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Subject: A Story of Gateway Success rss

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Rory
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Before talking about this actual game session, I would like to preface the story with some background information.

Over the course of the summer of 2007 I witnessed how much of a gateway game Settlers of Catan really is. I was first introduced to the game through the electronic adaptation that was brought onto the XBOX360 game console. After playing that a number of times I quickly went out and bought a copy of the game. This was significant, seeing as I hadn't bought a new board game since I was about 8 years old.

On 6/17/07 a pair of my friends were over at my house to play some video games. In our 8+ years of hanging out with one another we had never played any board games with one another. To the best of my knowledge neither had any interest in German-style board games, much less board games in general.

Despite this, I went out on a limb and asked these guys if they were willing to try and play a board game. They were skeptical at first, to the point of making a face when I initially asked then. However, I implored them to at least give it a shot. Reluctantly, both agreed and we commenced to set up the starting board.

I went over the rules with both players (we'll call them T and S) and quickly talked about the "theory" of the game (trade to win, be careful of giving someone what they need to win). After doing so the game was off and running.

As one might imagine, the first game for both of them was slightly confusing and not really chock full of strategy. Starting locations were questionable and there were a few head scratching moves. Despite this, these two guys were having a blast. T was a shrewd player and almost could have been called an isolationist. Getting a trade from this guy was like pulling teeth. Meanwhile S had no problem trading away constantly.

In the end I won the game relatively easily. T realized that you couldn't effectively compete in the game by only doing your own thing and S realized that trading constantly can often hurt more than it helps. As the game finished I did my best to get a feel of everyone's reaction to it. Half expecting to hear that they didn't enjoy it, I sheepishly asked the guys what they thought of it. Both proceeded to look at each other, look at the board, and say "Let's play another one!".

"Another one" turned out to be a series of games lasting the next 5 hours, with each game becoming progressively more competitive. S began to be more frugal with his trades and T began to work carefully to pit S and myself against each other. The final game of the night ended with T winning by a score of 10-9-8. Each player thanked me for introducing them to the game and headed home.

While this play session may seem relatively vanilla, what happened next I found truly amazing. About 3 days later T and S both gave me a call asking if I wanted to play some more Settlers. I said sure and both said they were on their way over.

As they showed up, I saw a handful of boxes under the arms of each. As they came inside they set them down and I saw everything from their own sets of Settlers to the Seafarers and Knights and Cities expansions! Each one had loved the first session so much that they each went out and bought their own copies of the game, plus a few expansions!

Needless to say, the games that night (mostly of Seafarers) were extremely competitive. Each had improved drastically (apparently they had been playing all week laugh) and the games always ended quite close.

Later in the week I was speaking with S about my amazement at the speed in which the game had spread. It was then that he admitted that he had taken the game over to his girlfriend's house and had introduced the entire family of 5 to it. He said that every night from our first play session had been full of games with these folks. Apparently the son of the family had also bought his own copy and was spreading the "Settlers Gospel" to his friends.

All in all, this one play session of Settlers of Catan proved to me the power of this game as a gateway board game. After our initial session, it seemed that the number of interested players increased exponentially as one person would introduce it to the next.

In addition to just introducing T and S (and all of the following parties) to Settlers of Catan, this play session also ignited their passion for all German-style board games. On the same day that both arrived with Settlers and the expansions, I also spotted a copy of Carcassonne in there as well.

To sum up this session in a few words, I would say it was a continual instance of "Pay it forward", with the knowledge and interest of Settlers as gift that was being passed from one person to the next.
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KK Su
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Great story. Settlers was the gateway game for my current game group as well. Now we play a whole variety of games at least once a month. We still come back to regular Settlers though - it's a game that keeps improving the more you play it!
 
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Jason Cheng
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Catonsville
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Indeed a great story. I hope to hear more of your future successes with other games as well.
 
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