The Danger of Settlers of Catan

I love games. Card games, board games, dominoes – I enjoy the friendly give and take of games, the chance to focus on an activity together and use my problem solving abilities.

But there is one game that I dislike, and that is the ubiquitous game Settlers of Catan which has a board, cards, and dice. It’s the quintessential game night game – takes a long time, accommodates up to four players, makes people feel “in the know” and cultish while at the same time being very familiar and straight forward.

If you’ve never played, it’s a resource production and utilization game. Every time a particular number is rolled, a certain good is produced. You can use those goods to build certain things and you get points for building them.

How can I not like it?

Well, I don’t. Fine… I’ll play it with you if you really want me to. But here’s why it’s NOT my favorite game.

1) It makes many people mad. Or at the least irritable and competitive. Even good friends. Even when you know it’s “just a game.” Even when the people playing are nice, ordinary, sweet, gentle people every other time you see them.  And it makes people upset because…

2) It’s a game that has a fair amount of tearing down what other people are building. Many of the cards give you the opportunity to take cards from other players, even though they may have been accumulating that particular card for a long time. In addition, every time someone rolls a 7  (the most common roll), they can relocate a piece on the gameboard that then takes away other player’s productivity.

3) It’s a long game that allows people to simmer in their anger and resentment. Instead of – “oh, rats, lost that hand, let’s play another” it goes on and on. “I’m still losing because X took this card and I couldn’t build that important thing and Y built a road where I needed to go and and and.”

I like a friendly bit of competition. I am not saying that games shouldn’t be competitive. Somebody usually has to win. But I don’t enjoy games make people short with each other and snippy and chilly and cause a negative attitude that hangs over the rest of the game.

Maybe Settlers is perfect for some groups. But not for me. I’d much rather play Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, Sequence, Mexican Train, bridge… there are so many good ones! In my view, life is too short to play Settlers.


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