A reader writes:
About every six to twelve months somebody stumbles on Setters of Catan and thinks that it’s the game destined to replace Monopoly. But until it’s in Wal-Mart, there’s just no chance of that happening. Plus, it is always funny for a game that was released in 1995 to be considered new. Classic is becoming ever more an appropriate term.
Update from a reader: “Just a note that Walmart carries two separate versions of the game.” Another reader:
Imagine if popular television were as static as the most popular board games. Mickey Mouse would dominate the market the way Monopoly does, and most intelligent adults would dismiss it as a silly pastime for kids and families. Settlers of Catan has introduced many people to the fact that board games have been designed since 1940, and that’s good. But it’s actually a pretty boring game. It doesn’t even make BoardGameGeek’s Top 100 list. Settlers of Catan is better than Monopoly, but it still sucks compared to good games.
It’s a popular game because it is easy to explain, doesn’t take forever to finish and is competitive right up to the end. The game play is anything but boring.
I’ve been playing strategy board games for over 40 years. Before the German-style board games started appearing in this country, 20 years ago, it was a niche market and finding like minded players was difficult. Most strategy board games, until that time, were military themed and had hundreds of small cardboard pieces that required a lot of set-up time and took many hours (or days) to finish playing. The players were stereotypically uni-sex and geeky. Since the advent of games like Settlers of Catan, I have participated in hundreds of game nights where up to 20 people were playing 4 to 5 different games in an evening. The gender ratio is evenly split and it has become a great social event in my world.
I own many dozens of strategy board games of varying degrees of sophistication and difficulty, but Settlers of Catan continues to be a popular choice on our game nights. My 5- and 7-year-old children are already requesting that we take it out to play on weekends. I will gladly choose this over Monopoly or Risk any time.
Settlers of Catan is the 10th most popular “Gateway” game. This is a game that is great for introducing people to the world of strategy board games. Board Game Geek’s rankings are skewed because the people who hang out there are always looking for the next big thing. They are like the people who dismiss a certain type of music they adored once it becomes popular with everyone else. There is a bit of elitism going on. When geekdom becomes mainstream, you have to move more to the extreme to maintain your geek credentials.
I think that part of the reason for the popularity of Settlers is because of people like me. I don’t think I’d played a board game in about 15 years (I’m 35 years old) before I tried Settlers for the first time last year. Since then, I’ve played it about once a month. And every single time has been with my wife and several other couples who’ve decided to make a night of it and get roaring drunk at the same time. It lends itself to booze and laughter and the wheeling-and-dealing aspect of it makes it a much more social game than any other I’ve played. It’s like the Wii of board games; it’s easy and accessible and anyone can do it. There’s nothing complicated and it doesn’t take years of practice to master. Men and women love it and you don’t need to be a nerd (which I say lovingly, but you know what I mean.)
And to link it to another long-term thread of yours, it also goes great with smoking a joint.