Occasionally there’s no better way to spend an evening than sitting down around a table with friends and family, having a few drinks and playing a board game. That stands particularly true when the game is something new. Every player goes into the game trying to learn, meaning everyone is that little bit more focused, that little bit more bewildered, and tactics have to be picked up along the way. Although I wouldn’t call any of us board game connaisseurs, this wasn’t the first time we’d learnt a game from scratch of an evening, nor presumably the last time we’ll be up past midnight trying to play one out!
The Settlers of Catan advertises that it can be picked up in fifteen minutes, and with a bit of concentration there really is nothing too complicated about it. The object of the game is to score 10 victory points, which can be gathered in a number of ways, but the key to all of them stems from the same basic root. The island of Catan is divided into various regions or ‘hexes’, each representing a type of landscape which will produce a certain variety of good. Precisely which of these regions will bear fruit on any one turn is determined by the throw of the dice, adding that little element of luck which thankfully doesn’t marr any feeling of player involvement in this game. Placing your settlements and roads wisely should ensure a decent windfall of the produce from the dice throws, and it isn’t necessary to be in control of the dice in order to profit from a roll. Using various combinations of goods produced, a player can expand his network, building more settlements and roads, and creep towards that victory point tally.