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Subject: Settlers of Catan: the classic Eurogame rss

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Ed Sherman
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Settlers of Catan is the classic Eurogame. There are all sorts of people that have never heard of the concept of a "Eurogame" that had heard of Settlers of Catan. It has inspired all sorts of translations, expansions, and even ports to different video games (the latest being the Xbox Live).

So what's it all about? Well, probably the biggest innovation Settlers brought to the game table was its board. It consists of hexagons with different terrains, that can be set up in almost limitless combinations. Each land hex also gets a number chit, which goes from two to twelve, but no seven. Players start with two settlements, which go on the junctions between three hexes in the Y-intersection, and one road segment, which points out from one of the "legs" of the Y-intersection.

The first player rolls two six-sided dice. If the roll is anything but seven, everyone that has a settlement adjoining that number on the board gets a resource card for that hex. Players are encouraged to trade cards to get what they need to buy and build more stuff -- either more settlements or roads, or new stuff like resource cards.

If the player rolls a seven, they get to move the robber, which does two things: first, he stops resources from coming out of that hex and the active player gets to steal a resource card from any player adjoining that hex.

Yeah, there's quite a bit more to the game (bonuses for longest road, reducing hand size when the robber is activated, etc.) but that's basically it. It's really quite straightforward. So what's the big deal?

Well, aside from the adaptable board I already mentioned, there are a few other things: there is no player elimination, a lot of interaction between everyone, and it is generally a much more "social" game than mainstream games of the time.

If you get tired of the base game, there are many, many expansions. Some of them radically change the game (like Seafarers of Catan) to smaller changes (like The Great River). This allows players to get a lot more bang for their buck by allowing them to customize their Settlers experience. (If you want a more combative experience, try adding Cities and Knights, for example.)

There are a few issues with the game, the first of which has to do with all those expansions. "Vanilla" Settlers is a very nice 45-60 minute game which expands to a multi-hour game once you keep adding expansions. The downside to all those options is that it really removes the basic simplicity of the game. My second issue is that while there is no actual player elimination, you can have such a runaway leader problem that players can be all but removed from the game.

In conclusion, despite its faults, Settlers is definitely still worth playing. There are a lot of people that will dismiss Settlers, but often they've played it for years because they liked it a lot and only got sick of it later. Calling yourself a Eurogamer without playing Settlers is like an English Lit major that's never read Shakespeare. Not only that, it's pretty darn fun. (My rating: 8/10)
 
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