I remember the first time I played the game Settlers of Catan. I was at my neighbor’s house and I sat down with my friend Kristina and her family to play. They proceeded to explain the rules of the game for the next 15 minutes and I nodded politely while not understanding anything they said. It took a while to get the hang of it, and even when I was playing the game I felt like I didn’t fully get all of the rules and strategy, but I ended up winning the game and then immediately going home and telling my parents we needed to buy a copy. Looking back on it, part of me has to wonder why the game caught my attention the way it did.
What is it about Settlers of Catan that makes people excited about board games? At first glance, this instant classic isn’t the type of game you would expect to completely revitalize the board game industry. Now I’m definitely not saying that Settlers is a bad game; it’s one of my all-time favorite board games, and I’ve taught many of my friends how to play with great success. But Settlers isn’t exactly the simplest game to pick up. It can be difficult to learn and the game starts off slowly while you build up resources, so in today’s fast-paced society the assumption is that nobody would have the time or attention span to learn something so complex. This game defies the stereotype of what we’re supposed to want, and yet against all odds it’s brought about a youth movement for tabletop gaming.
Personally I believe that Settlers is the type of game that is built for longevity. It has a compelling style and look that pulls you in, excellent gameplay and a strong social factor to keep you engaged, and an ever-changing layout to keep you coming back for more. Games last about an hour so you have enough time to learn the game and still get engrossed in fields of wheat and mountains of ore while you try and outmaneuver your opponents. Pretty soon you are buying the game (and its many expansions) and teaching your friends how to play, and the cycle continues.
Back in 1995, Klaus Teuber created a game that would change everything. Before Settlers, the only well known board games were older games like Clue and Monopoly that, while fun, have become more classic than groundbreaking. Settlers changed that. The game is complex, colorful and different every single time, and it spurred a new renaissance of board games that ultimately led to more popularity than ever before. The board game industry has begun to thrive, and a large part of that is thanks to Settlers of Catan. Sometimes it’s hard to see, but change can come from anywhere, including from the simple act of sitting down with your neighbors to try something new.
For more information on Settlers of Catan and all the different games and expansions, go to http://www.catan.com
I have such fond memories of Settlers of Catan. I lived abroad for a while and it was the only game my friends and I had worth playing. While some of my more “hardcore” tabletop friends scoff at the game with the explosion of elite games these days, I cherish it! I rarely get to play it these days 😦
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