Learning through Play: Settlers of Catan

By , January 31, 2014

Winter is our game playing season. The long evenings and reduced chore load offer extended periods for enjoying a family game.

When Aly was still home, one of our favorite games was Settlers of Catan. This Mayfair Games product is a somewhat complex activity, but it’s a lot fun, and it teaches players about commerce, trade, and business planning. It offers excellent lessons in Civics to home schoolers in a fun, memorable format. It also requires critical thinking.

(Photo: Amazon.com.)

(Photo: Amazon.com.)

There’s more to the game than you might care to read here, but basically, Catan is an island on which the players settle. The island is divided into resource regions, from which “credits” of lumber, brick, ore, sheep, and wheat can be harvested through each turn’s dice roll, and based on proximity to the resource. Resources combine in various ways to “build” infrastructure: roads, settlements, and cities. Players use what they harvest, or trade them with other players to get the credits they need to carry out their projects. Each player works on his own infrastructure in competition with the others. Variables are introduced through “development” cards and a “robber” token that moves about the board according to a set of rules.

Once you apply all of this, it’s easy to pick up in a short time. After that, it’s a matter of cleverly acquiring and using resources, trading to one’s best advantage, and keeping track of one’s score until the winner reaches 10 points. Rolling the dice each turn introduces an element of chance that can work for or against a players’ plans.

The length of a game can vary, but it tends to take a while to play. We’ve found it perfect for the ferry trip in and out of Haines, and for long evenings on the “homestead.” The play encourages a lot of player interaction.

I value it most for the trading aspect. Modern society doesn’t offer many opportunities for barter, nor are we a haggling culture, but these are good life skills that a student can be introduced to, and become familiar with, through the less-threatening game environment.

Settlers of Catan is the base game. There are many spin-offs, which we haven’t tried yet.

As a side note, we were gifted the portable edition of this game, which is very compact and self-contained. Michelle and Aly have played with friends on a full sized set. They said that it took a lot longer to set up.

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