Star Trek Catan Review
Avidly played by millions of people from around the world and translated into over 30 languages, The Settlers of Catan board, card and electronic games have over the past decade encouraged players to harvest the land in the hope of expanding their colony. Trading in sheep, lumber, bricks and grain, countless roads have been laid, connecting fresh new buildings and services as players aim to create winning settlements.
Now players can settle in space as Catan is given a brand new sci-fi adaptation – one that should be on all Star Trek fans Christmas lists. Directly based on The Settlers of Catan rules and configuration, Star Trek Catan allows players to take the bridge on their own fleet of starships (either red, blue, mustard yellow or white – of course), aiming to build outposts and starbases on behalf of the ever expanding Federation. Following routes through the chunky hexagonal playing field which is made up of 19 sectors containing 5 different types of planets and an asteroid field, the winner is whoever gets to 10 Victory Points (VP) first and is acknowledged by all as “Starfleet Admiral of Catan.” Outposts are worth 1VP each whilst starbases are worth 2VP. At the start, each hex has a random number token placed on it. When the shiny black dice is rolled, if a player’s starship boarders on a hex planet that matches the number rolled, they can extract the planet’s precious resource and build or trade.
Yes trade. In their infinite wisdom, the Federation have sent out other expeditions who are also vying to bag themselves some Admiral admiration. Trade offers in our game took a long time as each decision was agonised over. Secret mutterings, plotting and discussions became the soundtrack as resources were bartered. My team had a healthy supply of the scarcest dilithium but desperately needed water to make our first starbase. Our opponent was developing a long snake of starships (the first player to create a continuous route of at least 5 ships gets a bonus card awarding them 2 additional VP) and was offering an attractive trade which would have helped us but also assisted them. For the majority of the game, people were predominately cooperative and willing to trade so both parties would be happy with the outcome which is perhaps in keeping with Star Trek philosophy. Despite playing with friends, I found the usual banter and competitiveness didn’t surface as much as expected during play, perhaps because the focus of Catan is to expand and win using the board or trades but not at the expense of others. Even with a Klingon Battle Cruiser lurking on the board, the pace and impact was sometimes slow but didn't deter from the desire to invest and win. The Klingon ship can be moved by anyone who rolls a 7 or who has a special card. All players bordering a Klingon sector who have more than 7 resource cards must discard half whilst the player who moves the ship gets to steal a resource. Whilst it remains in that sector, the Klingon ship stops ANY resources being mined which my team sadly only realised when, thinking we had a chance to cripple our neighbours progress, moved the ship to a sector that resulted in our own fleet also being under Klingon rule, busting our own chops at the same time. The Klingons are a blessing and a curse. As the board filled up with more and more ships, bases and outposts, the Battle Cruiser became bothersome as was stopping too much progess and all agreed it wasn’t always worth bringing into play.
Although the game is designed to be played by a maximum of 4, we had extra people join in and combine brains, so made four teams instead. Of course no Star Trek game would be complete without its most famous faces: Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Uhura and more! This Catan edition comes with bonus support character cards that offer players the chance to mix things up on their turn by forcing trades, assisting with building or Klingon flinging. Our game lasted 2 hours though an average game for those more familiar with the Catan rules should last about 75 mins. In longer games, these support cards should have a greater affect on the outcome but we didn't utilise them fully during our first run. They are beautifully illustrated though, as is the board itself.
In fact, the whole game was fabulously packaged with brilliant attention to detail and quality. The hex pieces are thick with glossy pictures on and the whole board slots together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle. The tiny moulded pieces are expertly crafted, with each starship having an intricate yet sturdy structure. Even the dice have swirls of stars dotted on.
Catan is ultimately a long strategy game about trading and building so won’t appeal to everyone but can be set up to suit all gaming abilities. By setting Catan in the Star Trek universe, it has found a new depth with a familiar charm that fans of both franchises will love. Milder in its approach than other strategy games where violent conquering is usually the means to an end, Star Trek Catan is an enjoyable way to spend time with friends and is a top recommend for sci-fi table top gaming this winter.
Want to try it out? Then join SFL this weekend where Esdevium games will be showcasing Star Trek Catan alongside their other titles - You might even get chance to WIN a copy!
Huge thanks to members of Game Club Bournemouth for assisting with this review.