July 26th, 2007


It was a little over a year ago that I saw Settlers of Catan for the first time. Brian had been telling me about it (and a bunch of other card/tile-based games) for a while, but when a bunch of us Internetians met last year, he brought Settlers with him.

I didn’t play, but I observed some play, and it confused and frightened me. “No, thanks!” I said.

Settlers of Catan was introduced in 1995 by a German games company, and it won “Game of the Year” that year in the German market. From there it’s gone on to sell over 11 million copies worldwide and gain several expansion packs. (source) In a nutshell, the game is about getting resources and using those resources to build roads, settlements, and cities in an effort to earn Victory Points. The first person to get ten Victory Points wins the game. It’s about strategy and trading, but it’s more about sitting around a table talking to friends.

About two months ago, Settlers came to Xbox Live Arcade, Microsoft’s “download games to your console’s hard drive” system (which, as a side note, is completely awesome). It was a departure from their usual offerings, like Pac-Man, Gyruss, Castlevania, and Street Fighter II, along with several made-for-XBLA games. I decided to download the demo and give it a try – partly because Brian was hassling me to do so, but partly because I was interested, despite my claims otherwise. I’d been hearing about the game from other people here and there as well, and a demo I could play against the computer seemed a good way to get my feet wet.

The demo had a Tutorial that led me through the whole process of the game, step by step. About two seconds after I played the tutorial, I bought the full game. Shortly thereafter, I played an online game with Brian and a friend of his. I was hooked.

A few weeks ago, we took a trip down to Louisville, Kentucky, to see Josh and Gretchen. Before we hit the road, I stopped at our local game shop and picked up an actual copy of the game to take with us. If I’m remembering correctly, two games were played that weekend. Since then, a week hasn’t gone by that a game hasn’t been played. I introduced it to some people in the Career Class, and we’ve since learned there were already some fans in the class. Most Career Class gatherings now tend to have a Catan outbreak. A few weeks ago, a fellow classmember bought the 5-6 Player expansion pack (thanks, Jeremiah!) and gave it to me, so now even more people can play at the same time. There was one gathering over at Lee‘s house that saw two games going on at once, with a total of ten people playing.

While the game is fun, for me the better part is playing with friends and talking. Sure, there are bouts of bitterness here and there (“Why won’t you trade with me?” “You’re 8 points ahead of me!”) and the occasional… let’s say “non-standard, non-legal” moves made (read: “cheating,” whether intentional or not!), but it’s good to sit down with friends and play a game and talk, whether it’s around a table or on Xboxes in different parts of the country.

Two other effects the game has had:

  1. Brian gets to say “I told you so!” to me (And he does. Often.)
  2. Now I’m considering buying a copy of Carcassonne.