The board game for Settlers of Catan and various expansion sets is pretty familiar and popular, enough so that it was obvious that there would eventually be an online version of the game . The elements of gameplay for Catan are familiar in that you have a hex-based map where you collect resources in order to get cards and build settlements and roads in order to gain victory points and win the game while simultaneously using the robber to steal resources from others and deny them from advancing their city and trading for the resources you need. Of course, if someone robs you multiple times you might wish that this game had a large amount of armies to crush your rival colonizers. Interestingly enough, though, this book presents a positive picture of colonization and imperialism, although there are no interactions with the home country. One does not imagine that there are many people who appreciate the larger angle of the relationship between the settlers of Catan and settlement colonies like the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. At least there are no indigenous people in the game to deal with.
Given the fun of the board game, though, how does that translate to online? Well, the game is a bit buggy. The most reliable way of winning a game, and often the fastest, is simply to wait for your opponent to lag out or quit, which does not seem enjoyable. The game does not fit on the window and some of the controls are a bit counterintuitive. Of particular annoyance is the way that many players seem not to recognize that they cannot make the trade that they wish and continually ask you about it, which you can fortunately turn off by making yourself unavailable for any player trades so that people will stop bothering you continually. “Wanna trade an ore for a sheep? Wanna trade an ore for a sheep? Wanna trade an ore for a sheep?” Accepting player trades gets really annoying when they use the ore to get a development card that they use as a knight to steal your resources and keep you from getting ore. Worse, the game is online so other players seem not to be aware that they are being really annoying to other players, whereas there would be a lot more friendly banter in a real game.
That said, if you have a good internet connection and a willingness to undertake a somewhat steep learning curve, there is a lot to appreciate here. After all, it does have the sort of gameplay and elements that make Catan appealing, from the strategy of deciding where to build settlements and roads to gather resources to lead your settlement to victory, but being a competent player online here leads to fairly rapid advancement that allows for more variety of playing as well as the ability to customize one’s avatar. There is a lot to enjoy and appreciate here if you are able to learn the online mechanics and put up with the interminable waiting for other players to do something or lag out so that you are closer to victory. Overall it’s an okay online port of a very good board game, even with its annoyances.
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