Friday, March 22, 2013

Never tried a Euro-style game before? Start with Settlers of Catan

The Review Crew's Take on
Settlers of Catan

# Players . . . 3-4 (with expansion, up to 6)
Game time . . . . . . . . 60 minutes
Set up . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 minutes
Luck . . . . . . . .8. . . Strategy
*Interplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Visual Appeal . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Component Quality . .. . . . . 8.5
*Replayability . . . . . . . . . . . 8.5
*See "How we Rate" for a definition.

If you check out the Games in our Closet, you'll see that Settlers of Catan is one of the few games we all love (including the Spy, who's stingy with his Love Its). Part of the reason for our affection might be nostalgia. You see, Settlers of Catan was the game that introduced us to the world of Euro-style (or Designer) games.

What is a Euro or Designer game? Well, as the names indicate, most, not all, come from Europe, specifically Germany, and most have the name of the game designer featured prominently on the box. (Some game designers are celebrities in Europe.)

Here are some other common characteristics:

Non-confrontational style of play: In a Euro game you're building something (in Settlers, it's cities and roads), as opposed to games where you're warring against other players or trying to beat them around a board.

Strategic rather than luck-based: Dice are rare in Euro games. Settlers does have them, but multiple people can benefit from the roll of the die, which determine the goods produced on a turn. Decisions are crucial but not so difficult to make that you spend minutes pondering your next move (unless you're our Saboteur, who tries to figure out what everyone else is going to do, too),

Emphasis on component quality: Playing pieces are usually wood or good quality plastic, rather than thin cardboard. The board and cards are also nicely illustrated. Settlers, for instance, has wooden houses, cities, and roads and the game board is made up of heavy cardboard hexes which can be switched around every time you play.

Playtime is relatively brief. Settlers can take 45-60 minutes (more with more players), as opposed to, say, Risk. (Four hours, anyone?) There's not a lot of downtime in between turns and no players are eliminated before the end of the game. Usually, everyone has a shot at winning, too, with ending scores that are fairly close between players.

Settlers and other Euro games are great for families. They won't realize it, but kids will absorb economic lessons about goods and scarcity and the need to diversify investments. They'll learn to plan ahead and make decisions. But most of all, you'll all have fun.

Isn't that what games are about?

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