3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Best boardgame I've ever played, although I'm not an expert,
= Durability: = Fun: = Educational:
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This review is from: Settlers of Catan (Toy)
I'm not a boardgame geek; nothing against boardgame geeks because if they didn't exist, I'd never have heard about this game, but I can't claim to be one. My gaming experience consists of the usual childhood games (Monopoly, Cluedo, Sorry); a little bit of teenage wargaming (Avalon Hill titles like my dad's old copy of Tactics II and a cousin's copy of Panzer Leader); some D&D, Traveller, Car Wars and that kind of thing, followed by a repeat of the traditional boardgames (Monopoly etc.) once I'd become a parent. So, this review is aimed not at boardgame fans but at people like me, who had come to consider boardgames a mildly annoying ordeal you had to go through in order to entertain your kid on a wet weekend.
I bought this game because I have a six-year-old daughter and I was sick of losing Monopoly to her. (Not just Junior Monopoly, either. The grown-up kind.) Although I'm not a boardgame geek I have geekish tendencies in other ways, and knowing a little game theory I guessed that games must have moved on a bit since Monopoly. I did a little research and read about the revolution in board games that's happened in the last 20-odd years, and since Settlers of Catan seemed to be one of the most popular games out there, I gambled that there must be something good about it.
To be honest, our first attempt to play it was not successful. I was unprepared for a whole new way of thinking about boardgames, I hadn't manage to memorise the rules, and my daughter got impatient with how long it took to set the game up and my inability to know off the top of my head what should happen at any given moment. We didn't get very far.
I then did something that, for me, is unusually clever: I bought it for my phone, and played a number of games on it myself, so as to learn the rules. This turned out to be a good idea, because when I subsequently suggested we play, my daughter was eager to have another go, and since I knew what was supposed to happen in each turn, we played for two hours straight before she finally inched a win (not without some dice-fudging on my part, but that's how you get kids interested). Anyone with small children will know how rare it is for a six-year-old to concentrate on any activity for two hours.
Games like Settlers of Catan work because they're more lifelike than the traditional boardgame, without any loss of structure. Anyone familiar with Monopoly is familiar with the boredom associated with waiting for other players to take their turns, and the impotence associated with it. All you can do is stand by and watch while they do things; Monopoly forbids almost all kinds of interaction between players. Settlers of Catan thrives on interaction, playing almost like a conversation with rules. Monopoly is also a zero-sum game: for one person to win, it's almost inevitable that everyone else must lose pretty spectacularly, and so the outcome of any given game is usually very predictable long before the game itself finally grinds to an end. In Settlers of Catan, you can be neck and neck all the way along and winners tend to win by the tiniest margin, making it constantly exciting.
It's a superb game and I wish I'd earned about games like it earlier. It has flow; as soon as my daughter picked up on what she could do in any given round, she never got bored. Yes, we were doing a two-player game and that's not supposed to be a good idea but trust me, it can be done. I could wish that the board were more durable-looking and that it were easier to play the game on a carpet, as opposed to on a table, but it's still possible. I foresee myself spending a lot of money on the expansion sets. I'm hooked.