As a board game enthusiast, I’m always plagued by two big problems. First, I can never take my games with me when I travel. Second, even if I could, I’d have no one to play with. But with the recent release of Catan from Asmodee Digital, I may finally have a solution. The only question now is: How does it hold up?
A brand new world
If you’ve ever played Settlers of Catan, you know what you’re getting into. But for those who haven’t, Catan is a strategy board game in which you vie to establish settlements on the island of Catan. Initially starting with two settlements, you expand your territory through building roads, creating new settlements, and upgrading these settlements to full cities.
You do this by collecting the necessary resources for construction. The island is full of these resources, and you can only receive them if you settle adjacent to the corresponding tiles. Thus, strategic placement of settlements is vital. Even then, resource gathering is reliant on luck, as production is dependent on the roll of the dice. If you don’t get what you need, fear not, as you can trade with other players for your missing components.
The game is a bit more complicated than that, and for all the minutiae, Catan features some in-game tutorials. There’s one for the base game, and another for the included Seafarers expansion. If you’ve never played, it is essential to run through these.
Will you settle alone or with friends?
Catan features a campaign containing a chain of scenarios against the AI. Each of the scenarios takes 30-60 minutes on average. To counteract this, Catan comes with a handy autosave feature, which allows you to pick up and put down your game at will. Winning scenes will consequently unlock more for you to play. If you don’t want to wait, however, there is a scenario mode that has every mission available from the beginning.
You can also set up a custom game against the AI for when you run through all pre-made missions. Unfortunately, the game customization options are limited to slightly nerfing one mechanic and changing the dice roll distribution. Also, you can unlock some game piece skins, but these are few and far between.
What good would a board game be without a multiplayer option? Catan allows you to face up to three other players through Nintendo Switch Online. If you can’t find three other players, you can add up to two AI, but you’re restricted to having at least one additional human player. This option naturally plays a bit slower than playing against the AI, so I’d recommend having something light to do while waiting for your next turn.
It’s not always sunny
One unfortunate but understandable absence is the lack of local multiplayer. There’s no experience quite like sitting down and playing games with your friends in real life. However, due to the secrecy involved with managing your resources, it’d be challenging to implement local multiplayer while simultaneously preventing cheating.
There are a few additional gripes I have with Catan. First, I feel that trading in a single player match is a little broken. Sometimes the AI never wants to trade with you, and sometimes you’ll try to accept one of their offers, only for it to not go through. Since you can exchange resources with the bank, this doesn’t entirely limit your play, though it does hinder it.
Second, menuing feels very inconsistent. Sometimes you can use the joystick, but other times, you’re forced to use the D-pad buttons. It’s not always obvious when you have to use which control method, either. Some menus allow both, while others only accept one kind. I don’t care which way ultimately wins out — just make it consistent.
A faithful, but flawed recreation
Ultimately, Catan is a faithful recreation of the classic board game, and for that, I applaud it. I love being able to take Catan with me wherever I go and never concerning myself with having people to play with me. You probably won’t be spending large chunks of time with this in a single sitting, but the game’s autosave feature makes it incredibly convenient to pick up and put down on a whim. Catan isn’t perfect, but if you’re a fan of board games, you should enjoy it nonetheless.
A review code was provided by the publisher.