Nov 21, 2010

Island Settlers

The Settlers of Catan may be the premier of the so called EuroGames to make it big in the USA. It's actually been around for 15 years, but in reality that's nothing compared to a classic like Monopoly. Still, Settlers brought something to the table that Monopoly didn't and that's a game that has much more strategy and less luck than other more American fare. My first experience with Settlers was after I had gotten a new game called Puerto Rico and I was sharing about this amazing, new board game with a friend at work. He likewise had a game to share about and that was Settlers. Eventually I was able to play it with his group, purchased a copy for myself, and since then I'm sure I've played it at least a hundred times. (And I'm also good friends with the 2008 Settlers of Catan World Champion.)

If you don't know anything of this game then here it is a nutshell. You and up to 3 competitors are on an island made of hexagons. Each hexagon sports one of five resource types on it with the exception of a single, dormant desert hex. One the vertices you place settlements and cities. On the edges you place roads. Each hex also has a number from 2-12 placed on it. On each turn a pair of dice is rolled and any hex assigned that number produces its resource type. If you have a settlement next to it you produce one of that type of good and if you have a city you produce two of that resource. These resources are used to buy more things: settlements, cities, cards, and roads. The game ends when a player reaches 10 points which comes from settlements, cities, having the longest road, the largest army (cards), and extra points (cards).

Island Settlers (you were wondering if I was actually going to talk about it, weren't you?) brings this game to Android and allows you to play with several AI opponents or in hot seat mode where you pass you phone to the active player. It also includes a few variants such as allowing you to change how many points it takes to win. The graphics are passable look great with today's update and the sound is rarely worth talking about when it comes to board game conversions. The controls work well as the game gives you an overview of the entire island and allows you to easily zoom in for more precise placements of roads and structures. It also cleanly points out available locations which I guess I don't like as much as part of the game should be about spotting good locations without help. Perhaps that should be an option.

The game claims basic AI. The game is right. The AI just isn't very good, at all. My first game finished with me easily winning and two opponents left with 2 points (and you start the game with 2 points so that equates to no progress) and the third opponents with 5. I'm a pretty good, but not great, Catan player. The XBox 360 version of Catan provides me with a challenge. This AI is nothing more than training wheels for learning how to play.

qrcodeStill, the game is free and this isn't a bad way to learn. If you're going to play against a friend then go buy the real game (it's available at Target, now) after you've tried this and found out that you like it. Sure it'll set you back $40, but this game really is that good and just maybe it'll open you open you up to the massive world of games that exist outside of Target and WalMart. I'm sure the AI has to be on the short list for a future update and network play would be another means of addressing the lack of challenge. At least until the 'cease and desist' letter arrives and an official Catan game is released on Android. There was a Catan game in the Apple App Store until the 'real' Catan arrived so I'm fully expecting a repeat of that scenario. It's almost as if they waited to pull the clone so iPhone owners wouldn't be left without their Catan fix, though. 3.5/5 stars mainly because the AI provides little longevity for the solo experience.


  1. It appears to have been removed from the Android Marketplace.

  2. Yep. And today an official Catan for Android was announced for early 2011. Coincidence? I think not!