Catan is one of the undisputed games that helped breath life back into the board game industry, while simulatenously introducing the United States to the Eurogame genre in 1995 (The Atlantic).

My first encounter with this game was back in 2010, when I played it on the floor of Erika’s dorm room. Prior to this, my typical idea of a fun board game would’ve been Axis & Allies, or Risk. A game without domination didn’t make much sense. We only played one or two rounds of the game before we went to visit a local quarry-turned-park. I didn’t think much of Catan at that point, but several years later I bought it for her birthday, and things changed completely. I fell in love with Catan and we quickly started snapping up expansions and extensions whenever they were on sale. Now, we’ve created such intense variations of the game that take the complexity of the game to new limits!

Catan Board Game with Components
Standard Catan with all of it’s components (Catan)

So what exactly is Catan? It’s a game where you become a settler and work to expand your settlement size while acquiring resources through trading, smart development, and luck.

Understanding the Components

Catan Game Pieces
Catan Game Pieces (Board Game Geek)

The amount of pieces that exist in Catan might seem overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, they all make sense and will be easy to understand in no time. 

I’d like to divide the pieces and parts into two different categories: General Components and Player Components. I’m going to skip some components that can explain themselves (looking at you Game Rules booklet and dice)

General Components

Player Components

Starting Out

One of the greatest things about Catan is that the rulebook runs you through the first scenario really well. It tells you how to place the game hexs, where to put the chits, and even where to put your settlements. This is crucial to getting started and understanding what is going on.

Catan starting map
The official Catan starting map (Catan Game Rules & Almanac)

Secondly, the rulebook does an amazing job of getting you the most-needed information first, and then providing an almanac for those what-about-this scenarios that always happen.

Your first game will be naturally slow as you get used to playing the game. You’ll be able to define your strategy.

There’s a lot of different ways to get the necessary victory points and strategy will ultimately depend on how you build, and the roll of the dice.

Continuing the Game

Once you’ve completed a couple rounds of the starting map you can begin to get a little creative. I’d suggest starting out by shuffling all the terrain tiles and placing them randomly. When your comfortable with that, shuffle all the chits randomly and then place both items randomly. This will give you that random map that can be a lot of fun. 

You can also get really adventurous and find giant Catan boards, or even get customized parts and pieces.

Giant Catan Board at the 2012 Championships
Giant Catan board at the 2012 Championships (Imgur)

The biggest frustration that I have for Catan is the fact of randomness. There have been games where I’ve established my starting pieces on really good chits, but never had good rolls. If the dice aren’t in your favor for a game, it can become an extremely boring game. 

Lastly, I encourage you to check out the expansions, they really add a new way to play the game and can change your strategies completely.