Posted Tuesday, 13-Sep-2016
Twenty years after its release, here are 10 things about “the Monopoly of our time” that may still surprise you.
The Settlers of Catan is as close as any board game can come to the term ‘cultural phenomenon.’ Since its release in 1995, Klaus Teuber’s design has sold more than 18 million copies and has been called “The Monopoly of our time.”
Its popularity in the US is perhaps directly responsible for Euro style games gaining a strong foothold, leading to today’s industry filled with hybrid style games.
20 years after the first boats arrived on the shores of Catan, here are 10 facts about the game you might not have known.
Originally Die Siedler von Catan and inspired by the Viking settlement of Iceland, the game we know as Settlers has since been recast in a different light:
The 20th anniversary of the game saw a rebranding – 5th Edition was released simply as ‘Catan’. The game’s expansions and components were all standardized in a portrait box with similar artwork – all feature the setting sun as a major motif.
For four years, Klaus Teuber, then a dental technician, tinkered away on his design for Catan. Already a three-time Spiel des Jahres winner (board gaming’s Oscar), the prototype for Catan featured far more complicated rules, including the merging of many cities into a metropole, and rules for seafaring and exploration.
While most of those ideas were ‘cooked away’ in Teuber’s words, some did make it back into the game via its expansions. It’s tempting to think what might have happened if the game had launched with all those extra rules in place – might it ever have found the success it did?
Catan has been translated into 30 languages, has over 80 official editions and variants, and sells nearly a million copies a year. It has appeared on TV in such shows as “The Big Bang Theory” and “Parks and Recreation” and The Washington Post and The Atlantic have run pieces on it.
After it became clear that Catan was a huge hit (Manufacturers in Europe could not source enough wood to tool the components), Klaus finally closed his dental lab, in which he was unhappy. He now runs Catan GmbH, the company that oversees the whole brand.
Every box of Catan put together is an amalgamation of pieces from around the world. According to the New Yorker:
“the dice are tooled in Denmark; the more intricate wooden pieces are done in Germany; other wood parts are made in Ohio; the cards are from Dallas; the boxes, Illinois; the cardboard, Indiana; the plastic components, Wisconsin; finally, everything gets put together on an assembly line in Illinois.”
In previous years, Catan editions differed in the size of their hexes, cards, and even thickness of cardstock. People wishing to buy second-hand games had to ensure that their current versions were compatible, and thus a huge third party market sprang up for Catan components.
The 5th edition hopes to end all this by standardizing, but knowing gamers…
Catan’s popularity extends past traditional gamers – there has been a short film (“Lord of Catan” starring Amy Acker of Angel fame), a novel (“Catan”, featuring very historically accurate Vikings), and the exclusive TV and movie rights were bought in 2015 by Gail Katz, producer of The Perfect Storm and Air Force One.
While “Bought the rights” is a very long way from “In theaters near you”, one wonders who will play the thief.
While the movie may be far off, Catan merchandise is real. From socks and neckties to building cost coasters and a variety of T-Shirts (“You wouldn’t steal my sheep… ore wood you?”; “The shortest way to victory is the Longest Road”; “Don’t Settle For Less”) and my personal favorite: Catanimals!
While the Catanimals are, sadly, no longer for sale, if you’ve ever wanted a shirt that reads “No Wheat Means Defeat”, you can totally have one.
Fans of Catan are far and wide – from the Green Bay Packer’s obsession with the game to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Zynga CEO Mark Pincus playing it on corporate retreats.
Star Trek’s Wil Wheaton likes Catan enough that he uses it to introduce people to board games (including his wife) and he made it the focus of his second ever episode of his hit YouTube series Tabletop. The Catan episode has just shy of 1.5 million views.
Even among gamers, Catan has longevity. Star Trek Catan. Starfarers of Catan. Settlers of America. The 2-player Rivals for Catan. Catan the Dice Game. Catan Junior. When we said there are over 80 official Catan products, we’re not kidding.
The four main expansions are Cities & Knights, Seafarers, Traders & Barbarians, and Explorers & Pirates. All can be combined with the base game, including with a 5-6 player extension… that’s a lot of Catan.
For those who can’t get enough Catan, there are tournaments held in most countries… but the most prestigious of them all are the World Championships and the European Championships.
The two Championships alternate years, and from the first one in humble beginnings back in 1995, the tournament has grown to epic proportions – hundreds attend each event, and there are nation-specific leaderboards (European and Worldwide – Germany is, of course, 2nd and 1st place respectively).
2016’s World Championship will be held in Durango, Colorado. Want to see the trophy? Of course you do:
All that reading got you itching for some Catan? The game is available on iOS, Android, and PC/Mac!
In the past, Catan was available for many other platforms, including Nintendo DS, Playstation 3, and the Xbox Live Arcade – with the latest one in development being Catan Universe, which you can play in your browser.
Published by BoardGamePrices.com
Can we fit all the photos we took at Spiel into this article? No. But we’ll sure try! Here’s your last look at the last day of the biggest board games show in the world.
The tiredness starts to take hold; but we press on toward Day 3! We’ve got dice! We’ve got minis! We’ve got mechs! It’s Spiel!