Sunday, 15 June 2014

33. 'The Settelers of Catan' reviw. The Cardboard Cartographer issue 8.

Welcome to issue eight of The Cardboard Cartographer here on The science of selling yourself short.'

In this issue we're going to visit a modern board gaming classic; Settlers of Catan.
In addition to the usual review format this issue will see the official launch of the 'Digital spotlight' section.

  Digital spotlight is here to inform you guys that the game being reviewed has a digital version/ companion/app or any other technological gubbins.
These will cover as many platforms as I can find/ reasonably be expected to play/use/buy.
This section will give a quick outline and review of these digital thing.
Who knows? they may get a full blown review in the future.

Back to the main feature of this issue; The Settlers of Catan.

Google FU.

 As usual here is The Cardboard Cartographers's Google fu round up for those who have yet to encounter Settlers of Catan;


The Settlers of Catan is a multiplayer board game designed by Klaus Teuber and first published in 1995 in Germany by Franckh-Kosmos Verlag (Kosmos) as Die Siedler von Catan. Players assume the roles of settlers, each attempting to build and develop holdings while trading and acquiring resources. Players are rewarded points as their settlements grow; the first to reach a set number of points is the winner.

The Settlers of Catan was one of the first German-style board games to achieve popularity outside of Europe. By 2009, over 15 million games in the Catan series had been sold. The game has been translated into 30 languages.  It is popular in the United States where it has been called "the board game of our time" by The Washington Post

For more information, check out the Catan page on Board Game Geek:

Settlers of Catan is one of the board games that helped to redefine the modern day character and image of board games.
It is the perfect game for introducing new people to the world of board games; Simple, elegant, competitive and sociable.
There is very little theme to detract from the came, or to lose players who are not familiar with a specific theme.

As with a lot of games we write reviews for here on The Cardboard Cartographer, there is a TableTop play through on YouTube, which I recommend checking out if you prefer to watch instead of read. -

So, If you're still with us, let's open the box!

First Impressions.

Once you open and unpack the box you are greeted by an array of very simple and colourful pieces and cards.

The cards are your 'small card' variety. Very simple with little writing, if any.
The Board is made up Cardboard composite hex pieces with the same material used to make a 'boarder.'

The board and reference sheets are again made from your standard cardboard composite card stock and the player pieces are made of a simple light wood, painted into four different colours.

There is nothing extravagant here. Everything is simple and elegant.
There is no flavour text, no intricate graphics, and no vast array of game pieces.

Honestly it is refreshing. So many games try to add way too many details into their mechanics and game pieces; it makes the game feel very busy.
Catan manages to keep everything clean and visually appealing with little ostentation. While other games crowd their board with added content to fuel their game, Catan doesn't and is equally as fun, if not more so.

One drawback is the usual problem with composite cardstock.
If it gets wet, or tears when punching it out is is pretty much ruined.
usually this isn't too much of a problem, however it is slightly more noticeable here though, as the 'frame' will only fit well if there is no residue left from the frame.
As you can see from the picture, mine jut does not sit right.
This is easily remedied with a little bit of effort though, so it isn't a huge issue.


Following the simple visuals is simple game play.

There is a set up guide in the rule book.
Essentially you deal out the tiles randomly (or in a set pattern, it is up to you) into a a hexagon with equal sides (3 hex tiles per side).
You then place the number tokens in alphabetical order, starting in one corner and spiralling inwards (missing out the dessert). If you like you can randomise the 'ports,' but this isn't necessary.

Once you're done the board should look something like this.

Once the board is laid out and set up is complete,
the next thing to be done is player set up. This only done once and is done as follows;

Players determine who is going first by rolling dice. The highest starts and then passes clockwise.
The first player sets down a Settlement anywhere on the board and then places a road attached to it.

When the last player has placed their settlement, it then happens again, but counter clockwise; the last player places first and the first player places last. This time however the players draw the resources that are in contact with their settlement.

Once you're done the board should look something like this

As the picture shows, you can link your settlements form the off set like Red and Blue have in the picture, or place it in a different location like Green has.

So long as the settlements are 'two road spaces apart,' or rather two corners of a hex tile, they can placed anywhere in the set up phase.
Later on they adhere to different rules; they have to be connected to your existing territory. More on that later.
When set up is complete the game beings!

Dice rolling.

A players turn starts by rolling dice to generate resources. Adding the the numbers together gives you the tile(s) that will generate resources that turn.
All players with a settlement touching that tile get 1 resource per settlement touching that tile, and/or 2 for each city touching that tile (yes, theoretically means 1 tile can generate 6 resources).

In the above picture an 11 has been rolled. This would therefore generate 2 wool resource cards for the Red player, as he has two settlements touching the wool hex tile. The other tile with the #11 is left unclaimed and thus generates nothing.

If a 7 is rolled the player activates the robber.

The robber has several powers.
Firstly, any player with 8 resource cards or more, must discard half of them (rounded down).
Secondly, the current player has to move the robber to a tile of his or her choosing.
This does two things;
1) The player steals 1 random resource from 1 player of their choice who is touching the tile the the robber has been placed on.
2) That tile is now blocked. If a dice roll would have generated resources from this tile, it does not, until the robber is moved. This is shown in the picture bellow.

After generating resources/ moving the robber the players turn begins.

The very first thing a player can do is play a development card, if they you have one.

Development cards.There are a variety of cards that a player might have. these are picture bellow.

Red - Army: A player gets to move the robber, thus stealing a resource and blocking a territory. It doesn't make anyone discard cards though.

Yellow -  Victory point: These are not played into open play, but are kept secret. Once you have accumulated enough points to win; combining the points on the board and these cards, you flip them over as you declare your victory.

Green - resource/building: These cards have various power, and they do exactly what the text on the cards says. For example. Road building allows you to build two road for free.


A player may also trade any of their resources with either other players, a port, or a the 'bank.'
This can happen as often as the player likes.

Player + player trades come down to what each player wants/ demands. For example, you might want to trade 1 Brick for 1 Rock.
Just like trading things in real life you can demand more for your resources, offer counter offers and even just embargo the hell out of other plays. Only the person whose turn it is may initiate trade.

To trade with the bank a player may trade 4 of the same resource (four brick for example) for any 1 resources. This is a costly, but sometime necessary move.

Attentively, a player can trade with a port.

To trade with a port, a player must have a settlement or city touching the port points. These are indicated by the little cove illustration on the game board.
These are similar to the bank, but each one has a unique trading power.
For example, one port may be; Trade in 2 wool for any one resource.
Another may be; trade in three of the same resource for any one resource.

These bays are extremely powerful, especially if you have a monopoly on said resources.


A player may also build during their turn, as many times as they like so long as they can afford the resources.
The resources cost of each item is on the players card.
For example, a player has the necessary resources, so can build two road, and then a settlement.

There are some rules governing building, so I'll go over them.

Roads - A road must be connected to another friendly road and/or a friendly settlement/ city. Therefore you cannot build a road in the middle of nowhere or on someone else's road. It must 'extend' from your territory.
If you are the first to build 5+ roads in a unbroken line you gain 'The Longest Road,' which is worth 2 victory points. You are allowed to build settlements along this road without breaking it.

A player may 'steal' this from you by build one more road than you have. So if you want longest road, don't stop building.
Settlements -  A settlement must be connected to your own territory. In addition it must be '2 'road spaces'/ tile corners away from any other settlement or city. You can build as many as you like so long as they follow the above rule, or until you run out. Settlements are worth 1 victory point.

City - A city is an upgrade for a settlement. Therefore you have to upgrade an already existing settlement to a city making them quite pricey.


A city is worth 2 victory points. In addition, when generating resources you gain 2, instead of the usual 1.

Development cards - A player may build as many development cards as they want/can afford, however, as stated before, may only play one card at the beginning of their turn, after they've rolled the dice and before any other action is taken.
When the pile of cards is depleted, no more development cards may be built.
As stated previously yellow cards are worth 1 victory point, green card exact the text printed on them, and red cards are army cards.
If you are the first player to have played 3+ army cards you gain largest army. This is worth 2 victory points.

Just like roads, if someone wants to take largest army from a player they need to build one more than the current holder has.

Once a player is done with all the above actions they pass their turn, hand the dice to next player and this continues until someone reaches 10 victory points.

That is actually it.

Personal Opinion.

Out of all the games that started reinvigoration of board games; the modern classics, this is my favourite.
 The words elegant and simple have been thrown at you in a relentless barrage since the beginning of this issue, but there are no better words for it.

The game is casual, and unassuming. One would be forgiven for thinking that it would generate complacency and disinterest, but once you start playing you can tell it demands your attention. not only that, it rewards it.
Knowing exactly what resources players are gunning for, or in possession of, gives you the edge. The twist here is that due to the secret nature of the resources in a players hand, you'll never really know what they have for sure. This allows players to bluff, or switch tactics at will.
But that is exactly what makes it so elegant; the simplicity of the game design and rules mean that the true focus here is on player interaction. A game that can draw the focus away for the mechanics of the game and push the social aspect is usually on to a winner.

The mechanics themselves are so simple it is hard to pick a fault with them.
In fact the most noticeable problem in the game engineers itself to be an awesome mechanic. Sometimes someone is able to monopolise a resource, or the random resource generation element means that one resource is in extremely limited supply.
  This can be a pain for the have not's, but on the flip side those that control this resource will have limited supply of the other resources available.
 The game constructs a miniature version of a naturally evolving, barter based market economy. One where 'wood' is suddenly worth three other resource cards.
That is the power of simplicity; relying on human nature to fuel how the game will evolve.

It is in this regard that I have to say Catan is simply genius.

Digital Spotlight.

 As Catan has a such an expansive following it is not surprising that is has a handful of digital versions. The easiest way to find these is to head over to and check out the Electronic Games section.
I have only had chance to play the App version (Andriod/iOS versions are identical).

To be fair, it isn't that bad. You can play against the computer, or hot seat. This allows you to play with 1-4 human players instead and the game makes up the number with computer controlled opponents. This is handy if you don't have the 3 minimum players required by the board game
The latest update saw the ability to play others over the internet. However, this is currently extremely buggy, so I wouldn't invest too much time in it as of yet.

Overall the App is a really good buy. It is very handy if you want to learn the set up rules, and if you are on the move/ don't have three players to play a game.
My main issues with it are that it is on your phone. it is a bit fiddly sometimes (though there is always the option of playing it on tablet), also the computer could do with variable difficulty settings; after a while it gets a bit too easy.

If you don't want to commit to the app, or the board game for that matter you can play some beginner scenarios for free online (its does cost money to play actual games though) -

You really have no excuse not to not give this one a go!

That is all for this issue of the Cardboard Cartographer.

What do you think of the Settlers of Catan?
Have you played the App/Electronic versions?
What do you think of the vast amount of expansions?

Please feel free to comment, of hit me up on twitter @DarKHaZZl3.

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Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out previous issue if you have not already.
Stay tuned for the next issue where we will be un-boxing Pandanté; a Panda based poker type game.

See you soon.