Settlers of Catan is one of the most successful board games on the market and has been a fixture on the scene since its release in 1995. The game has seen many print runs, expansions and spin-offs over the last twenty-five years and it’s no surprise that it can also be found in the digital realm (Android). For full transparency, this app is redundant now and has been replaced by Catan Universe. Catan Classic can still be purchased in the app store and is totally playable but is no longer receiving new updates.
Settlers of Catan, or Catan for short, has been played the world over and many people have an opinion on it. Personally, this game is not for me but I’ve played it enough that I can discern if this is a decent port or not. I just wanted to be upfront because I am in no way a Catan fan.
Catan is a game that has players rolling dice to collect resources that are then used to create routes and buildings on the modular game board. There is player interaction not only with the blocking on the map and the robber, an action that allows a player to steal from another player, but there is also the option for players to trade resources between one another. Victory Points are dynamic and the game will conclude when a player reaches ten points. Catan the app features a tutorial that allows players to choose what they want to learn, including the first two expansions (Cities and Knights and Seafarers). The expansions however are in-app purchases. There are Lite versions of the expansions that are available for free that allows players to get their feet wet to see if they’re interested in the expansions. I like the breakout of the tutorial as it allows players to bounce around and look at areas of question as opposed to having to play the entire scripted tutorial again. I also like the Lite expansion modes as it lets players try before they buy.
Unfortunately, the app doesn’t include a text version of the rules so players will need to be familiar with them from previous playthroughs and/or the tutorial. What it does feature though is a brief narrative story to get players immersed in the Catan world each time the game is launched. This can be skipped but it’s interesting as I never really thought of the story behind Catan prior to playing the app.
One of the coolest things that the Catan app does is allows players to choose the art style that they prefer. Catan has had multiple publishers and each has tweaked the tile design slightly with each print run. The app lets players choose the one that’s right for them. Not many digital games have this option (as the games themselves haven’t been around for as many different print runs) so this inclusion, while purely aesthetic, allows players to feel comfortable with the version they grew up playing.
Something weird I found was that the difficulty was set in the options and not from the game set up screen. Makes no sense to me at all. The app features ten named AI opponents that are all ranked on a five-star scale on three different attributes: Aggression, Expansion and Skill. You can choose multiple of the same AI or just set to random if you’d like. What’s funny about these skill sets are that there is clearly a terrible AI choice but there is no All-Star AI choice with five stars in each attribute. I haven’t been able to see a discernible pattern with the difficulty levels and the ranges of the AI through my plays. Harder difficulty feels harder but it doesn’t necessarily feel like it corresponds to the AI’s attributes.
Besides playing against the AI, custom games can be created that allow certain scenarios to be played out as well as online games against random opponents or friends. There is also a Quick Match option that quickly places you in a match against anyone else looking for one. Online play is/was limited to real-time games only. With the app being phased out, I rarely if ever found a stranger to play against but I was able to launch games against friends that still had the app. I played most games against the AI though. Lastly, Catan Classic also offers a pass and play mode which works fine but becomes convoluted with trades.
The app also features a campaign mode but as this required additional purchasing, I don’t own the campaign and cannot speak on it. It does exist though and would add some variation for solo players. There are also the two expansions that are available, Seafarers and Cities and Knights.
Catan Classic has some interesting statistical record keeping, as it tracks the dice roll distribution across all your games as well as your winning percentage against each AI. This provides nothing of real value but I really enjoyed watching the dice distribution grow with each game.
One of my major issues with the app though is that it tends to be unresponsive. Several times I was clicking directly on the screen where I needed to, but nothing happened. This happened more on the main screen and menu pages than the actual game play screen (thankfully) but it’s still annoying.
The gameplay itself is typical Catan. Games must have at minimum three players and variations can be added to each game, such as changing the Robber to be in a friendly mode or changing the amount of Victory Points that triggers the end of the game. You can change the game speed in the settings and there are chicken and farm noises to immerse players into the world of being a settler.
The app itself is a fine digital implementation of the game. There were some technical issues as mentioned but nothing that was game breaking. I’m curious to compare this to Catan Universe to see what updates and upgrades have been provided (if any). Even without playing Universe, I wouldn’t recommend Classic as why play an app that is no longer being supported?