Catan in Review – A quiet evening with the family around the iPhone!

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I must confess I never played the Settlers of Catan board game. What I have played loads of in my time is Monopoly. And in Finnish none the less (which I know about 10 words of). Well, I can finally repent and join the millions of players who’ve enjoyed this famous game right on the iPhone. I can now finally see for myself what all the fuss is about!

The Settlers of Catan is truly a legendary game. It was first released back in 1995 and became one of the most popular board games of all time with more than 15 million copies sold. In the game, the players represent settlers, making headway on a newly discovered island of Catan. The iPhone version is a true reiteration of the classic, featuring a complete set of rules from the original game.

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The goal of the game is simple – be the first to earn 10 Victory Points (or the number defined in the pre-game set-up). There are a number of actions that award VPs, namely – building a town, upgrading to a city, having the longest (but longer than 5) road, etc.

The playing field is made up of 19 terrain hexes. The hexes are assigned a number from 2 to 12, indicating on which roll of the dice will the hex produce resources. There are 5 resources in total: Wood, Ore, Grain, Wool and Bricks. The players place settlements on intersections of the hex borders and may build roads on the borders themselves. As stated earlier, once the dice rolls, all players, that have settlements on the borders of the corresponding hex gain 1 relevant resource for each town (or 2 if they have a city).

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The resources may be used to build roads (only connected to a friendly road or settlement), towns (only 2 removed from any other settlement), upgrade them to cities or buy development cards. If you don’t have enough resources, you can try trading with other players to get them, or trade with the bank (though the exchange rates are horrible). The development cards are your ace up your sleeve, and can be the game breakers. They are purchased for a fixed number of resources and are drawn randomly.

An important part is the robber. If any player rolls a 7, then each player with more than 7 resources must discard half of his/her rounded down. After that the player who rolled the dice may choose the hex to move the robber to (it won’t produce any resources while he is there) and chooses a player, owning one of the adjacent settlements for a random resource to steal.

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The iPhone realization is as close to the board game as possible. I didn’t give the complete rundown of the rules, but they are available from numerous sites on the net, as well as detailed in the game itself. All of the rules are implemented with no change.

You can play against up to 3 enemies, be it humans (hot-seat multiplayer only I’m afraid) or AI. The AI does a decent job and provides a reasonable challenge, especially the more difficult characters. The interface and graphics are very good and easy to use. The tutorial is excellent and is split into 10 (as I remember) chapters, covering all aspects of the game. You can also tweak the game rules a bit before the start if you want to.

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The major flaw in the game is the absence of on-line multiplayer. Settlers of Catan, as many other board games, excels when playing against real live opponents and while the hot-seat multiplayer is nice, the original board game would really be the choice for that.

Catan is an excellent adaptation of the classic board game and is a must for any fans of the original. At the same time, it’s really not suited for a quiet evening in the family like the original was since I can’t imagine the family gathering around a single iPhone. And the absence of online multiplayer really makes the game more or less a sandbox to test and perfect your skills. The AI provides a reasonable challenge, but the game gets boring rather quickly.

With this I declare Catan officially touched.

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App Summary
Title:CatanDeveloper:USM
Price:$4.99App Size:14.2 MB
  • Perfect realization of the classic board game
  • Reasonable AI
  • Hot-seat multiplayer
  • Easy-to-use interface and nice graphics
  • No online multiplayer

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