Settlers of Catan – Benchmark Boardgame

In Israel, at least when I was a child, there’s a culture of board-games. We have, or had, an Israeli company called “Kodkod”, which released games, and I think some of them were originals.
I’ve definitely played strategy games as a kid, I’ve played Talisman many times, I’ve seen used copies of Risk at the library (missing parts, so never got to play it), etc.

So people in Israel don’t see board-games as weird, and in recent years the german style board-games had also begun arriving. Anyway, I’m going to talk on one of the best-known board games across the world, The Settlers of Catan.

I’ve played my first game of this in an Israeli RPG/TCG/etc convention many years ago. I won BTW, then lost the second game we’ve played with different people, and each game went totally different.
In one game, there were like a total of 3 cards bought across the board, and in the other a lot more were bought.

Anyway, in this game you play a bunch of nobles who have towns and build roads, trying to gain control of the small island they are on. Resources are had by dice coming with territory numbers you have a settlement bordering, and rolling a 7 on a 2d6 results in “The Thief” coming to visit.

I’ve never played the game with its supplements, which I know I should. We’ve owned the game for about two years but didn’t get to play it at home yet, which fills me with great shame. Must cook up some board-game knight, even if once a month.

I much prefer playing the game as an ultra diplomatic game. A game where you make pacts with people, where you backstab people, where people try to stop other people when they realize it’s too late, except it’s… too late. In such a game, victory is also about strategy, but more about playing your fellow-players; identifying what your goals are, how to get others to aid you, how you can help them gain their goals without helping them too much or disrupting yourself, etc.
I’ve also seen games of it which sadly went the other way. People asking who needs something but not caring for any alliances at all, not caring to play it as a social game, but each player doing their own thing, and the trades being as impersonal as a face-less bid system.

I consider Settlers of Catan my board-game benchmark. It is not “The Perfect Game” that I deduce points from deviation to, but I think it is a very good game, if rather basic, and serves as a good game to compare other games to to see what they do different, and this sometimes helps identify what I like or dislike about them, both for being similar and for being different.

Score:, 4/5 wood for sheep. It’s entirely possible that after playing with the Knights and Castles add-on, which most people consider mandatory, I could only think of playing the basic game as an abomination not worthy of more than 2.5/5. But I’m not there yet.

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