Settlers of Catan is legendary. The whole board game hobby in America, arguably, owes its existence to Catan. Catan led a wave of German-style board games that opened Americans’ minds to what board games can do. So let’s celebrate Catan’s 25th anniversary with a legendary special edition it deserves!
The new 25th Anniversary Edition of Catan features the classic base game, and also includes the 5-6 Player Extension and the Helpers of Catan mini-expansion. The 5-6 Player Extension allows for bigger families and play groups to play together. The Helpers of Catan cards give everyone a unique ability at the beginning of the game, allowing players to specialize and develop new strategies.
A Distant Culture of Innovation
To find out why Catan is so important to our dear board game scene, let’s explore a little context. For Americans in the 80s and 90s, board games had become something of a creative wasteland. There was a small portfolio of classic board games that seemed to be standard equipment for American households. There was Monopoly, of course, as well as RISK, Life, Sorry, Clue, and a few others. These designs were anywhere from two to seven decades old. The only iteration or evolution they saw were cheeky branded editions, featuring different art but using the same old rules.
Meanwhile, German families took board games a little more seriously. Board games weren’t just childrens’ toys and marketing vehicles. They taught children, connected families, and challenged adults. Board game designs were a way for clever people to express themselves. In the 80s, the German press started giving out an annual award to the best. For several decades, the Spiel Des Jahres incentivized designers to innovate and entertain.
A Flagship, A Trailblazer, A Vanguard
In Catan’s home country, the game made waves as soon as it was published. It won several awards in the year it was published, including that coveted Spiel Des Jahres. However, because of Germany’s board game culture that rewarded creativity, Catan was very, very different than any board game Americans knew.
Catan has been described by American’s as “German Monopoly,” likely because Monopoly is the closest touchstone Amercans are familiar with. In reality, the only things the games have in common were players rolling two six-sided dice on their turn. Whereas Monopoly’s dice have a significant outcome on the final victory, Catan gave players many options and interesting decisions. Monopoly encourages players to take from others in one-sided transactions, but Catan encouraged trading and negotiating. Whereas Monopoly eliminated players from play when losing, Catan allowed everyone to play until the end.
As much as a newer, well-thought-out design as Catan was, Americans weren’t ready for something so new just yet. Fortunately, a gradual shift in pop culture allowed Americans to embrace their love of fantasy stories and games. This new acceptance of nerdy and geeky subcultures laid the groundwork for Americans to discover a new world of gaming.
A Door Opens to a New World
Americans have been playing German and Euro-style board games since the 90s, but not in great numbers. The American hobby board game scene has been slowly growing, establishing deep roots. More and more people come to appreciate the creativity, variety, and challenges of personal growth that games like these provide. As fate would have it, many Americans’ first experience with this rich hobby is Catan (then known as Settlers of Catan).
Catan continues to be one of the most visible and talked-about games as new hobbyists discover new-generation board games. It hits the right balance between novelty, accessibility, and rewarding fun. This balance makes Catan a great first pick for families or adults to try something new and peek into a whole new world.
A Very Special Edition of Catan
Since Catan has such a vaunted place in our favorite hobby, we at Level One Game Shop are very excited for the 25th Anniversary Edition. This Catan special edition has some extras included in this edition that are particularly exciting:
Normally, the base Catan game has enough pieces to play with four players. The game scales up easily, though. To play with more players, each additional player needs their own color of wooden buildings, and the map needs additional hex tiles. The 5-6 Player Extension has additional sets of these components to accommodate two new players. As the old maxim goes, the more the merrier, and people who try out Catan often want to share it with more of their friends.
Helpers of Catan
This is a set of 10 cards that add another level of strategy to Catan, and help speed the game up a bit. Each card offers a different special ability to help their player. Players earn a card after building their second Settlement. Then, players swap these cards for a new one after using the helper’s ability. Many Catan fans and veterans recommend this extra little shot of strategy to any new player.
On top of this additional content, this Catan special edition includes items to help organize and protect your new copy of Catan. All of the wooden pieces, including the dice, have a fancy iridescent finish. The special edition comes with a tray to sort and organize the game’s resource cards, and sleeves to protect them all.
An Excellent First Step
The Catan 25th Anniversary Edition is well worth the extra spend over the original base Catan. It has extras that many people want anyway at a reduced price, and some fancy components that can’t be found anywhere else. This special edition of Catan is an excellent way to join millions of board game fans all over the world, and take part in the history of one our oldest forms of entertainment.
Find out more about the Catan 25th Anniversary Edition at BoardGameGeek!