Friday, 5 April 2013

The Settlers of Catan, is there too much luck?

Settlers of Catan is the boardgame where most modern gamers start, and some would say started the whole modern boardgaming movement! A pretty awesome claim to fame for designer Klaus Teuber. However, is it a good game? Well it does make its way into the top 100 on boardgame geek, well its at rating 100 now so it may not stay there for much longer.


I am not sure how much to go into this as I am sure most people have played Settlers. It seems to be almost as prolific as Monopoly or Risk so skip this section if you must. The basics are, you roll for resources which you get by having a settlement or city next to a resource, which you can then use to build roads to get to new locations for more resources and numbers, settlements, cities and development cards which help you get more resources and attack other players. The aim is to get to 10 points to gain the title 'lord of catan' (only in the old version) and win the game. If you want a better definition get the rules from here.

Luck and frustration

This is the most frustrating aspect of Settlers. What you do requires the luck of the dice. There are ways to minimise this, for example putting your settlement on a 8 is better than a 12 as there is only 1 way to roll a 12 and 5 to roll a 8 (at-least I think its 5 of the top of my head). Also don't forget to get a diversity of number. However even if you have really great numbers they never seem to roll for you! It is sooooo frustrating! 

What makes it worse, is when your luck evens out as the game goes on it is often hard to come back as your opponents have build around you minimizing your opportunities! To make it worse when I play with my wife's family my mother in law always puts the robber on me despite the fact that I am losing miserably she has some weird reason for finding it better to place the robber on the loser rather than the winner! Grrr.

A great entry level game

Settlers is a relatively easy game for new gamers to learn. As I mentioned above my in-laws enjoy playing settlers when we visit. It is easy enough to learn and enjoyable while you try and master it. However I find because of this, many of my non-gamer friends want to play settlers, which renders it an overplayed game growing dull quickly.


Settlers is fun. The game play is interesting, and when luck doesn't draw you a foul card it gets even better! Like most people I know it was one of the first modern games I played so it has a soft spot in my heart. Also, you can make towers with your pieces while you play.

Verdict: 6.5/10

I guess in the end settlers is a good enough game and a good game to play with new gamers. However every so often luck can get you down (and bad robber placements!).

See more reviews? Check out our Alien Frontiers review here.


  1. I wholly agree with your "verdict" of 6.5, but mostly because the Euro-feeling is very strong in this one. As a miniature gamer/component-lover like myself and many of my gamer friends, the components are more important than I/we dare to admit. For me, the components are a bit too chessy-simplictic. It is also a part of the game's charm, so...

    The luck-part might seem as somewhat problematic for many players, but personally, I find it a perfect example of game balance between luck and simple chess-like strategy. The best player ALWAYS wins in the groups I play with. Regardless of dice-luck. I win in Settlers around 20% of times played. With newbies, I win a majority of the times - even with atrocious luck.

    We do not play it anymore as it is a bit too long for a filler game and very much too light for a full Saturday of gaming. As you said, a good game to play with new gamers - only problem is, they are the ones most prone to note the luck-element (obviously in a negative way)!

    Have you tried any Vlaada Chatil-games?

    I also noted you've played the gladiator game, this one was perfect for my non-gaming friends which I was thoroughly surprised with!

    1. I find that to, even if you do bad at the start you can start doing better at the end of the game. Even when I am completely boxed due to back rolls and inability to expand at the beginning in I can often get up to 9 points before the game ends with newer players.

      Mostly this is the game I will introduce to new gamers. Although now that I have Formula D in my collection I may play this more!

      I can see the gladiator game as a good game for non-gamers as it is quite fun and the game play is simple enough! Though I think the next game to enter my collection may be Zombicide!

    2. Being boxed in is really annoying I must admit. But it is almost always solvable by upgrading the villages into cities and taking development cards and hope for those +1 point-cards.

      I heard about zombicide on the D6G and later played what I thought was said game - but looking at BGG, it looks totally different... anyway, the game I played - allegedly Zombicide - was simple but still demanding in terms of skill. Just like Settlers!

      Formula D looks perfect to redo in a muuuuch simpler version for my very young nephews. And I'll keep the original game :D


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