Catan is boldly going where it probably shouldn’t

Settlers of CatanMy family has been playing a lot of Settlers of Catan recently. It had been sitting on a shelf for a while, but now we’ve rediscovered it and there’s no question that it is one of the truly great games, ever. I love the required horse-trading and the interaction it brings with it, the varying paths to victory and the simple but colourful board that changes with each game. The bargaining in particular make this a family favourite and also a game that, in my view, has translated badly to computer. Playing round a table is the way to go with Catan.

So the publisher’s announcement of Star Trek Catan sounds like a geeky delight combining two hot properties in the one place. But, having had a family discussion about it at some length the other night, we’re not feeling so good about it. I must admit the kids first reaction was a little chorus of ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’; but a moment later that turned into ‘why?’ My own first reaction was: ‘it’ll have to be sodding different to persuade me to even look at shelling out any hard-earned for a branded version of a game we have and love’ – which also sort of translates into ‘why?’

Clearly the publishers have a simple answer to that question from their own point of view – it’ll make money from a franchise which must be slowly declining from its heyday years. But really they could have retained some dignity, bunging a movie tie-in over the top of a great game seems so cheap, so… Monopoly.

Have they changed the game? The description from Board Game Geek makes me think not:

In Star Trek: Catan, players start the game with two small space stations at the intersection of three planets, with each planet supplying resources based on the result of a dice roll. Players collect and trade these resources – Dilithium, Tritanium, food, oxygen and water – in order to build spaceships that connect regions in the galaxy, establish small and large space stations at new intersection points in order to increase resource acquisition, and acquire development cards that provide victory points or special abilities.

On a dice roll of 7, a Klingon ship swoops in to prevent resource production on one planet, while taxing spacegoers who hold too many resources.

But the publishers knew they had to add something in. Board Game Geek continues: “The one new element in Star Trek: Catan compared to the Settlers version is a set of character cards, each featuring one of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Scott, Uhura, Chekov, Chapel, Rand or Sarek. Each character card has two special powers that the holder can use on his turn, such as a forced trade.”

Hmmm… that sounds like a game that would appeal, briefly, to die-hard Star Trek collectors but I’m not seeing it add much for Catan fans. I can’t see myself shelling out for it: But then I don’t need to worry about that decision for a while yet – the publishers have said the English version will be released in the Northern Autumn exclusively in US Target stores.

So I’m returning to my Earth-bound hexagonal island for some horse trading with the kids. We are, however, contemplating adding in our own variation to the game – including chocolates into the resource bargaining.

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