more strategic depth. Aside form the 5-6 player expansion to the basic game, I do not recommend them. There are better games if you want something more strategic. For example:
Puerto Rico
Mayfair Games Tigris and Euphrates - Double Scenario Edition

Although Settlers is a classic of the genre, the game is well past it's prime. Newer games in this style are simply better. Although it can be great fun, the game is not without it's problems.

First, newer games have mechanics that try to make them end consistently after a certain amount of play time; Setters does not. Officially the game takes 90 minutes, but I've had games that only lasted 45 and I've played games that lasted 180. How long the game lasts is strongly dependent on the configuration of the board and the luck of the dice. Similarly, newer games are better at controlling the luck component and emphasizing strategy. When compared to newer games, this one gets "old" too quickly -- the strategic options are fairly simple. Finally, the "lag" between each player taking an action is fairly long compared to other games. Consequently, Settlers feels slower than it should.

Above, I recommended three alternatives. I'll briefly explain:

Carcassonne is the "other" classic. Unlike Settlers, it has held up fairly well with age and doesn't suffer from the problems discussed above. Furthermore, the "Big Box" comes with all of the good expansions, giving you much more "game" for your money.

Ad Astra is a recent "clone" of Settlers. It's fundamentally the same game with different art and slightly modified rules. The modifications are all for the better -- Ad Astra has a more consistent play time, more strategic depth, and much less randomness. It's simply a better version of this game.

Dominion, simplistically, is Settlers played with cards instead of dice. It moves faster, takes less time to play, and has substantially more strategic depth for the same level of rules complexity. Unless having to shuffle cards is a problem (say for a 10 year old player), I'd recommend Dominion as the best of the three alternatives I've suggested.
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on July 20, 2011
Plenty of people have done an admirable job of explaining the games in their reviews, so this is instead an attempt at a comparison between a number of games, the pros and cons of each and which may suit different people best. The games in question are: Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Castle Panic, Smallworld, and Forbidden Island.

We have had Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne (with a number of expansion packs) for quite a few years now, and only recently added the other games above. We usually either play just as two adults, or with our two older children (age 9 and 8), and so our conclusions are based on how these games work in those settings. So here's what we've found:

Settlers of Catan
We got this around the same time as Carcassonne and initially just didn't latch onto it. Partly it's that it's supposed to be 3 players or more, and we often play as just two of us. Once we found online some instructions for playing as 2 players it came out more often, and as time's gone by it's become fairly 50-50 whether we play Settlers or Carcassonne on a quiet night in. The choice will usually depend on how much we want to think. With Settlers, you're always planning and calculating; with Carcassonne, you're taking it a card at a time.

Who should get it: Settlers is well-known as one of the great modern games. I'm not as sold on it as some people, and it takes quite a while to learn and feel comfortable with, but once you get the hang of it, it is an entertaining and enjoyable addition to a games collection. There are several 2-player rule variations out there if you need them and they work well (we found one that worked for us and we've stuck to it). But this isn't a game for kids; I would suspect not until they're 16 or so. Amongst other things, I think they'll find it too dull.

This has been a favorite for years now, and everyone we've played it with has gone off to get it themselves. We usually play without farms because it then becomes less directly competitive and more sociable. Kids can play it, adults can play it, it's relaxed, it's fun and it's simple to learn. Here's one nice thing about it: you don't have to be constantly thinking and planning ahead. You don't know what card you're going to draw next time, so you just play one card at a time. You're encouraged to discuss where to put a card, and since you don't know what piece you're getting next, your comments to another player are usually pretty unbiased.

Who should get it: In my experience, pretty much anyone, except those who want ultra-competitive games. The first few expansion packs are also well worth getting, but don't bother with anything from Mayor onward.

Castle Panic
The kids love this one, again it's simple to learn and it has the added bonus of allowing them to get out their aggressive instincts and go postal on monsters! They don't like the `master slayer' option, but prefer just straight cooperative play. After the first few plays, I've found the basic game is too easy, and so we're experimenting with making it more challenging, such as starting with no walls, or drawing 3 monster cards at a time instead of 2. I think Castle Panic will become a game that we get out pretty regularly to play.

Who should get it: People with kids, who want to play cooperative games. Could be fun as a party game too!

While the kids have enjoyed playing this, I think their interest is starting to wane already. I suspect it will work better as a game with a group of adults, or when the kids are older. It has a lot going for it, especially the creative cards and board, but as others have noted - what's with the box for the tokens? Very poorly designed and adds unnecessary annoyance. Most of the time when playing we've found it's not too directly competitive, it's easier to attack lost tribes or declining races, so generally it doesn't get too personal!

Who should get it: I think this would make a fun addition to a games collection, but I don't think it would be a go-to game, especially with kids. The rules are more complicated to learn and explain than the other games, and this makes it hard to just sit down with new players and get on with a game. Having said that, we've enjoyed playing it , and I think it'll get pulled out every now and then over the years.

Forbidden Island
Although the kids would prefer Castle Panic, when we've played Forbidden Island (at my insistence!) they've thoroughly enjoyed it. As the island starts to collapse in a heap toward the end of the game, the tension levels rise and people are on the edge of their seats! The game always ends with voices rising in pitch and tension as cards get turned over - it's fun! It's a pure cooperative game, and that works well for us as a family - no one feels bad, we're all in it together. We're still using the `Normal' level of play, maybe we'll notch up a level soon!

Who should get it: If you like cooperative games, I think this is excellent to have. I love how easy it is to set different difficulty levels, and it's definitely the game that's had the most excited tension - Castle Panic has this at times, but not sustained (at least as the basic game). It doesn't have the whole monster thing going for it that Castle Panic does, and I think that's why the kids haven't latched onto it so quickly (kill trolls or wander round an island getting treasure - which is your average kid going to choose?) but I suspect that long-term it'll have more staying power.
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on November 15, 2011
One-Line Review: I know people who sing Black Eyed Peas songs with Settlers-inspired lyrics when they get the resource cards they want.

The Settlers of Catan is the game that jump-started my interest in board games, and it completely changed my idea of what a board game could be. With many expansions, an iPhone game bearing its name, and being carried in Barnes & Noble, Settlers may be the best known German board game.

When The Settlers of Catan burst onto the scene in 1995, it turned heads, garnered critical praise, and won the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year); German board gaming's highest honor. Rightly so, I might add.

In Settlers, 3-4 good friends each assume the role of a colonist who has come upon an uncharted island. Beginning the game with two settlements each, players explore the island and lay claim to the resources it has to offer, gaining victory points along the way.

The rules of Settlers are simple. Each island tile provides a resource: ore, clay, grain, sheep, or wood, and each tile has a number. On your turn, you roll a pair of dice and the tile(s) whose number matches your roll produces resources. Everyone who has a settlement or city bordering that tile gets a resource card.

Next, you can trade resources with other players or with the bank to get the resources you need (or deny other the resources they need). Finally, you can use your resources to build. You can build roads to explore the island and block in other players, settlements to collect more resources, cities to increase the production of your settlements, or you can buy development cards which serve to give you resources or victory points.

You gain victory points through building settlements and cities, but bonus points are also awarded to the player who has the longest continuous road and to the player who has the most Knight cards acquired from the development card deck. The first player to reach 10 victory points wins.

I think that The Settlers of Catan is a very well-designed game. The first thing that stands out to me is that each player is always busy. Even when it isn't your turn, you're collecting resources, bargaining with other players, and plotting your next move. Having little player downtime is great for keeping everyone interested and keeping the game moving.

Next is the Robber. The Robber is a mechanic in Settlers to ensure that no one can run away with the lead. Players may place the Robber on an island tile to prevent that tile from generating resources. In this way, players have the power to burden the guy in the lead a little bit while they catch up. The Robber tends to even out the playing field in a game of Settlers, and because the Robber is moved every time someone rolls 7 (or plays a Knight card), no one is ever penalized for too long.

Another shining quality of this game is its variable setup. No game of Settlers is ever really the same because the island tiles are places randomly so your strategy has to be a little bit different each time. At the start of the game when players choose where to place their starting settlements, you have to look to see where the most important resources are, and plan how you're going to get there Wood and clay are in dire need at first, but as the game progresses, everyone will need ore and grain. Choices!

The set up phase is where my games are at their most stressful; Everyone carefully eyes everyone else and hopes that the spot they want isn't taken.

Long story short, The Settlers of Catan is a great game for new and seasoned gamers alike. While the veterans may dislike Settlers for the amount of luck present in the game, I think that this game is perfect for showing people just how fun a board game can be.
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If you have played the game Risk, then you will see the similarities between that game and this one. However, Catan is set in an agrarian society, and, as such, may appeal more to families. It is rarely "violent," although your fellow game players may be tempted to throttle you should you place the Robber Baron on their property.

Contrary to the box's assertion, this game is not easily learned in 15 minutes. It is one that you really need to play repeatedly and fairly frequently in order to fully enjoy. The learning experience is much more enjoyable if you are able to play with experienced Catan players. One caveat, if you are playing with a "shady" character - beware their advice, they are probably setting you up to their advantage!

Almost anyone will enjoy this game. We have played with our daughter and her husband; they frequently play with their pastor and his wife. Our nephews (13 and 15) loved playing this and have requested it for Christmas. Quite a feat when you consider they are serious video-gamers!

On a personal note, I have noticed that individuals who are engineers or pilots tend to do better at playing the game overall. They seem to be able to view the game in total, taking in the "big picture," rather than focusing on separate distinct parts. Individuals, who are not spatially oriented or have more of an artistic penchant, enjoy the game, but not to the extent that more technically oriented players seem to.

We bought the fourth edition because there were no more third editions available. The quality has definitely deteriorated; the card stock is thinner, and the dice seem to roll 7's much more frequently than is statistically probable. If the second set we purchased for friends has the same characteristic, we are going to replace the dice. On the other hand, the interlocking border is a welcome addition, and we had no trouble connecting the pieces.

I rated this item as four stars rather than five because it is not universally appealing and because it does take some time to learn to play.
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