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Subject: The Catan Big Box: A guilty pleasure of.... premium components rss

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Rutger W
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Since its original release in 1995, Settlers of Catan has sold 22 million copies worldwide as of 2015. Its social-cultural impact on gamers has not been widely analyzed, and is probably the grossest underestimated mental and strategic game since Tarot. Catan combines the tension of a game like chess, with much open information, as well as the excitement of unfolding information of a fixed deck of cards, like talon-trumpgames as Bezique and Marjolet do. It paved the way for highly acclaimed boardgames such as Puerto Rico, Castles of Burgundy and Power Grid. Hardcore strategist gamers could have only one complaint, and that is the randomness of a dice being thrown; but many players like that casino-feeling of betting on a dice. More importantly, the deceivingly simple mechanics make it appealing as a family game. The fad continues well into the years '10. A new version of the game and all its expansions was introduced, with stunning upgraded plastic playing pieces. Still, the Dutch publisher 999 Games deems the Catan market of the Netherlands not saturated just yet, and released a Big Box.

The Biggest introduction...

After all this time and history, a Big Box does make sense. It will give new players a more elaborate introduction. The choice of including Traders & Barbarians as an expansion is not really obvious at first sight, if you'd have to pick one yourself. It was probably done because of its modular feel; it will give players an easy opportunity to expand upon the base game with non-intrusive, small expansions. It also has the possibility to confuse said new players, as the other stuff included are basically mini-expansions as well, like the Helpers of Catan and Berlin monuments. I imagine it to to be a bit overwhelming. Add to that two extra seemingly random gameboards with no clear relation to anything else in the box or to each other; Mallorca and New York, and the confusion is complete. In that regard, including an expansion with a clear theme like Seafarers or Cities & Knights would have made more sense, perhaps combined with a 5-6 player set. On a highly personal basis, I think any sort of expansion relating to real locations, be it Berlin, Mallorca or New York, is best left far away from the base game, and should only be played with if you're really bored with everything else in your house. The unqiue universal feel of the original tiles, and that of Seafarers and Cities & Knights, is what makes the game so special to me. Everything together, I would not quickly recommend this box to players that are completely new to the game, for fear that they would start playing with the geographic maps.

Then again, who is completely new to Catan? Do such people exist anymore? Perhaps this box is an ideal start of someone who is familiar with the game, but doesn't own it yet. If you intend to start a Catan collection anyway, this box is probably ideal.

Collectors of Catan

This all being said, the box is obviously produced to appeal to collectors, too. The design of the box is extremely standard, if not rushed and ugly, but players with a big Catan collection will welcome the extra storage space it allows.

The most prominent feature is likely the pink set of playing pieces. Following the odd choices of the past base colors of the new edition (mouldy orange, off-white, dark blue and regular red, and the expansion colors of kale green and undefinable brown), faded pink seems like another spasm of Catan exclusivity. It works, too. The pink set includes pieces for the expansion contained in the box, Traders & Barbarians, but also for Seafarers and Cities & Knights, not contained in the box. This has an extremely high value for collectors. A few exclusive colors were a give-away at Essen 2015 tournament (if you participated), but you could only get one set by participating (the set you played with), and it would not include any pieces for expansions.

The second feature that is highly appealing to me is the Helpers of Catan expansion; they are printed on sturdy cardboard instead of regular cards. I don't know if this was the case with earlier versions of this mini-expansion in Dutch, but up until now I've only seen them on cards. It is a very welcome upgrade since these cards are likely to be on the table for a lot of the time when played with, subject to a lot of touching (or worse).


Buy it if you want extra storage space for your numerous collection of mini expansions, don't buy it if you want a box with a pretty design on the front. Buy it if you intend to start a Catan collection, don't buy it if you you're completely new to it. Buy it if you want an officially released exclusive color of playing pieces, don't buy it if you dislike pink.

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