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Catan Family Edition – A Written Review

6 October 2012 No Comment

Review #43

Catan Family Edition By Klaus Teuber – Art By Oliver Freudenreich – Published By Mayfair Games

The Island of Catan lies before your intrepid explorers. Your journey to settle Catan begins with 2 small buildings and ends when you become the most prolific master of Catan. Guide your brave settlers to victory by using clever trading and shrewd development. Use resources—grain, wool, ore, lumber, and brick—to build roads, settlements, cities and key cultural milestones. Trade, Build, Settle – But beware the robber! 

* * * * * * *


Catan Family Edition, is another installment in Mayfair Games, Fun Fair line which seeks to bring this great hobby to families and make games more approachable to the main stream. The gameplay is classic Catan in a more price friendly package that doesn’t sacrifice quality to reach that price point. Catan is a game of trading, resource gathering, and building on a changeable game board for 3-4 players’ ages 10+. Players will randomly produce resources based on the roll of a die and location of their settlements, trade resources, and then build settlements and roads across the Island of Catan in a bid to be the greatest settler in all of Catan! Of course the randomness of the die and the presence of the Robber will do their best to shake things up and block your supply lines insuring that no two games will ever play exactly alike.

 What’s In The Box 


Catan Family Edition comes in a more standard sized game box and while this does mean it has a lot of extra air inside the box it does make it stand out more on the shelf at big box stores. The box lacks an insert but it definitely will not be missed and Mayfair was kind enough to supply a couple thick plastic bags to store the cards and game pieces quite easily.

Components

  • • 6 double-sided, interlocking game board (island) tiles
  • • 25 development cards
  • • 2 special bonus cards
  • • 93 resource cards
  • • 16 city pieces
  • • 60 road pieces
  • • 20 settlement pieces
  • • 1 robber piece
  • • 2 six-sided dice
  • • Simple rules

All of this Island exploration and settlement fun can be yours for  $30.00Of course with the help of the Professor, a coconut, two wood, and some sheep you can build a computer to research some savings.


Cardboard: Catan comes with some very high quality cardboard components, from the Building Costs player aids to the game board itself, the components are well made. The Building Costs player aids are double sided (which was unnecessary but nice), have full color images matching the game components discussed, and have a nice large and easily readable font for all the game text. The cards (they should be called tiles looking at their thickness) are designed simply enough for a 4 year old or anyone who is new to the gaming hobby to understand. The game board is also well designed using double sided tiles with an A or B side allowing players to design multiple game layouts and they do interlock! While players of the original Catan might miss the complete randomness of the individual tiles in the original game, these new tiles still offer variety in layout while slightly speeding game setup. The artwork on the board hexes is very colorful, detailed, and vibrant while still being very obvious as to which resource they produce. The numbers on the tiles are also very large making them easy to read and Mayfair also included probability symbols to the numbers to help newer and first time players know which numbers are the most likely to come up on any roll (memorize those symbols for the next time you hit up a Craps Table in Vegas).


Cards: Catan comes with what I like to refer to as “Leprechaun Sized Cards”. I will quickly admit that I am not a fan of these smaller Euro-sized cards yet I do understand they do save on production costs and these cards are actually pretty decently made. By their nature smaller cards feel a little more resilient to the bend test but I think they actually chose a decent cardstock for these cards. The artwork is colorful and matches the tiles on the board making it simple to tell which resource each card represents. The full color artwork on the Development cards is also nicely done and the text is a clean font but it might be slightly on the small side for older players. This smaller text isn’t too troubling since the card titles are actually in a large font across the top of the card and I think everyone who has played Catan can recite what a Knight card or Palace card is for (plus they are color coded to really make it easy). The Resource and Development cards also have a different image on the back which helps during cleanup to separate the cards back into their piles.


Rulebook and Overview Flyer: The rules for Catan are not too difficult and this folding flyer does an admirable job of breaking the basic rules down to about 2 and a half pages. The rules flyer comes with numerous full color game play images and detailed game play examples to explain the rules and make the game easy to understand. The second flyer contains gameplay hints, strategies, frequently asked questions, a game overview, and rules for a variable set up when players are ready to change up the game a little.


 Plastic Components: The Roads, Settlements, and Cities are made out of solid plastic (as opposed to hollowed out cheap plastic components). The pieces are not engraved or detailed but they are very serviceable and for $30.00 you would almost expect cheap cardboard in the box, thankfully that isn’t the case here. Engraved and detailed pieces would have raised the games price so I have to say Mayfair made a good choice here.


Dice: The included dice are your standard sized game dice with engraved blacked out pips. Nothing extravagant but not really anything that needs extravagance in this case they roll well and are more than functional.

Components and Presentation Verdict: 9.0/10 – While a die hard hobby gamer might mourn the loss of the wooden components, Mayfair is trying to make a mainstream version of this game with a main stream market price, and I think they succeeded admirably at this. For $30.00 you are getting some fantastic quality cardboard, durable quality plastic, and some nice artwork. Mayfair is now able to compete with Parker Bothers on price and quality yet trump them with better gameplay.

 How Does It Play? 

The basic gameplay of Catan involves resource gathering, shrewd trading, strategic Settlement placing, and effective blocking of your opponents preventing them from gathering the resources they need. On a player’s turn two six sided dice are rolled and added together to determine what resources will be generated that turn. Every player who has at least one Settlement next to the hex chosen by the roll of the dice will receive the one resource produced by that hex per Settlements they have next to the hex. Players will then trade resources with each other or the Supply Stack to purchase Roads, build Settlements, and research Developments to gain Victory Points (VP’s for short). The first player to 10 victory points is the winner and declared master of Catan. The gameplay would be pretty simple if that was all that was involved in the game though. A roll of “7” on the dice allows you to move the Robber to wreck your opponents’ plans and steal their resources. You can also build your roads and Settlements to block other players turning what could be a standard Euro Game into a fun little game full of player interaction and competition.

 Component Breakdown 


Bonus VP and Building Costs Tiles: Each player receives a Building Costs tile in their player color that breaks down the cost in resources for each action and possible VP’s gained for performing that action. For example Roads require 1 Lumber and 1 Brick to build and do not give any VP’s. While a City costs 3 Ore and 2 Grain but gives you 2 VP’s for building it. The 2 bonus tiles go to the player who satisfies their condition but are taken if another player surpasses the player who currently has the tile. For example the first player to have a Road 5 uninterrupted segments long gains the “Longest Road” achievement but loses it and the 2 VP’s it grants the moment another player creates a longer road and takes it from them.


 Development Cards: A player can spend 3 resources on their turn for a random draw from the Development deck. Developments cannot be played on the turn they are drawn unless they are VP cards and they would put you at 10 VP’s allowing you to instantly win the game. There are 3 types of Development cards you can draw, Knights allow you to manipulate the Robber, Progress cards allow you to build things for free, and Victory Point cards instantly grant VP’s once they are played to the table.


Catan Hexagonal Game Board: The greatest departure to the original game board is that the game now comes in 6 sections instead of over 20 individual hex tiles. This makes set up quicker but the possible number of game layouts becomes more restricted. Each hex produces the depicted resource and produces that resource whenever its number is rolled. Roads and Settlements are actually built along the edges of these hex’s (not directly on the hex’s) and any time a hex is rolled every player who has a City or Settlement bordering that hex gains resources for every City or Settlement adjacent to that hex. For example if Blue has a City and Settlement next to the #8 Lumber hex and Yellow has 1 City adjacent to the #8 Ore hex, any time an 8 is rolled Blue would gain 3 Lumber and Yellow would gain 2 Ore (Cities give double the resources). Players can also build Settlements and Cities at Harbors which give the controlling player a better trade rate with the “Supply Bank”. The robber starts in the center unnumbered desert tile and is moved any time a player roles a “7”. The important thing to remember is that everything is built along the borders of the hex’s, only 1 Road can be built on any given path, Settlements/Cities must have to have at least 1 hex corner between them, and all your Settlements/Cities have to be connected by a Road.


Player Pieces:  Each player starts with 15 roads, 5 Settlements, and 4 Cities. Settlements give 1 VP/Resource each and Cities give 2 VP’s/Resources each. Since each player starts with 2 Settlements in play, each player also starts with 2 VP’s (see you are 20% of the way to Victory already!). Players must connect their Settlements and Cities with Roads and no one is allowed to build a City or Settlement in a hex corner adjacent to another City or Settlement (even if they own it also). This mechanic does allow you to cut other players off from resources if strategically played. Settlements require 4 resources to build while Cities require 5 resources and a Settlement you control must already be built in the location you want to create a City at.


Resource Cards: Finally we have the 5 resource cards that are used to make all your purchases. Each player keeps their resource cards hidden from the other players making sure to only show cards that are spent or traded. Hording these cards can be dangerous though, if anyone ever rolls a “7”, all players who have 8 or more cards must discard half of their cards back to the bank. The Robber is then moved by the player who rolled the 7 and then he steals a card from a player who has a Settlement or City adjacent to the hex the Robber is moved to.


 Setup 

Setup is fairly quick and simple even if players use the variable board rules.

1: Set up the Island of Catan by connecting the board sections in the preset A or B side formation (visibly marked on the tiles for ease of setup) or randomly connect the 6 sections to form the board. Place the Robber in the center of the board.

2: Select a color and take all your pieces and Building Costs tile.

3: Each player places 2 Settlements and attaches 1 Road to each Settlement (Either using the preset locations or using the variance rules)

4: Place all the resource cards into 5 face-up piles then shuffle the Development cards and place them face down into a draw pile.

5: Each player receives 3 resources based on where they placed one of their starting Settlements.

The game is now ready to begin.

 Rulebook turn Summary.

The youngest player goes first, and for simplicities sake the terms Settlements and Cities will be pretty much interchangeably used. I imagine this won’t cause any confusion though.

On your turn do the following In The Order Listed:

Produce Resources: Roll the dice and add them together. All players with a Settlement next to the hex(s) rolled gains the resource listed on the hex for each adjacent Settlement. Settlements give 1 resource and Cities give 2 copies of the same Resource. If a 7 is rolled no resources are produced. Instead ALL players who have 8 or more cards in their hand must discard half of the cards of their choosing back to the Bank. The player who rolled the 7 moves the Robber to the hex of their choice. The player who controls the Robber then gets to randomly steal one card from one player if they have a Settlement or City next to the hex. Any hex with a Robber on it will NEVER produce a resource even if its number is rolled until the Robber is removed from that hex

Trade: You may trade with the other players for any resource cards (Developments cannot be traded). The caveat is that you cannot just give someone a resource (no wife favors allowed…) and only the active player can be traded with; the other players cannot trade amongst themselves. The active player may also trade with the bank at a 4 identical cards to 1 exchange ratio unless they control a Harbor that allows them to trade at a better rate.

Build: You may now trade Resources to the bank to create Roads, Settlements, Cities, and/or Developments. You may buy as many as you can afford simply by paying the cost in Resources back to the bank and then taking the built item(s) and placing them on the board (or into your hand for Developments). You are limited by the components included in the game so it is impossible to build more than 15 Roads, 5 Settlements, or 4 Cities.

Victory Points and Winning the Game: Players gain Victory Points for:

  • 1 VP for each Settlement in play
  • 2 VP’s for each City in play
  • 2 VP’s for the Longest Road tile
  • 2 VP’s for the Largest Army tile
  • 1 VP for each VP Development card
  • **Remember each player starts the game with 2 VP’s thanks to the 2 Settlements they have in play**

The first player to 10 Victory Points wins the game.

A sample game might look something like this:

It is Blues turn in a close 4 player game where Blue has 7 VPs, Orange has 7 VP’s, Red has 9 VP’s, and White has 7 VP’s. Blue rolls the dice and gets a “4” which means a Grain Hex and also a Wool hex will produce Resources this turn. Orange has a City next to the Wool hex so they gain two Wool resource cards. Red has 1 City next to the Grain hex giving them 2 Grain Resource cards. Blue has 2 Cities next to the Grain hex so they gain 4 Grain Resource cards to add to their hand. Blue looks at his hand of cards noticing he has a large assortment of Resources but ZERO Wool. The trade phase begins and after quite a bit of wheeling and dealing with the other players who are feeling stingy this close to the end of the game, some marginal trades are made but none include any Wool. Blue decides to use the Maritime Trade and access his Harbors. Fortunately Blue controls a harbor that allows Blue to trade for Wool at a 2 for 1 ratio. Blue has a plethora of grain and decides to trade the 4 Grain gained this turn for 2 Wool which are added to Blue’s hand of Resources.

The Build phase of the turn begins and Blue has a shrewd plan for victory. First they spend 2 Lumber and 2 Bricks to gain 2 Roads. Then Blue spends the 4 Resources (including the Wool they just received during the trade phase) to gain 1 Settlement. Blue then places the Settlement at the end of a 5 section Road they have gaining 1 VP bringing them up to 8 VP’s. Blue then plays the 2 Road segments, creates a 7 segment long Road, takes the Longest Road tile from the player who currently controls it with a 6 segment Road, and wins the game with 10 solid Victory Points!

Simplicity of the Rules: 9.25/10 – The rules for Catan are beautifully simplistic but allow for clever game play and strategy. There are very few rules exceptions and everything is laid out well on the player aids. Catan is one of those games that you can stick on your shelf for a year and still remember how to play it when you pull it off the shelf again. Except for the starting set-up diagram the rules flyer will probably never be looked at again once you learn how to play the game.

 Daddy Why’s This Guy Got A Sword In His Belly? 

As a father of 2 future board gamers, a large concern of mine is how secure am I in letting my eldest son play and or rummage through a game box. Granted, BGG and board games themselves very clearly tell you a minimum age, they don’t tell you exactly why that minimum age was chosen. My hope is to arbitrarily tell you why I think this age range was chosen for this game and then hopefully give a few ideas I might have for a game to make it easier on the young ones. Finally I will close with what seems to be the “sweet spot” for number of players and if the game has solo rules I’ll comment on those too. 

Catan Family Edition is an extremely family friendly game of trading, dice rolling, and hand management for 3-4 players ages 10+. What can I say it was aptly named! The artwork is well done and I wouldn’t have any problems with a toddler looking at the games components (although the pieces are a choking hazard). The basic game play is simple enough that a 6 or 7 year old can easily figure it out. Simply trade Resources to build stuff, to get points, to win the game. The challenge comes from being a shrewd trader and creating smart routes on the board that are advantageous for you while blocking off the other players. Judicious use of the Robber doesn’t hurt your strategy either, if an opponent seems to have capitalized on a hex and surrounded it with Cities, throw a Robber on the space to really ruin their day. Scoring can also be a slight challenge for younger players as they constantly have to be mindful of their current score by keeping track of Developments in hand and Buildings in play. It is quite possible for a younger player to get caught up in the moment and fail to realize they have indeed already won the game.

Overall I think a fairly bright 6 year old can play Catan Family Edition with a little help and an 8 year old could actually give you a run for your money.

Family Friendliness Verdict: 9.75/10 – Catan Family Edition is a great game for family game night. It is playable by up to 4 which is perfect for a family with 2 adults and 2 children/teenagers or 1 adult and 3 children/teenagers. It is simple enough for younger players to pick up but deep enough for the older siblings to play competitively and provide a good challenge.

Game length:

Catan plays in about 45-90 minutes depending on how competitive players are and how much haggling occurs during a players turn. Honestly the haggling part of the Trade phase is what will really affect the length of the game, if a player repeatedly insists on asking for absurd/chintzy trades on their turn and then slowly haggles up the game will go closer to its 90 minute (or longer) play time. Also players who have to minutely plan their build routes will extend the game play quite a bit. The game is designed for 3-4 players and is at its most fun with 4 players but I would not refuse a 3 player game. A Game with this much player interaction is always going to be more entertaining with more players (to a point) and Catan is really no different. Plus 4 players creates a more crowded board allowing for more route blocking but it adds to play time as players try to move around blocked routes.

Pros 

* Great Social Board Game

* Great components at a fantastic price

* Adjustable game board adds to replay value

* Rewards strategy

* Great family game

* Easy to learn and teach

* Semi-hidden scoring

Cons 

* The randomness of the dice can be very capricious at times

* The “wrong” play group can kill the enjoyment

* Only playable as a 3 or 4 player game

* Screw your neighbor aspects might turn off some players

But Is It Fun? 

There is a reason why Catan has been around for almost 20 years now. The game is easy to teach but yet rewards strategic play and allows direct player interaction through player bartering and blocking of other players’ routes. This is definitely a game that requires players interact with each other if they want to win. This new edition of the game brings the classic game to the mass market, at a mass market price, without sacrificing component quality. At this point if you do not own Catan there really isn’t a reason not to get it at this extremely reasonable price.

Mayfair simplified the layout of the game board with this edition but again I think this was done for mass market appeal. The board is simpler to set up now but it still offers some variety in the layout creating a happy medium and making this a great game to introduce people to the hobby with. I am loathe to use the term and comparison but Catan now feels like it is ready to go head to head with Monopoly for the mindshare of the consumer and… win!

While Catan is a fun strategic game, your enjoyment is going to hinge on your play group. Players who routinely refuse to barter with other players, hate the fickleness of the dice, and are frustrated when another player “Ruins their strategy” are going to make the game less enjoyable for everyone. Also a player who is prone to Analysis Paralysis and has to make the perfect move, the perfect trade, and the perfect build will bring this game to its knees. I think we have all played Catan with that one player who always starts each trade round asking everyone for trades that no one is going to accept until someone blurts out “Look, you have to give a little in your trades too or no one will trade with you!” I have also been victim to a group of players who refused to trade at all with the rest of the group. This led to a rather long and dare I say lousy game that couldn’t end soon enough.

Overall Final Game Verdict: 8.75/10 – Catan is a classic game that belongs in every family’s game collection especially at this price point. If you are not swayed by the fickleness of dice, want a great social game for 3-4 players, like strategy, enjoy lots of player interaction, then check out Catan Family Edition.


/q

 

Michael V K
View all posts by Michael V K
Michaels website
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User Review:
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Catan Family Edition - A Written Review, 4.4 out of 5 based on 5 ratings

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