The start of it all- Settlers of Catan

yes we catan

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

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Board Game of the Week – Ticket to Ride

Each week, I’m going to review a board game that I’ve played and post the full scoop. This week, I’m going to talk about the Days of Wonder hit Ticket to Ride.

Ticket to Ride picture 3

First, the basic details:

Game Title: Ticket to Ride

Release Date: 2004

Number of Players: 2-5

Average Game Time: 30 minutes-60 minutes

Game Publisher: Days of Wonder

Game Designer: Alan R. Moon

Expansions/Alternates: Yes

Available in Stores: Original version yes, alternates and expansions online

Ticket to Ride picture 1

Ticket to Ride is a game with a simple concept that involves 2-5 players trying to expand their railroads across the United States (or Europe or the Nordic counties if you play the alternate games). The object is to create railroad paths from city to city to earn points based on “Destination Tickets” acquired throughout the course of the game. Once a player has used up all of his or her train cars, each player has one more turn to complete his or her tickets. If a player doesn’t complete the tickets, he or she loses the points normally awarded for finishing the paths.

Ticket to Ride picture 2

I think the main appeal of this game is that it’s fast-paced but still requires a lot of strategy. Players can only complete one of three options each turn, and each turn goes by quickly so nobody sits around waiting for long. The strategy of where you place your train cars is extremely important; you can choose to either take direct routes from city to city or take an extremely long route to get to multiple destinations in one go. You can also block other players from getting to certain cities, denying them points they would need to win. Replay value is high because strategies and routes change, though it isn’t a game that you should plan on playing more than two or three times in one sitting.

Overall, I highly recommend this game for a small group with an hour or so to kill. Families will enjoy it, as well as groups of friends who are competitive and willing to give something new a try.

Jack’s Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Say Yes to Board Games

Hi – my name is Jack Dixon. I’m 24 years old, I live in Northern Virginia, and I love board games.

I’ve been a fan of board games ever since I was a kid. I played Monopoly and Clue with my family as far back as I can remember. I watched my parents play Scrabble when I was a toddler, and I was obsessed with this cult classic called The a MAZE ing Labyrinth. Whenever I visited extended family, we spent our evenings playing Yahtzee and laughing with my Grandparents. When I wasn’t outside playing capture the flag or kickball, I was usually sitting around a table playing some tabletop classic or exciting new game my parents found for me.

And then I got older, and fell into an age where board games weren’t as “cool.” I switched my primary indoor activity to video games, exchanging Connect 4 with N64 and hanging out with Mario instead of my folks. But here’s the thing – I never completely ignored my penchant for board games either. I always secretly wished that when my friends came over we could all sit around a table and play a game of Risk, and while that would happen every once in a while it was always the exception rather than the norm.

Then, the craziest and most unexpected thing happened: board games became cool again. Games like Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples (or Cards Against Humanity for the adult-minded), and Pandemic hit stores, and suddenly high school and college kids everywhere started going back to their roots. Now I am able to proudly display my board games in my apartment, and when people ask me how many Monopoly boards I currently own (the answer is 12) it starts up a conversation about all the cool new games out there and how well they are tailored towards the 20-somethings of the world. I’m part of three separate groups of friends that have “board game night” once a week. Last week I taught my roommates how to play Ticket to Ride (a game which I will talk about more in my next post) and we sat around our family room drinking a few beers and chatting while we played well into the night. Board games becoming popular again has completely changed how the youth of the world interact, and it’s a beautiful thing.

My name is Jack Dixon, and I’m a board game enthusiast. And saying yes to board games has provided me with endless joy and excitement. I hope that you get a chance do the same.