Our first spotlight goes to what I think of as the king of all gateway games -- games that help beginners get into board games. Settlers of Catan is one of the Euro-style (involves more strategy and less conflict and luck) games that paved the way for the “board game renaissance.” I didn’t get the chance to play it until this past year, but I owe a lot of credit to Settlers of Catan for igniting the spark that was my love for gaming.
Game: The Settlers of Catan (or just Catan since it’s been rebranded, but our box still says The Settlers of Catan, so that’s what I’m going to call it) Players: 3-4 (5-6 with expansions) Ages: 10+ Playing Time: 60-120 minutes Rules: https://www.catan.com/en/download/?SoC_rv_Rules_091907.pdf
In Settlers of Catan, players take turns rolling dice, collecting resources based on the outcome of the dice, and building up their empire with settlements, cities, roads, and development cards.
During set up, 19 hexagonal tiles (along with ports) are laid out and assigned a number 2-12. Each player then places a settlement on any of the tiles’ vertices along with a road. Settlements cannot be placed within two spots of each other, so there is some jostling for position occasionally. After the first round of placements, players take another turn of placing settlements and roads, this time starting with the last player, and take resource cards (brick, lumber, wool, grain, and ore) based on the resources bordering their second settlement.
A turn typically begins with the active player rolling the dice. Anyone bordering a tile assigned with the number rolled, gains that tile’s resource. Then, the active player can use their resources to build settlements (worth 1 point), cities (replace settlements, are worth two points and earn you double the resources), roads (required to build more settlements), and random development cards (which include soldiers, victory points, and other actions that can be played during your turn).
Resources may be exchanged at a rate of 4:1 (or 3:1 or 2:1 if you border a port). Trading with other players is also allowed during your turn.
If a 7 is rolled, any players with more than 7 cards must discard half of them. Then, the active player moves the robber (a black pawn) to block a tile, then steals a resource from a player whose settlement or city borders that tile. Until the robber is moved again (by someone rolling a 7 or activating a soldier card), no resources can be gained from the blocked tile.
There are five ways to score points:
Build a settlement (worth 1 point)
Build a city (worth 2 points, but replaces the settlement)
Victory point development cards (worth 1 point)
Longest Road (worth 2 points, given to the first player to build five continuous roads, or a player who creates a longer road than the current longest road)
Largest Army (worth 2 points, given to the first player to play three soldiers, or a player who plays more soldiers than the current largest army)
The first player to reach 10 points wins!
Settlers of Catan offers a lot of diverse strategies and replayability for such a light and easy-to-comprehend game. But most important to me, and you’ll hear me saying this about a lot of my favorites, is the fact that it feels good to lose. You rarely feel like you’re so far out of the game that you can’t catch up. So when the game ends and your girlfriend is grinning from ear to ear after stealing your Longest Road, you can smile back and say, “I’ll get you next time!”
If you’re looking to get into board games, Settlers of Catan should be your first stop, and if you’re already into them, you should absolutely have a copy in your collection!