Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Board games for Christmas #2 : The Settlers of Catan



A World Award-Winning Non-Violent Board Game that even young children can play.

The players in the game represent the eponymous settlers, establishing a colony on the previously uninhabited island of Catan. The island itself is laid out randomly at the beginning of each game from hexagonal tiles ("hexes") of different land types each producing one type of resource: ore, grain, wool, lumber, or clay (brick). One hex is desert which does not produce anything.
Starting with two settlements and adjoining road sections, players build roads, settlements and eventually cities as they settle the island. Roads are built along the edges of the hexes, and settlements at the corners; no two settlements may be built on adjacent corners. Positioning of roads and settlements allows a player to deny other players access to essential resources, and good building is one route to victory.
Each turn, a roll of the two dice determines which hexes produce resources. This is the main random element in the game. Normally, players with settlements adjacent to those hexes receive resource cards of the appropriate type, with cities yielding more resources. However, if the dice roll is 7, the "robber" token must be moved to a different hex. This allows the player to prevent that hex from producing resources and to steal a resource card from another player.
The resource cards can be spent to build more roads or settlements, upgrade settlements to cities, and to obtain development cards for later use; or they can be stored for trade or later use. When a seven is rolled, players with too many stored resources lose half their stored resources, making the choice of whether to build or store resources a difficult one.
Players are allowed to trade among each other the resources they have produced, and to trade "off the island" for a hefty price. By building settlements in certain positions, players may obtain better off-island trading prices. Bad luck in the game can be mitigated by trading, and trading is the main method of player interaction in the game; astute trading is another route to victory.If a player is winning, other players may refuse to trade; this allows them to catch up with the leader.

A game of giant Settlers of Catan being played Gen Con Indy 2003. This is one of many Settlers of Catan custom extra-large boards seen during demonstrations and tournaments at Gen Con.
A player receives a victory point for each settlement built, and another for each settlement upgraded to a city. Various other achievements, such as establishing the longest road, grant a player additional victory points. The victor is the first player to accumulate ten victory points on his turn.
There is no combat. Apart from moving the robber, refusing to trade, and cutting off building routes, there is no way to harm other players. The layout of the board and restrictions on building allow for a player to be boxed in through poor play or bad luck. Also, given the random component of board layout, it's possible for players to gain a monopoly on certain resource, and demand steep trade rates from other players. Home games generally take between one and two hours to complete.

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