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Catan for iPhone Review
Review Score:

Catan, a strategy-heavy board game, has been brought to the iDevice by USM and has been available from the app store for over a year. An accurate representation of the physical board game, Catan tasks the players with building settlements and collecting resources in a bid to expand their empires and collect victory points.

Catan Pros:

  • Deep strategic gameplay
  • Clean graphics and great soundtrack
  • Helpful tutorial and almanac
  • Lots of game tweaks and replay value

Catan Cons:

  • No online multiplayer
  • A bit daunting for new players

Played upon a hexagonal board containing 19 smaller hexagons representing the various available resources, up to four players may compete in each game to settle the island.  There are 8 AI players, each with certain strengths and weaknesses. You begin by building settlements where the hexes come together. Roads are also built to connect these settlements. Once each player has two settlements and two roads, each successive move begins with a roll of the dice. Each hex contains a number that represents the sum of two dice. Any settlement connected to a hex whose number is rolled earns 1 unit of the resource represented by the hex, either lumber, stone, wheat, livestock, or bricks. Players collect resources with the intention of upgrading their settlements to cities, building roads, trading resources, and purchasing development cards. Each settlement is worth 1 victory point and each city is worth 2 points. Cities also earn double resources for their adjoining hexes. The longest road and largest army are worth 2 points each for their owners. A special development card can also provide a player with an additional victory point. The first player to reach 10 victory points is declared the winner.

Development cards are a sort of wild card that can offer significant benefits to the bearer, such as selecting 2 resources from the bank, building two free roads, taking all units of 1 resource type from all other players, or moving the robber and stealing a resource. Each roll of 7 on the dice also brings the robber into play. The robber is placed on any hex, allowing the person who placed him to steal one resource from one player whose settlement is connected to the hex upon which the robber was placed. Additionally, that hex cannot earn its surrounding settlements any resources while the robber is present, and any player with more than 7 cumulative resources must forfeit half of them. It’s a powerful character that can have devastating effects.

Building settlements, cities, and roads requires a certain number of specific resources. Resources can only be earned if you have a settlement or city connected to that resource’s hex and its number is rolled. It is likely that you will not have settlements on hexes of certain necessary resources, so trading becomes a major aspect of the game. On your turn, you may offer trades of your collected resources for items that you need. Alternatively, you can trade in a certain number of identical resources to the bank in exchange for a single unit of a desired resource. It all sounds a bit convoluted and confusing, but there is a great interactive tutorial to guide you through the basics, as well as an almanac that explains all of the different aspects of the game. We picked it up pretty quickly and were captivated by the deep strategic gameplay. You can even adjust various parameters of the game, such as fixed or variable map setups, use of a friendly robber mode, differing dice modes, use of a resource bonus, and number of victory points required to win (from 8 to 14). These can tweak the game to the player’s skill level.

Graphically, Catan has a colorful, animated look that makes it appear that the hexes are alive, simulating sheep movements, grain swaying, and the like. The game automatically zooms in and out as needed, but pinch-to-zoom is also available to give you full control over your view. The resource hexes are easily distinguishable from one another, and small player stat charts adorn the screen corners, indicating the number of cumulative resources, development cards, victory points, armies, and contiguous road segments held by each player. Actions are carried out by selecting buttons from a menu that tucks itself neatly out of view until needed. Tapping the button on the right side of the screen brings up this menu, allowing you to offer a trade, buy a card, enter building mode, and pass the dice. The soundtrack is great, featuring sweeping tracks that feel like a movie score without overpowering the gameplay. Controls are touch-based, utilizing tapping for most input. The dice rolls are automatic.

Replay value is outstanding, as the game tweaks and strategic elements allow for great variety from game to game. The most notably lacking feature is an online multiplayer component, though you could use pass-and-play with a friend. The seemingly complex rules may initially turn off some, but if you can get past them, you’ll quickly get used to all of the different facets of this exciting game. The length of play is quite long, with each game running us about an hour. At $4.99, Catan remains a great value and one of the best strategic offerings in the app store, receiving a 4.5-Dimple seal of approval.

Catan for iPhone Review, reviewed by Kevin on 2010-10-29T02:29:19+00:00 rating 4.5 out of 5

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