There is no hiding my adoration for Settlers of Catan (full tabletop review here). It was the game that started my board game life and I find it a great way to introduce people into the board gaming world. There might be games that have improved on its formula over the last 15+ years, but there is nothing wrong with loving a classic. I knew when we started reviewing iOS games that Settlers of Catan would be on the short list to review. We will see if this adaptation can hold up to my high standards or if it will make me sad I ever played it. Read on.
In Settlers of Catan, each player is a different group of new inhabitants to an unoccupied island. Each player will start out the game with two settlements and a road. During the game, players must build across the island by using different types of resources found on the island. Some spaces will be more fruitful than others. Each turn, players will roll dice to determine what resource; either brick, wool, ore, grain, or lumber; will be generated that turn. Players will need to gain the correct resources via dice rolls or by trading with other players to continue building. By earning victory points through buildings and cards, players will attempt to be the first to the 10 victory points win condition.
The game doesn’t short us of any content for the game. Every aspect of the physical board game is in this app. The game has multiple AI difficulty settings and the ability to do pass and play. There is no online play in this app, admittedly a disappointment. I’m shocked a game with this high of profile doesn’t have any ability to do online play. A surprising addition to the base app is the ability to play both the Seafarers and Cities and Knights expansion for the game. There are also other maps available for purchase in the app store if you need some more variety in the game. Another feature that adds to the variety is the many rules adjustments you can make. Change victory points needed, dice modes, resource bonus and other options allow you to make the game your way.
The game board is all available to view on one page. At the start of a turn, the dice will be rolled for the player with resources being automatically distributed. During a players turn they will have an option bar show up on the right side of the screen. This allows them to either trade, build, buy development cards, or finish their turn. Every action is done with a very simple animation and the tile pieces have enough graphic detail. After each action that a player makes, they will be required to select the check mark button on the right side of the screen. Players may also trade in the game. They open up a trade screen at the bottom of the device and offer up their trade to the other players. Whenever a new building or road is desired, a simple click on the map puts it into place. Every aspect works well together to build a similar look and feel of the board game.
This app has everything you need to play a solid game of The Settlers of Catan. The AI varies in difficulty enough that at the higher levels, I found it quite challenging to beat them. There is plenty of customization available for players allowing for the game to be played the way players want. I was shocked that there was a lite version of expansions. It was a nice touch to allow people to try these before purchasing the full game. When you get into the game, the systems function well enough to mimic the board game. Placing the roads and buildings feels similar, as well as buying any development cards. One application gripe I have about the game is the approval button that shows up every time you select an action. I’m fine with games having an undo button, but the fact that I have to lock in my action anytime I try to do something gets annoying. Besides that, everything with the physical board and actions works well.
One of the integral parts of Settlers to Catan is the trading of resources with other players. Watching to see what is rolled to find out what players have in their hands and trying to make offers that they will find enticing is part of the fun of the game. Adding more and more resources when they don’t agree to your offer can sometimes make the deal will work for them. Within this app, that aspect of the game is lost. Sure, you can trade with others, but there is no true interaction if you play with the AI. This lacking experience of the game hurts the overall game play for me. There are some issues with trading with the AI as well. They tend to offer many trades trying to gain the one resource the algorithm has identified as important. They will make upwards of 4 trade offers and by the end it’s annoying. There is a decline all trades button that can eliminate this, but there might be a great offer that you’d take, say 3 for 1, that you would miss if you skipped all. I’m missing a great experience that the board game creates with trading in this app.
I want to love this app, but I just can’t. The lack of online play and trading interaction makes this iOS app not an immediate buy for me. Despite those issues, I’m not going to delete the app or never play it again. The implementation of the dice rolling, the placing on the island and the main mechanics is a very nice representation of the game. The trading just not what I want it to be. If you are a fan of Settlers of Catan, put this game on your watch list.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, the app costs $6.99 for the iPad version.