This post originally appeared on Wired.com’s GeekDad blog on November3, 2011.
I promise: I tried to hate this book, I really did! Up front, I beg all of my fellow members of the cult of Catan to forgive me if you can. I mean, I pretty much despise the idea of a product tie-in with any board game, but I have come to expect such shenanigans from the corporate game companies in the United States. Battleship: The Movie, anyone? But now the Europeans are selling out too? And not just any European but the icon of European board games, Klaus Teuber. The world is truly doomed!
To make a novel from my beloved Settlers of Catan is beyond the pale! It is a sacrilege! After all it was Catan that re-ignited my interest in board games and taught me that not all of them had to be three hours of wasted life like Axis and Allies. (I mean, after the giant tank vs. infantry battle in Russia, which happens in the first hour of the game, you still have two more boring hours to play and the game is already over. I say if the Russians win call it for the Allies, and if by miracle Germany wins then call if for the Axis, end of game. Better yet, why don’t you take three red dice and I will take three white dice and we will roll them for three hours, add up who won the most rolls and call it good.) Catan was and is so much better. Settlers of Catan single-handedly made board games cool again. It is one of the few board games which can entertain both my 64-year-old Mother and nine-year-old daughter. It is simple enough that my nine-year-old can win, and yet it gives me enough of an illusion of control and choice that I don’t lose interest. It really is a genius game.
For almost a decade it was the password to a secret cult of European board games. At the beginning no one had heard of it, and it felt like a kind of alternative board game. Something far better than the standard party games which were still stuck on Pictionary and Taboo. Catan was like my own version of the ’90s rave. You had to know someone to find out about it.