Catan is a “gateway game” that has been luring new players into the hobby for nearly 30 years. We have a new guy, Kasper, so we played Catan at Compulsory Merriment in order to suck Kasper into the vortex of modern day board games.

In the game, you are settlers on the Island of Catan and you’re competing against each other to see who can build their civilization the fastest. You earn victory points as you build your settlement and unlock achievements. The first player to reach 10 victory points wins! It’s a simple premise but there are a couple of things that make Catan an addictive classic: the board is modular so you can set up your island in different ways each time; plus there are many, different paths to victory.

There are 5 resources you can gain throughout the game–wood, brick, sheep, wheat, and ore–and you’ll need some of each to win. Each hexagonal tile that makes up the board has a number and a resource on it. Players take turns rolling the dice and, if you’ve built a settlement on a tile that contains that number, you get to collect the related resource like you’re ye olde feudal lord. You can try to convince your fellow players to trade resources with you if you have, say, lots of sheep and you need ore.

You can spend your resources to build roads, villages and cities. If you roll a 7 (and this is Mandi’s favorite), you get to deploy the Robber, who allows you to steal resources from other players and keep other players from earning resources on future turns. Plus there are achievements you can work on to gain points, like building the longest road or the biggest army.

Kasper won in our game, which is either an unprecedented bolt of lightning or, possibly, a function of the fact that Mandi’s reputation precedes her and nobody would make good resource deals with her.

Catan is a longtime classic for a reason: it’s easy to learn but there’s enough depth to engage serious gamers. Everybody I’ve ever played Catan with has become obsessed! The base game is for 3-4 players but Catan can be expanded to 5-6 and there are tons of expansions and different settings that allow players to settle indefinitely.

60-120 minutes playtime, 3-4 players, Ages 8+