Settlers of Catan holds a special place in my board gaming heart. It was the first serious game i played with a group of like minded friends. There were four of us and we were attempting to play the German version. None of us could speak/read German, but one of the guys said he had played it before and told us the rules - well, the rules that he remembered (which helped him a little). I had a blast and it set the seeds for my love of board games.
What's it all about?
Settlers of Catan is a resource based game. The board is randomly generated with a number of Hex shaped cards. Each card represents a resource that it will generate. These can be wood, sheep, ore, rock and grain. Resources are spent to build roads, villages and cities. To work out which resources are generated, dice are rolled and if the total matches a resource and you have a village/city by it, then you gain that resource. The objective is to get to 10 points. Villages are worth 1 point, cities 2 points. There are also bonuses if you have the longest road or largest army. You can build the army by buying Development Cards.
You collect and spend resources. For example, the wood and road can be spent to build a road. Trading is also encouraged between players, which means you could get what you are after without having access to the resource. A final option is to trade with the bank - this allows you to trade 4 resources of the same type for a single resource you are after. Of course, this can be expensive. Ports give you the same facility, but at cheaper costs.
However, if you roll a 7 the robber is used. To be blunt, the robber is a dick. He steals resources and stops a tile from generating any further resources. If you have the robber on your tile, then you need to get him off as soon as possible.
The game is designed to allow people to change their strategies mid way through a game. For example, if you can no longer expand in Villages/Cities - then you could buy some development cards instead. This means games can become very competitive, without pushing someone out. Numerous times i have seen people who have never played before, who were lagging in points, suddenly see a plan and execute to win the game outright.
Settlers is a very popular game and can be found in non gaming stores. Waterstones stocks them for instance. It's reasonable priced - £30 for the standard edition (4 player game). There are a number of expansions for the game, but honestly i prefer the basic game (with the 5-6 player expansion if we have that many people). If you become a massive fan of Settlers, then these expansions can add a new dimension. I enjoyed Seafarers, as this allows multiple islands and a means to travel between them. I have also played on a collectors edition, where all the tiles were 3d casts. Lovely to look at, but a little bit too much for a casual game.
I love this game. As i said, it has a special place in my heart. I can play this any time, with anyone. It is a great game for new players, and I have seen a number of them continue to play a wide variety of games. I am aware of a couple of people that were not overly happy with it, and have not played again since. 5/5