In the distant future, the earth has all but died, it’s resources all but depleted, each land mass overpopulated to starvation. That is the reality which propels humanity to search for a new home. Mars.
It’s a common trope in sci-fi. Mars is the next frontier to be conquered in our modern age space race, so naturally it inspires many stories of colonisation, exploration, aliens and disaster in all manner of works of fiction and in popular culture.
In the story for our group project, our narrative is not too dissimilar. The citizens of Earth begin colonising Mars, however resources on their new home are scarce. Fearing starvation, some people even turn to cannibalism to survive. Earth sends the last of their resources to Mars to stave off this grim future, however the ship crash-lands somewhere on the planet and those among the survivors of the colony must retrieve these resources before everyone succumbs to their doomed fate.
In our board game, there are five main characters. A harvester, Military Sergeant, Engineer, Medic, and Navigator. They all must work together utilising their specialised skillset in order to survive, reach their goal, and return to the colony. Along the way they encounter obstacles, aliens, sickness, and other challenges which the players must overcome to survive.
We feel this narrative will compel some very interesting gameplay, with a lot of challenges and a hint of randomness to keep players coming back for more.
I am a self-professed nerd. So I like to think I am into the stereotypical nerdy-type things. Settlers of Catan has been one of those boardgames that fits into that stereotypical niche, so I was super keen to finally give it a go.My assumptions, and what I thought about the game, were totally incorrect.
The hexagonal tiles were what got me – being a game with ‘settlers’ in the name, I assumed the game would be about building a civilization from scratch and dominating other players on the board, such as in a game of Sid Meier’s “Civilization” (pick your preferred iteration – mine was the 5th). For starters – I’d only ever seen photos of the base board game and box, but not of any actual gameplay (this didn’t stop me from getting intensely competitive, however, once I got a feel for the rules.)
The game itself has had many publishers. The first published 1995 iteration was designed by Klaus Teuber – a German with several other (award winning!) board game titles to his name. Initially published by publisher Kosmos, the game now boasts several spin-offs, tie-ins, and even video games. The game was considered to be one of the first German games to be successful outside of Europe, being propelled to worldwide fame.
In the game, players must compete to build up their settlements. The game combines the use of resource cards, tokens and dice in order to distribute the resources needed to build settlements. The game board can be randomly generated with the hexagonal game tiles, or placed using the guidelines that come with the manual. The objective is simply outlined on the game board: Trade, build, settle. The die are rolled at the beginning of each turn to determine which resources are granted to each player. The placement of settlements and cities dictate who has access to each resource. You then use your resources to build roads, settlements and cities. Simple, right?
Well, yes, but also – no. When you begin incorporating strategy to dominate the other players, the game fast turns into resource-grabbing and wondering how you can impair the progress of other players while enhancing your own. This affects the placement of the ‘thief’ character (who if rolled into existence, can be placed onto a resource square, ensuring players do not get those resources) and can turn quite sour for whoever has been getting too far ahead of the other players. Then when you introduce the fact the endgame goal – achieving 10 points – the race can be quite vicious.
In the end though, Catan can also be a great introduction to strategy games. The simple rules mean that the player base can be quite young, and the strategy involved is quite typical of other dominate-the-board type board games. I could draw similarities in the sprawling with Ticket To Ride and other strategy-based games. I enjoyed playing this game, and would definitely play it again.