Catan Dice game is based on the uber-popular Settlers of Catan board game. It comes in a nice looking compact little box and includes the six dice used for playing, a special scorepad, and a copy of the rules. There’s no setup time at all, and games run around 15 or 20 minutes for 2 players (it’s meant for 2 – 4 players, with the obligatory solo version to play as well). So it’s a little different than the board game in those aspects 😉 And really, it’s not to meant to replicate the Settlers experience; it’s meant to be a different type of game experience that is reminiscent of its parent game. The goal is to be a fun game that feels like Settlers while you’re playing it, and it succeeds well on both fronts.
Catan Dice is played with 6 special dice, each face bearing one of the five Catan resources (ore, lumber, brick, grain, sheep) or gold. 2 gold can be used as 1 of any other resource; this is the only use for gold in the game. Play proceeds like Yahtzee: each player gets up to 3 rolls and can keep or reroll whichever dice they want each time. The basic goal is to accumulate the proper combos of resources in order to build roads, knights, settlements, and cities.
There are two versions of the game: Island 1 which uses the front side of the score pad and Island 2 which uses the back. They’re not explicitly called out as “beginner” and “advanced” in the rulebook, but it is stated you should play Island 1 first before moving on to Island 2. Personally neither one seemed more or less difficult than the other; I think it’s fine to start with either one. They do play very differently though, with Island 1 being much less interactive; everyone just tries to accumulate the highest score they can on their own and then the highest score at the end wins. Island 2 is much more competitive, and feels much more like the board Settlers board game.
In the Island One version each road, knight, settlement, and city is worth points as seen above (the number in each symbol is how many points it’s worth). Players start with the first road tile (in blue with the arrow) built for them and go from there. In order to build a city (the large buildings worth the most points) or settlements (the smaller buildings) a player must first build roads up to that point. Knights (the guys in the middle of each hexagon) can be built at any time. BUT everything has to be built in order; the lowest numbered settlement (3, right next to the starting tile) must be built first, then 4, 5, etc. Same with cities and knights. Roads must all be connected as well. So no grabbing that 30 point city right off the bat!
Each player gets 15 turns and records their score after every turn on the scoring track in the upper right. The strategery comes from deciding what to go for and in what order. Cities are worth huge points but are tough to build and you need to build the roads to get to them. Settlements are easier to build and access but not worth as many points. Roads are only 1 point each but are vital so you’ll want to build lots of them whenever you can.
One more cool bit of strategy is the use of the resource jokers. Whenever you build a knight that entitles you to use the appropriate resource joker; you can take one of the dice and turn it into whatever that knight is (so if you use the first knight you can turn a die into an ore, the second one lets you turn a die into a grain, etc.) But the catch is you only get to use each joker once per game. Deciding when to burn them is a big part of the decision-making.
The Island One version is fun, trying to see which high-scoring buildings you can make and trying to accumulate as many points as possible. But there’s no direct competition with the other players, and while it does have familiar Settlers elements, it doesn’t really feel like the parent game. Playing the Island Two version solves both of those issues.
Island Two feels much more like Catan because: a) the first player to reach 10 points wins and b) there are 2 point bonuses for biggest army (most knights) and longest road. In this version all the settlements are worth 1 point each and the cities 2. Roads and knights aren’t worth any points but they provide access and resource jokers as in Island One. While both versions are fun I think Island Two is probably the better game, especially with a larger group I’m guessing (I’ve only played it with 2 players so far). Island One is a lot like Yahtzee; take your turn, accumulate points, see who has the most at the end. In the Island Two version you have to watch what everyone else is doing, keep an eye on who has how many points, try to keep or take the 2 point bonuses, etc. But they’re both very fun, and since games are pretty quick you can play each version a time or two in a session.
Overall this is a great little game. The ease of access, short playtime, and use of strategy make for a nice change of pace from the typical board games that tend to be pretty long with lots of setup and waiting time. Not sure how Catan fanatics will feel about it but I can recommend it to most anyone.
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