Originally Posted at http://gameswithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/08/monopolizing-catan-...
Settlers of Catan has deemed itself "The Game for Our Generation." It is the game that many consider to have revolutionized board gaming in America; even though it's origins are found in Germany. Many have even called it "The New Monopoly." The game has three big expansions along with several other smaller ones, countless spin-offs, and games that have nothing to do with Catan, but use the name for marketing and sales purposes. According to the most reliable source on the internet, Wikipedia, Catan has sold over 15 million copies, and those figures are from 3 years ago. So, needless to say, Settlers of Catan, Klaus Teuber (The Designer), and Mayfair Games (Publisher in the US) are all doing pretty well.
Yet, Catan is still not reaching the masses like it could. Not every house has a copy on their shelf. With Monopoly, just about everyone has at least one copy of this game lying around somewhere. It seems to me that Mayfair wants Catan to be everywhere. They have entered into Target and Barnes and Noble. They are attempting to become more "mainstream," which would mean more sales, and thus have created Catan: Family Edition. This is not a new version of Catan, like Simply Catan, Catan Junior, or Kids of Catan. No, this game is just the original Settlers of Catan, however, there are some differences. The majority of this review will be discussing the differences between the original game and this new edition, and if this new edition is even necessary.
I'm not going to get too in depth here as the game play for Catan Family is exactly the same as the original Settlers of Catan game. The basic idea is that each player is a Settler on the island of Catan. Your goal is to gather resources in order to build, upgrade, and expand the two starting settlements that you are given. Each of the resources is given a number and at the beginning of each player's turn they roll two dice. If any player rolls a number that you are adjacent to, you get to collect that resource. As you collect resources to build your settlements, you will gain victory points. The more you expand the more victory points you get. The first player to get to 10 victory points is deemed the winner.
The beauty of the game play is that every player is involved in every turn. There is constant player interaction via trading and blocking the other players by getting to a spot before they do. There is no player elimination like in Monopoly or Risk, and the game is usually over in about an hour.
Since this game plays the same as the "classic" Settlers of Catan, you may be curious as to what the differences are between it and this new family version. The first thing you willl notice is that when you see this on the shelf at your local store is that the price is significantly less than the classic version. The family version has an MSRP of $30, while the classic Catan's MSRP is $42. This is the main reason for this new version. A lower price point may result in more sales. We will get more into that later. The box for the Family Edition is also different. There is updated artwork and it is the size of the standard big box games (Ticket to Ride box size).
Inside the box, is where you start to see some big changes to the components. First, instead of having individual tiles for each space on the board, there are only six pieces that lock together to form the board. Now these pieces are interchangeable and they are two sided, so you can still get some variety, which is one of the reasons many people love Settlers. Next, on the 6 pieces, the ports and numbers are already on the board. There is not going to be much variety here. I don't think this is a big deal, especially if you are only going to be playing casually. This is especially true since the casual game player is the target audience here.
After the board pieces, the components are the next thing that will strike you. First, all of the player pieces are made of plastic. The classic version had wooden pieces. This is a big change, however a necessary one if you are going to lower the production cost of the game. The game cards are also smaller. They are the tiny "Eurostyle" cards, or as Ryan Strum calls them, "Hobbit Cards." The last change is the artwork. I have the 3rd Edition of Settlers the artwork was very bland, dry, and very appealing. I can't speak for what the 4th Edition looks like, but the new artwork compared to my version is much much better. It's brighter and is more welcoming to new players. Finally, the rulebook is on one 11x17 page folded, which amounts to about four pages. There is an additional couple pages of appendix/FAQ stuff on a separate sheet, but the main rules are on one sheet. This makes them much more accessible and easy to learn. I know my version had a rule book that was 10 pages long, and then an almanac that was an additional 15 pages. It was also all black and white. The new rules are full color, and I believe this is the case with the 4th Edition of the standard game as well.
Mayfair is really trying to make strides to expand their market. Meaning, they are trying to reach the family and non-gamers out there. You see this with their introduction of the "Fun Fair" line, which Catan Family Edition is a part of, and their presence in Target and Barnes and Noble. It really seems like they are trying to extend a hand to the casual gamer. They have lowered their price point and simplified the rules. This is all in attempt for more sales and hopefully to get more people into gaming. Some will see this as a bad thing, and that Catan and the hobby game industry is going to become like Hasbro and Monopoly. Well, in some senses it will become that way. Publishers have to sell games in order to make money and thus stay in business. If this means that they make a version of one of my beloved games that appeals to John Q public, then by all means make it. If it's at a price that grandma is more comfortable with, then make it. Let's get these wonderful games out to anyone and everyone who wants to take a look at them.
I know what your thinking, "but then the Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS) suffers because Target and Barnes and Noble are taking away all their sales!" Let's be honest, the family going through the game aisle at Target isn't stepping foot into the FLGS, but maybe if they buy Catan Family Edition or Star Trek Catan they will google it, find out about other games and that there are speciality stores, and then venture into the FLGS. In my opinion, these new versions can only help the world of hobby gaming, not hurt it. I know others will disagree with me, and that's fine. What are your thoughts?
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I agree that the more people who get into this hobby board gaming, the better the whole industry is. More games, more designers, and publishers making more money.
I also think that the Mayfair Settlers of Catan is a bit overpriced and should be closer to the $30 - $35 range. There are wooden components but the other components are not of exceptionally high quality nor are there a lot of other parts to the box.
When you can buy similar games around $30, like Tikal, it makes me wonder if the majority of their money isn't tied into license fees and royalties for Kosmos and Klaus Teuber.
I think the game design is wonderful and would pay the $42 any day, but it's hard for someone who just sees it on the shelf to shell out that dough on a game they've never played.