Pick of the Week – July 20-26, 2015

I am continuing the series of board and card game Picks that I began a couple of weeks ago.  Again, I discovered all of these thanks to Tabletop, the web series hosted by Wil Wheaton in which he and his guests each episode play a different game (or games in some cases).  As viewers, we get to learn the rules, see gameplay, and enjoy the banter.

This week’s Pick is perhaps the most famous of the more modern board games: The Settlers of Catan (Sometimes known simply as Catan).  This game is set on an island (Called Catan, shockingly enough).  The island is made up of multiple tiles, each of which provides a different resource.  These resources (Lumber, Brick, Ore, Grain, and Wool) are the currency of the game and are required in various combinations in order to accomplish just about anything.

The players start out with two settlements, each of which is located at a corner where tiles meet, giving players access to the resources in those adjoining tiles.  The tiles are also each assigned a number.  On a player’s turn, he rolls the dice, the players with settlements touching the tiles with the matching numbers receive the resources from those tiles, and then the player can set to work trading resources with other players or trading in his gathered resources for roads, a new settlement, or an upgrade of his settlement to a city.

The overall goal of the game is to have 10 Victory Points.  These can be gained through settlements and cities and also through Development Cards.  Development Cards, which can be purchased with resources, can grant Victory Points or give the player knights or other abilities.  The players also get Victory Points for having the largest army (most knight cards) or the longest road.

While the players are both competing and in some cases cooperating with each other for resources, there is one other force working against them.  If a player rolls a 7 on her turn, that activates the robber.  That player can choose to put the robber on any tile.  Once the robber is there, that tile no longer produces resources if its number is rolled.  That remains true until the robber moves off of that tile.  We do not like the robber.  The robber is a pain in the ass, but he is a good way to prevent a rival from gathering resources.

HERE is the Tabletop episode dedicated to The Settlers of Catan.  The basic game can have up to 4 players, but there are expansions allowing for more players and other game mechanics.

There is also a Star Trek-themed Catan game.  Tabletop, including guest Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager) played Star Trek Catan in THIS EPISODE.  The gameplay is basically the same, but it adds a new mechanics with Enterprise officer cards.  Each Enterprise officer, such as Kirk or Spock, gives the player a different ability.  These can be exceptionally handy. 

And if you’re looking for something for younger players, there’s Catan Junior designed for kids ages 6-9.  Wil Wheaton played it on Tabletop against a group of kids HERE (SPOILER ALERT: He lost). 

- Alan Decker

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