Catan

Formerly known as Settlers of Catan, Catan has become one of the most popular modern board games available. While it may look complicated at first glance, it’s actually pretty easy to learn the basics and start playing. There’s even an online (albeit older) introduction, as well as an iOS and Android assistant app. Both are nice options, but at first I think it’s fine to just go by the small rules booklet included with the game.

In Catan several settlers (i.e. 3-4 players; 2 are supported, while an expansion can handle up to 6) have discovered the island of Catan and begin to build and develop. The first step is to lay out the land tiles (the hexagonal pieces), which can be done in a fixed or random order. On top of these land tiles round number tiles are placed, also randomly.

These numbers are what coordinate with each dice roll; the number that comes up each roll is what resources are dolled out to each player that has a piece next to that hexagonal tile. The player that rolled can also spend resources that he or she has acquired to build roads, settlements, and cities. If he or she needs resource cards they don’t have, they can also trade with another player as well as the bank (at a higher 4-to-1 ratio).

The order of play continues in a clockwise order: each player rolling, resources handed out, and items constructed. One caveat is if a 7 is rolled; instead of resources produced, a robber on the island allows that player to steal a resource card from another player. Also, if anyone is holding more than 7 cards, he or she must discard half of their choice of cards, rounded down.

The first player to reach 10 victory points wins the game. This come from settlements, the longest road constructed, and having the largest army.

Ticket to Ride

Along with planning additional posts on card games I figured it was time to finally start writing about board games. Like many others, my interest in them was renewed with the Geek & Sundry Youtube series TableTop. I had nearly forgotten about all the board games I had played with family and friends growing up, and how they fell to the wayside with life and video/computer games.

When getting back into board games, or playing one for the first time, it can be hard to pick a game that’s easy to learn while offering plenty of replay value. Sure, there’s the old stand-by’s like checkers, chess, Clue, Monopoly, etc. but in the past decade a huge number of new games have come out, and I hope to eventually cover a good number of them. One of the best games to start with is Ticket to Ride.

In this game, 2-5 players take turn drawing cards and laying down train routes across a map. The length of your route will affect how many points you get, and there are some extremely long routes that can be made. Each route is worth a number of points, which is added up and the player moves their piece around the edge of the board. But watch out! Not only can another player block your planned route (unless there’s a parallel track that you can claim before another player does), but you also have Destination Ticket cards, which have pre-determined routes that you need to build before the end of the game (which is when a player has 2 or fewer train pieces), otherwise those points will be subtracted from your score.

It’s easy to recommend Ticket to Ride. It has a simple learning curve, yet there’s plenty of strategy. The large number of routes, along with completely new maps/boards available, means this game can and should have a permanent spot in your collection, no matter how large or small that may be.