Thursday, December 11, 2008



There are those games out there that you hear a lot about, the kind that you have always wanted to play, and are excited by the prospect of actually sitting down to try it out.
Such was the case with Settlers of Catan, a game that seems to be highly rated by many who have played the game, and thus was on the gaming radar for some time.
Sadly, this game doesn't come close to the hype heaped upon it.
In fact, this is a game that has very little going for it once you get past the expectation.
Created by Klaus Teuber in 1995, Settlers has been something of a board game phenomenon since, with a legion of players, and a number of expansions, and game system clones created in the past 13 years. In that respect it reminds me of Monopoly. Wait, it reminds me of Monopoly in another way too, just how awful this game is.
So what exactly is Settlers about? It is a game where players collect resources to build towns, cities and roads, and to amass armies, each worth points toward winning.
Sounds like a game where there would be a descent level of strategy involved in gaining and managing those resources doesn't it?Sadly, this game quickly throws player thinking by the way side in favour of a game with layer, upon layer of random luck determining the victor.
The game starts out so promising too, having a modular board, that is laid out each game, giving the initial board a different look each play, which should lead to the need for some different strategies too. The modular board is the best aspect of this clunker.
However, the board pieces are then assigned numbers from two to 12, although there is no seven. Players then get to place two towns and two roads onto the board to start the game.
After that a player's turn comes down to rolling a pair of dice. If you have a town adjacent to the territory with the number that comes up on the dice, you gain resources.
OK, do some quick math, with seven off the board, six and eight are the most likely number to be rolled, so guess where you better place your town if you can.
Now for the seven, when that number comes up, and statistically it will come up most often, it can be used for players to turn resources over to the bank should a player have too many, or it can move a random 'robber' piece to actually steal resources from another player. Yep, randomness on top of randomness.
There is also a deck of cards one can draw from, another aspect of the game in which players have no control over the outcome.
This is a game where you need different types of resources too, wool wheat, iron ore etc., and a player can end up shorted out of one or more depending on where their towns and cities are placed. There is a trading option between players, but that is likely to come down to players cooperating to overcome a clear leader, and hardly adds to giving good players the win.
There is just way too much randomness for this game to be taken seriously.
That said, everyone stays in the game until there is a winner, which is generally a good thing, although you might wish you could lose out to go watch a television test pattern in the case of Settlers.
This is a game you might see referred to as an entry level sort of board game, one that is great for introducing new players to the hobby. Yes, you can teach the rules quickly, but you aren't exactly giving anyone much of a challenge. This is a game about rolling dice, drawing cards, snoring a bit and rejoicing when it's over.
Leave this one in the store.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov. 12, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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