Despite its enduring popularity, The Settlers of Catan – first published in Germany in 1995 as Die Siedler von Catan and more commonly known as simply ‘Catan’ these days – hasn’t had a console edition in many years.

The Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) version in 2007 was perhaps the most memorable, though more recently a great VR version has been made available for various headsets.

This newer version certainly marks the first appearance on home consoles since the PS3 adaptation in 2010, however.

British publisher Dovetail Games – in collaboration with Nomad Games – have handled this new conversion. Is it a successful one?

First things first, here’s a quick overview if you don’t know Catan.

In Catan, players establish settlements and roll each turn to see which hexes on the board produce resources. If a numbered hex their settlement touches comes up on the dice, they collect the type of resource denoted by the hex type – wood, brick, grain, sheep or ore. Crucially, players collect resources when their number comes up even when it isn’t their turn; this keeps players invested in every turn, rather than just sitting and waiting to roll dice.

Resources are used to upgrade settlements to cities, build roads or even construct new settlements, amongst other things – and there’s often enough scarcity in terms of resources needed that trade between players becomes necessary. Again, this keeps players involved during near enough every turn – as bartering and negotiation is often needed if you want to succeed at Catan.

Settlements are worth one victory point, cities two – and there are bonuses for the longest road or having the largest army (armies being a number of knights, which appear on development cards that confer bonuses or other effects for the player that buys the card with their resources). The first player to reach ten points wins.

There’s also the robber, who comes up frequently seeing as he appears when a 7 is rolled on the two dice – seven being the most common number possible on two dice. He allows you to steal a resource from a player whose hex you’ll also block from producing anything until he’s moved again. Annoying, certainly – but again this forces the trading aspect to the fore in Catan.

A video tutorial series handily covers the basics in an easy to digest form in Catan – Console Edition; this should provide everything that new players need to begin their adventure without too much confusion or fuss.

Catan – Console Edition does a fantastic job of looking the part; the water surrounding the island is gorgeous, for one thing. For another, the shifty robber, when he shuffles lazily over to a new hex, is an amusing addition too. Each animated hex also looks great – and for the most part they’re pretty clear in terms of what you’ll get from them at any given time.

It’s a great game to play locally too, with the option to have your hand of resources and development cards on your phone’s screen, so as not to give away your current situation to other players. This is handled quite well using a QR code – and it’s very straightforward to set up.

However, there’s some niggles here that really feel as if they should have been ironed out.

The game has a very odd pace and the options to speed things up are incredibly thin on the ground – as far as I could tell, the only way to get things moving a little quicker is to remove yourself from the trading between players until your own turn.

This isn’t ideal of course, but it stops the trades coming up and slowing everything down – which they do, even when you don’t have the resource that’s being requested. Frustratingly, the AI will continue to try and sweeten the deal with counter offers, even if you don’t have the resource they want.

Even small things like dice rolls seem to take forever to process; they roll, the dice then move (slowly!) next to the player who rolled them, then resources are handed out – for some reason, this just seems to be incredibly slow and it can get particularly frustrating, especially when you’re low, or completely out of, resources; it’ll still take a minute or so for you to take your turn anyway. That may not seem like a long time, but when all you’re doing is rolling the dice and then ending your turn, the duration soon adds up.

Another issue I found is that there’s no way to tweak the AI, which seems particularly geared to picking on the non-AI players. It gets old fast when they continually choose the lone human player’s hex for the robber, for example, even when said human isn’t even ahead on points!

There’s some problems with the main view when building too, as the visuals can feel a little too busy outside of normal rolling and trading.

It does also feel like a bit of a missed opportunity that the second screen – whereby you can see your hand of cards on your phone – doesn’t actually enable any more functionality. Jackbox-style interactivity, with trading done via your phone screen, would have been a fantastic addition to the game. However, it must be said that this is a decent and thoughtful, if basic, addition to the game as is.

Despite all of these niggles, Catan – Console Edition does still play a good game of Catan. It helps that the game itself has always been really solid; though it’s incredibly challenging against AI that really seems to have it in for you, when you do finally score yourself a victory, it tastes even sweeter.

Given that Dovetail Games are on publishing duties and Nomad Games developed Catan – Console Edition, no doubt expansions will be on the way. Dovetail have an awful lot of form with DLC thanks to their train and fishing sims; Nomad, being responsible for Talisman – Digital Edition (another classic tabletop adaptation which I reviewed here) do too, having brought the absolutely bewildering number of Talisman expansions to the digital edition. This is promising, because Catan can only get stronger with further updates.

Currently, cross play online and local multiplayer are definitely the most satisfying ways to play Catan; hopefully it’s updated with more options to balance out the AI in different ways at some point in the future. With a few more options – including the ability to speed up die rolls and even AI turns – the Catan – Console Edition would be unmissable. In its current form, it’s still a good game – but does fall a little short of being great.

Catan – Console Edition is out now in Standard and Deluxe editions on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One. The Deluxe version includes 5 previous CATAN World Championship board layouts from the real-life

Many thanks to Lick PR for providing me with a code for Catan – Console Edition for review purposes.

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