‘Settlers of Catan’ strengthens bonds then and now

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Author: Will Westwater

My high school classmates’ senior years did not go as planned. Call it dumb luck or terrible mistakes, but many of my closest friends received concussions that year. The head injuries, from either football or soccer, lasted weeks or months. In one case the headaches were bad enough that my friend John had to drop out of school for the year. Many close to me were unable to play sports or look at video screens for any length of time. We were barred from our primary ways of bonding—until we found “Settlers of Catan.”

Klaus Teuber’s mega-successful board game became our senioritis mainstay. Players earn resources to build and trade their way to settlements, cities and armies in a race to earn a set number of points. A lot of strategy and a bit of luck drive the hour-long session. After taking our first game to learn the rules, we were on our way to bartering, backstabbing and “winter bringing” our way to the top.

Weekend “Catan” nights spilled into our weekday nights as our second semester of senior year rolled around. We had the expansion pack and sometimes two or three groups of people playing at once. We ordered pizza, my mom made smoothies and we got to playing.

“Catan” brings out the best and the worst in people, and the robber is the catalyst of conflict. This player-controlled piece stops resource production of a certain tile and ensures a racket of haggling and threatening every time a seven is rolled. The robber makes or breaks alliances at the table, as it can bring about a resourceless winter as long as those found in “Game of Thrones.”

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“Catan” is best played with people who think outside the box and aren’t afraid to team up or trade their way to the top. I am fortunate enough to have friends that do all that and more. Our games are ruthless; moments are tense, but the victories are sweet. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Catan” isn’t our only way of hanging out today, but we are sure to have a game or two when we are all in town.

Tough times were made a lot better with “Catan.” As Jim Halpert said in “The Office,” “If you’re a family stuck on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, one parent might want to just keep rowing. But if the other parent wants to play a game, it’s not because they’re crazy. It’s because they’re doing it for the kids.”

We are still those kids, and we will be all our life thanks to “Catan.”

“Catan” can be played online on the app store or Xbox Live, but it is best in person with the physical game. Occidental’s Flat Surface Gaming Club meets Friday nights at 6:30 pm in the Johnson Student Center and plays “Catan” regularly. If you have interest in playing with the Flat Surface Gaming Club, contact Jackson Beck at jacksonbeck@oxy.edu.


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