• A review for the newbie gamer
  • For Vegas lovers, it’s like craps!
  • You can build structures and trade resources!


  • 3-4 players (expansion makes it 2-6 players)
  • Ages 10+
  • 60-120 minutes
  • Designed by: Klaus Teuber
  • Publisher KOSMOS + 40 more

This Review is for the Newbie Gamer

You’ve probably heard of Catan before from your geeky gamer friends. They either say they love it or they’re over it. Even if they’re over it, they may have been eager to play it again if only to convince you to enter the modern age of gaming. That’s because almost anyone who’s played it can admit that it’s among the greatest gateway games ever. Catan is credited widely as having ushered in the modern age.

I get it. You’re scared. It looks complicated. The marketing attempts to make it more “friendly” by shortening the name from Settlers of Catan to just plain Catan has gotten you thinking, “If you change the “C” to an “S” then that’s what they’re really selling! The box is red and yellow! They’re taking me to hell!”

No. You’re not going to hell if you play this game (well, maybe, depending upon how you play). In fact, if you’re new to this world, let me be the first to welcome you the Gates of the Promised Land of Board Gaming, situated in the town of Catan!

For Vegas Lovers, It’s Like Craps!

Now wait a minute. Just because I mentioned Vegas and craps, doesn’t mean you’re sinning. There’s no gambling involved (unless you want it to, but that’s not ACTUALLY part of the game). It’s just  a game. One main mechanic of this game is dice rolling, yes. The dice determine what resources you get according to numbers on the board. So resources = cash if you want to equate it to real life. Sixes and eights come up more frequently, so you may want to have some settlements and cities bordering those resource lands. The robber also moves if a seven is rolled during a player’s turn.

Catan - Robber
How could he rob me if he has no arms or legs?

“A robber! That’s evil!” Calm down. We don’t know the robber’s intentions. They could be just stealing so they can live, like Jean Valjean from “Les Miserables.” However, if your opponents are in charge of the robber, and they place it on an area that screws you over, that’s evil. But you’re not evil. You’re just screwed for the moment.

You Can Build Structures and Trade Resources!

Oooh. You get to build things! With little wooden pieces! That’s kinda fun! And that’s not evil. However, unlike craps where you just place your bets, you use your resources like wood and brick to lay roads. Then you can use wood, brick, wool, and wheat to put in a settlement along that road! Then you can build up that settlement to a heavenly city with ore and wheat! The first to get to 10 victory points, which are obtained by building settlements, cities, and through development cards, wins! The game even gives you a head start with two settlements, which equals two victory points!

“Wait. Development cards?” Well, yes! You can spend wheat, ore, and wool to get cards that help you along the way. There are cards that can give you a victory point. Cards that let you build extra roads. Cards that allow you to take other people’s resources. Even cards that allow you to move the robber so other players can be denied resources. Okay. Maybe that’s kinda evil.

However, you can be friends! You can trade resources with other people if you wish! You can help each other! Okay. Maybe you can also be mean by not trading at all. Or you can be evil by trading with an opponent, then building a road or settlement in a spot that blocks their path along the game board. Yeah. That’s a little mean.

Catan Setup
This looks nothing like Monopoly…

When the game is done, is that it? Won’t I know where to build every single time I play this game? Actually, NO! The board is modular. You can set it up according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, or randomize the hexagonal resource tiles for a different setup every time. You can randomize the numbers that are on said tiles. I’m sure some math fanatics out there calculated the number of variations you can make so no two games are ever the same.

It’s Not Evil. It’s Competitive

Yeah. Let’s not call it evil. It’s just friendly competition! But that’s what many board games are about. And when you’re competing with someone you’re interacting. In this case, without electronics! Face to face! Like a human being! Weird. Novel. Worth trying.

If you like it, you can even enhance your Catan experience through expansions. There are simple expansions you can buy that adds a 5th and/or a 6th player to the game and more tiles to expand the board. There are some that lets you build boats. There are some that get way more complicated than that. You can even combine expansions.

Catan - Star TrekIf you’re not into building cities, perhaps you can explore galaxies with the Star Trek version of Catan! Or save the seven kingdoms with the Game of Thrones Edition! Either way, find what version tickles your fancy. But just be aware that these type of special re-themes are harder to find. On a brighter note, you can find Catan at many stores like Target, Walmart, or Barnes and Noble. If you’re still unsure, go to a friendly local gaming store (FLGS). They’ll hold your hand and guide you through your purchase, and if you’re lucky, maybe they’ll have an open copy that you can try out in the store.


Images courtesy of

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