Tag Archive: settlers of catan

A few weeks ago, tbV and our two housemates Aaron and Sarah went for a meal and games-playing evening [yes, Settlers of Catan] to our friends from church, Mike and Leah.

Aaron and Mike have at least one thing in common in that they both work in what must be one of the best jobs in the world – teaching young children engineering concepts through Lego [or Legos if you’re Americanese!].

So before we went to visit we came up with a plan to legonap some of Mike’s lego people and hold them hostage for a bit of fun.

Sadly, when we got to their house his Lego men were all safely hidden away and so our plan seemed thwarted.

Until i had to make a restroom call and met these friendly creatures:


The wedding ducks were perched on the top of the Smiths toilet and so i secretly pocketed them and let the others know as we drove home that the mission had not been completely compromised.

We then got to work with TYPING [of course] a ransom letter and taking pics of their ducks being guarded by Aaron’s Ninja Lego men:

Sent it to them. Great laugh. And you’d think the story would end there, right?

Well it was until Val and Aaron and i went to play games at our friend Bruce’s house. Great evening of games, amazing snacks, and good company and all going relatively routinely, until i happened to need the bathroom and when i went i happened to spot these guys [as part of a larger group of five on a rack in the shower]:


Pretty familiar-looking right… that is until you see this other picture taken with my phone for scale appreciation:


Wait, What? Did i step into Inception here? No you did not. Turns out Bruce and his family have a set of 5 ducks, including two very similiar wedding ducks, but of the little tiny baby duck-sized variety…

So naturally i pocketed them [for a guy big on honesty, i don’t seem to have too many qualms for stealing it seems…] and took them home and we came up with plan B.


Which involved another coincidental dinner party at Mike and Leah’s where i left the two tiny wedded ducks on their toilet…

And then another regular games night at Bruce’s where i ‘SNUCK’ the two giant ducks into the throng:

newfamilyducksYeah, they just fit right in there, huh?

I’m not sure if the moral to this story is ‘Don’t invite Brett and Val to your house for games’ or maybe just that you should look a little better after your toys and play companions when you do.

All i am suggesting is that life is too short not to ‘kidnap a set of plastic ducks from your friends while playing board games at their house and creating a ransom note from letters cut from magazines and typing the envelope address and then kidnapping a different set of smaller ducks from your other friend’s house while playing board games and switching both sets of ducks and replacing them at the opposite plastic duck house’… or something…

Do you have any similiar stories involving friends’ figurines, stuffed animals or works of art? i would love to hear them…


There are two kinds of game-playing people in the world to my reckoning:

[1] Those who were brought up on what are now old school games like Monopoly, Risk, Cluedo, Scrabble and an assortment of simple card playing games like Uno [with the ‘fast card’ rule else essentially you are taking turns to put down cards in a row, please people], and

[2] Those who have played Settlers or Catan or any game that has been created since then and influenced by that type and style of game from Seven Wonders and Dominion to Puerto Rico, Stone Age and more…

The old school games [which there is nothing wrong with] generally have one focus and mode of play and you try do that better than everyone else and you win [and most of them have a certain degree of luck to them where it comes down to dice rolls or right cards etc]

The new school games generally are multi-layered – one reason why i believe Settlers was such a hit [as well as Carcassonne and others like it] was that determining how the board looks is a part of the game and so every game is different. Then there are usually a few [or a lot once you hit Cities and Knights] different paths you can take towards securing victory. I prefer the new school games generally because there are more options and often a certain amount of space for strategy.

Then there is my dad who is in his own group and just doesn’t like games at all, although he will gladly sit in the next room shouting out [and getting them right!] Trivial Pursuit answers while the rest of us are playing…

dixit1And then there is Dixit. There are so many great games these days that it is no longer about trying to find a good game to get but more trying to find out which good game to get [kind of like Series – there is really no reason these days to force yourself to watch a bad tv series cos there is so much quality on offer] and Dixit for me feels like a great addition [or start] to the family games pile.

For this main reason – apart from my dad i think it will work for pretty much anyone who has some inclination towards games.

So what is it? Well i describe it as a cross  between Pictionary and Balderdash. Each person is dealt six cards with various scenes/pictures on them – the person  whose turn it is chooses one card and without showing people gives a word or phrase or song lyric  or sound effect that describes their card. Everyone else chooses a card that they feel best represents that [you get points for people choosing your card so you want to make people guess yours] and then they get shuffled up and put down on the table and without being allowed to vote for your own card, each person votes and tries to guess the card of the person who is on. That person also has to place a vote on one they obviously know is wrong.

What makes this tricky is that if everyone votes for yours you get no points. If no-one votes for yours you get no points. You need a combination of people voting for yours and not voting for yous – so you can’t be too obvious or too obscure. When the votes are revealed people score points and everyone gets dealt one new card and the next person takes over as the lead person. So simple and yet so much fun.

It is set up for 4 to 6 people but if you have more you can divide into teams and so i would say it would comfortably work for 12 or even 18 people.

What’s cool about it is you can play it at a simple level and everyone will feel included or you can play it with tons of strategy so doesn’t really leave people out. We took it to another level by adding the rule that each round a different player adds the rule of clue. So for one round you had to give a song lyric as your clue, for the next you could only use sound effects and the following round was facial expressions so you can just imagine how silly and fun it got.

Really worth investing some money into. Because different people play and the cards will come out in different orders i imagine this will remain fresh for years to come and there are expansions you can buy for new and exciting themed packs of cards. We are still on the basic game but looking forward to picking up an expansion some day.

Get it, play it and let me know what you think…

What game would you recommend?


there is a difference between people who play games and game players – the people who commented on the intro to this blog series post that they love ‘Balderdash’ and ’30 Seconds’ are people who play games… for game players [and it’s not a judgemental difference, just a difference] are the kinds of people who can invest some serious time in a game for both the vibe of the game [people who play games] and also the thrill of the chase [so maybe the difference is purely that what i am calling game players here is the ones who are more competitive… but i do think there is more than that and while i can tell the difference live, it is hard to articulate it here] – if you used to play all night Monopoly games and set aside a whole evening for a game of risk with five of your friends then chances are you are more likely to be a game player…

and if you are a game player then The Settlers of Catan is probably for you – in fact, taking time to learn the game and playing it once or twice will probably help determine which of these two categories you fall into. but if Monopoly and Risk are the only lengthy board games you have ever known and loved then this is a great place to start and a launch pad into many other interesting, fun and challenging games…

the biggest transformation from the Monopoly/Risk games of ages past is the fact that the board is made up of hexagonal shaped pieces that represent the five resources you will be needing to buy and sell within the game – wheat, wood, ore, sheep and brick – which are shuffled up and laid down differently every game. so the board is different every time you play – then numbers are added to each piece of the board which will relate to the dice throws later which also adds a further element of difference and need for strategy shift every game.

being a dice-throwing game there is certainly an amount of luck present in the game which can possibly make or break a game, but for the most part the highly skilled players will win more times than the lesser skilled players, and so there is definitely a greater challenge in Settlers of Catan than there is in say playing Uno without the fast card rule.

the game itself is a combination of dice throws and resource gathering and road/house building as you race towards the 10 points needed for a win.

in 2008 i happened to be in Joburg the same time they were holding the national Settlers playing competition and after five rounds of intensive play ended up being one dice throw away from winning the thing when the unimagineable happened and i threw a seven and had to give half my cards back to the bank and was not able to complete the building and one point i needed for victory… still for a year i was the official second best player in south africa [a year later i was getting married on the weekend of the competition and so definitely chose a better place to be!]

but if you are wanting to see whether you are a game player or someone who simply plays games, or if you are still excited by Monopoly and Risk and have not yet discovered new board-changing games of which there are many in various shapes and forms and styles, then The Settlers of Catan is a great place to start.

have any of you played it? what are your thoughts and reviews?

my family and friends have always played a lot of games [except for my dad, he hates games with a passion, his favourite is sitting in the lounge reading his newspaper while the rest of the family plays trivial pursuit and shouting out all the answers, but that’s about the closest he gets]

but my mom and my sisters love games, and the large majority of friends in my and now our friend ship circles are games players to a certain extent – it is a great way to relax and vibe and hopefully chill together around a table with a bunch of mates…

growing up there was monopoly [only to be pulled out at sleepovers really cos tended to be an all nighter] and risk [which i played a crazy amount – we adapted a two player game and my friend ferdi and i played best of ten matches with one or two games almost daily at one point] and cluedo [‘clue’ to the americanese] and scrabble which were all good and fine and well and all…

but then we discovered Rage which is a special card deck game for up to ten players where you bid on how many tricks you are going to get and then try and get them… and life changed forever [especially at our church student house called ‘Highbury’ where we would play through the night on occasion, because after all, what is the difference between 1.15am and 1.45am?]

and then a good mate of mine introduced me to Settlers of Catan [or more accurately, the german version, called ‘Die Siedler von Catan’] and i had to trust his translations of all the german cards and wonder why he kept beating me, but then later we discovered the english version and it became a firm favourite.

what made it better was the expansion pack known as ‘cities and knights’ which added a whole lot of new dimensions to an already great game and the record for playing that stands at something crazy like seven and a half hours [largely due to one of the players – you know who you are deane – playing reeeeeeally slowly] and once we’d played that we rarely went back [except to introduce someone new to ‘settlers’]

after that came ‘carcassonne’ which i call ‘kucky sahn’ and which my friend coe [who hates it] calls ‘shaka khan’ which was a settlerish type game [in that the game board is not constant but created differently each game which is a huge part of the attraction] but one that took 45 minutes to an hour as opposed to 2 to 3 hours…

all that to say there are a LOT of games out there and a bunch of them are REALLY a lot of good fun – we have discovered a small bunch more and i will give some reviews of the newer ones we play so that if any of you are looking for a new game to try, you might find something here… and i would love to hear what your favourite games to play with a group of friends are…

the latest we have been playing, or are just about to, include Seven Wonders, Jambo, Flash Point [played for the first time last night] and Forbidden Island [yet to play, still in packaging] – reviews to follow…

for The Settlers of Catan click here

i gather a lot of people out there will have known settlers of catan but i imagine a lot fewer of you will have heard of this gem – Carcassonne – or as we like to refer to it “Kucky Sahn”

in the slightest bit similiar to settlers in that the board is different every time (thus each game is vastly different unlike a risk, cluedo or monopoly which have a relative sameness to them) and in fact the gameplay is creating the board…

basically your turn consists of taking a square board piece out of the bag and placing it on the table adjacent to another piece already down and then adding one of your men to either a road, a city, a monastery or farm piece – this carries on and whenever one of the above elements are completed you get your guy back and score differing points (1 pt for each road section, 2 for each city piece, 9 points for a completed monastery which is 9 cards big etc) and at the end of the game you score points for all the completed cities the land your farmers are on are touching…

again, one of those games you have to see and play to really get it but the bonus over settlers is that a good game will take between 45 min and an hour and 15 so a lot shorter if you don’t have the time for a whole evening game – and also the expansion packs (we have 5 or 6) are great additions to the game and you can mix and match them (the beautiful val big dream to play a game with all of them together one day) to create pretty much whole new games (cos strategy and tactics change with every addition)

you really should check out this game – again, a little pricey if you buy in south africa (knowing people overseas or who are travelling this way soon often helps a lot) but the price gets erased quickly by the hours and hours of fun that ensue… great way to spend an evening (2 games involving different expansions) with us to 6 people…

so you’ve played Settlers of Catan now and you’re looking for something more challenging, even more invigorating… is it even possible?

why yes it is, settlers of catan: cities and knights – takes all the brilliance, variety, strategy and intrigue of Settlers and then sends it up a notch (or a couple of notches)

there are a bunch of expansion packs for settlers of catan and i haven’t tried them all (heard too many disparaging remarks about seafarers to even warrant trying it) but for me cities and knights stands shoulders above them all – takes the basic game that is Settlers and adds a bunch of new dimensions to it so instead of just collecting resources (brick, wheat, ore, wood, sheep), when your city is touching a card whose number gets rolled you can now pick up the commodities of coin (ore),book (wood), and cloth (sheep) which allow you to improve your cities and add a range of new special effects and bonuses.

but that’s not all, you had better build up your knight population and make sure they are activated (i guess they make bread from the wheat which keeps them active) for when that barbarian ship attacks the land – a successful defence could see you one victory point closer to victory, but being the weakest defender in a failed defence could see one of your cities being downgraded to a settlement – a huge backward step in the game…

settlers is a great game with maybe two or three strategies which will hopefully lead you to victory, if the are accompanied by good settlement placement and favourable dice… but cities is so great cos once again you have a game board which changes every game but now there are a bunch of different strategies to pursue, while being aware of what those around you are trying to do and so requires a lot more careful strategy and plotting…

once you’ve played cities and knights, you will struggle to return to just basic settlers so if you’ve never played it, do yourself a favour…

to see my next review of the very cool Carcossane game click here

who remembers – with great reminiscory reverberations – sitting up all nite as a lightie playing monopoly til all hours of the morning? [pretty much the only way to finish a decent game]

or waging full on risk warfare with your little yellow three edge single men wedges and your bigger yellow five edge ten-men wedges until you had cornered the last remaining opponent in australia and piled the biggest force known to world domination in indonesia to ensure a ridiculously bad-sported overwhelming victory?

well i just thort it was time to highlight a couple of other games that may be just what you need if you have never evolved past those, cluedo, dominoes or uno…

and probably king of the pile is ‘settlers of catan’, or as i got to know it ‘die siedlar von catan’ [my good friend steve taylor taught me the game using a german set] quite a whole bunch of years ago actually, altho it’s maybe just in the last 5 or so that it has taken off hugely amongst me and my friends [in fact, three years ago i ‘happened to be’ in joburg when boardgames.co.za was running their annual Settlers competition and i happened to come second so for a while i was officially the number 2 player in the country!]

the thing about settlers as opposed to one or two of the other games i might mention here is that a game is likely to take you between 2 and 4 hours [our record is 7 and a half *cough* deane hill *cough* please move already cough] and so it is a longer game, but if you do have the time, it really is an absolute winner.

probly the coolest element of settlers of catan is that the board is different every time because the board is made up of these hexagon shaped cards that have one of five resources on them – wheat (hay), tree (wood), brick (clay), ore (ore) and sheep (baa) – and so these cards are shuffled and then put face up to form the board and a differing layout of the resources which affects gameplay – so the game is always different which is nice.

i’m not going to explain the whole game to you here cos it won’t make sense without seeing the board and the pieces and so on but the basic idea is that you have settlements (little hut pieces) and cities (bigger hut pieces) that sit on the edge of three resource pieces, and each resource piece has a number on it, and every time the dice throws and you have a settlement/city touching a resource with that number on it, you pick up the corresponding resource card – so as dice are thrown you are picking up different resource cards which you then use to build roads, more settlements/cities and buy armies and monopoly style community chest/chance type cards which give you special powers and bonuses.

and when settlers – as it is commonly called – becomes a little bit normal for you, there are a series of expansion packs you can buy – which are basically other games using the settlers formula and i’ll talk about my best one – cities and knights – in a later blog

you will never want to play monopoly or risk again… so if you have never played the recommendation would be to change your facebook status to “anyone got a copy of settlers of catan they want to teach me” and take it from there – the game itself will cost you a few hundred rand and so is fairly expensive (cheaper if you bring over from overseas) but it is worth hours and hours of fun and competition…

let’s hear it from those who have played the game…

to see my review of the settlers expansion game Cities and Knights click here

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