Game Reviews


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Boardgames have proven to be rich and nourishing fodder for video game inspiration over the years, to the point that they've practically become a genre within the pocket gaming arena.

Catan enters that arena with a picture-perfect adaptation of its physical self, though it doesn't appear to have any intentions of replacing the original four-player boardgame with pixels and pretend players.

Instead, this is something of a portable companion to the original tabletop title, like travel Scrabble or one of those small tins with the magnetic chess pieces inside. That's not to say Catan on iPhone is a diminished version of its boardgame grandfather - quite the opposite - but it's easy to see how the two of them will coexist very comfortably.

The game revolves around the colonising of a newly discovered island called Catan (would you believe) with four different settlers aiming to become the dominant party on this deserted, fertile atoll.

The island is split into hexagons, each sector offering a different type of resource: Wood, Farmland, Quarry, Ore, and Livestock. There are also harbours dotted around the coastline, as well as barren deserts that are to be avoided.

What's unusual about Catan is that you're not at war with the other settlers. Not directly, anyway. Strategy games normally involve the decimation of your opponents, but this is a game of expansion and construction.

Indeed, the other settlers are necessary to your cause when it comes to trading, so wiping them all out would leave you without the assets to expand your territory.

Each settler takes turns building a settlement between the island’s segments, paying careful attention to the surrounding resources that settlement will have access to. Building roads along the edges of these hexagonal areas allows you to expand your territory and begin placing more settlements, then building them up into cities.

Upon rolling two dice at the start of a turn, the sum of the numbers shown determines which specific areas of the island will yield resources to the adjacent settlements. Combinations of these assets are then used to improve or expand your province each turn.

There's also the option to request an exchange of supplies with other players or the bank before ending your go and handing over to the next player.

Catan is surprisingly simple to get into, though subtle complexities in its strategy often have you realising mistakes in your own plans moments after placing your a settlement.

Segments with low numbers (for example, a quarry allocated with the number three) might have looked like a good place to build your first town, but rolling a low number with two dice is tricky, and that apparently valuable source may not yield as much income as you initially hoped.

Being greedy or reserved when trading can also see you falling behind quickly. As competing settlers make prudent exchanges in order to build a new road that leads to a harbour, for instance, they in turn receive superior standing with the bank.

What begins as a casual experience reveals itself to be more like chess. It doesn't drag on and on, as Monopoly or Dungeons & Dragons might. To be sure, this is still very much a quick-hit iPhone title.

It all adds up to winning blend of strategy and accessibility. It's worth learning the basics in order to enjoy becoming a master of this classic turned digital.


A reasonably simple game with some hidden depth. If your current chess or RTS game is all played out, Catan should be next on your list
Spanner Spencer
Spanner Spencer
Yes. Spanner's his real name, and he's already heard that joke you just thought of. Although Spanner's not very good, he's quite fast, and that seems to be enough to keep him in a regular supply of free games and away from the depressing world of real work.