Boardgames are social by nature.
With no computerised arms moving pieces for you, you’d have to be the definition of Johnny-no-mates to enjoy playing them by yourself.
The Settlers of Catan, Klaus Teuber’s famous boardgame, is even more social than most, its gameplay focusing on cooperation and possessing few ways of slighting your opponents (in the vanilla version of the game, at least).
Catan HD manages to capture the look and feel of the classic game, but misses out the opportunity to take full use of the iPad’s unique advantage over iPhone and iPod touch: its size.
I’ll give you wood for sheep *snigger*
The aim of Catan HD is to reach ten victory points by building roads, houses, and cities, and efficiently working the land on the titular island. The board is laid out randomly, with each hex assigned a number ranging from 2 to 12, ensuring that no two games play out in quite the same way.
Every turn, two dice are rolled that determine what resources are awarded. Anyone with a settlement or city next to a hex that shares this number gains either one or two of that resource, respectively.
Using these resources (wool, brick, food, ore), you can either expand across the island or trade with others. As it’s often hard to cover all the different types of resources (and have commonly rolled number like 6 and 8 on them), trading is vital for success.
Let me check the build chart
The tutorials do a good job of explaining the basics via a step-by-step guide hosted by Professor Easy. There's also a handy quick reference guide available to you at all times.
For the more experienced player, Catan HD offers the chance of altering a wide-selection of rules from the number of Victory Points required as well as some of the most popular house rules like Friendly Robber.
The controls, too, are well implemented if a little keen on hiding options from view. It would have been helpful, for instance, to have the option of bringing up the building list when offered a trade from a computer-controlled player.
In general, computer-instigated trading is decent and understandable. The computer clams up when a player is close to winning the game and will trade wisely when there's a good roll for an opponent and an opportunity to cash-in.
Robbed of options (and a brick)
Where the game falters is in its implementation of multiplayer. Rather than take the same route as Small World and have everyone around the screen or include online match-ups like Carcassonne, Catan HD instead falls back on the pass-the-handset setup seen in the iPhone and iPod touch original.
This makes trading – the most vital part of the game - slow and clumsy, requiring each in turn to set their counter-offer, pass it, press 'ok', set offer, pass it, and so on.
What could have been another rousing success on iPad therefore ends up a somewhat solitary affair. A good way of playing the simple-yet-fun game on your own, but disappointingly unsocial given the extra screen space available.