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Settlers of Catan and other games March 27, 2009

Posted by Michael Kowalski in play.
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There’s a nice piece in Wired about Klaus Teuber, inventor of Settlers of Catan, and about “German-style” board games in general:
Monopoly Killer: Perfect German Board Game Redefines Genre

I’ve always liked board games, in fact I like them more than computer games. When people come around to our house and see the pile of games in the living room, they raise eyebrows, and I don’t have the heart to tell them there are many more squirrelled away in cupboards. Here’s the current list of games stacked by the sofa:

  • Risk
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Ra
  • Pirate’s Cove
  • Odin’s Ravens
  • LotR Risk (more different from standard Risk than you’d expect)
  • Labyrinth
  • Carcassonne
  • Alchemist
  • Scrabble
  • Monopoly (not really a game, but looks a bit like one)

When I was at university, the game I liked most was Dune. That was a nicely crafted game, where each player had a different set of special abilities. Some players had more chance of winning in the end game, some were stronger in the beginning. It was fixed duration, ending after 15 rounds if nobody had achieved outright victory by then, and had a cute battle system. I liked to play House Atreides. On the face of it, not the strongest player—during battle, you could ask a single yes/no question which had to be answered truthfully. But I was cunning enough that games soon developed a pattern where the other players would spend the first couple of rounds beating me into oblivion before getting on with the rest of the game (or that’s how I remember it). I would still sometimes make a late comeback, and anyway had a lot of fun trying to get there.

Dune was a six player game though, so a bit impractical once out of university. That’s one of the reasons the German games have been so successful: many of them work OK with very few players, and don’t take hours to complete. E isn’t really into board games at all, so mostly I play 2-player games with our daughter (if I had thought it through earlier, maybe I would have had more children). The main exception is Pirate’s Cove, which E doesn’t mind for some reason (ie. she usually wins), and Settlers. Even then, she can only be talked into playing a few times a year.

The social aspect of board games is certainly part of their appeal. Or sometimes, the antisocial aspect—gaming the other players can be a lot of fun. otoh, I don’t really like social interaction in online games at all. I play WoW, but I don’t belong to a guild and I don’t much play with other people except my daughter. I don’t know them! I can’t see their faces! With my daughter, we sit together in the same room chatting and interacting as we play.

OK, heading off to boardgamegeek now in search of something new.

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