I’ve always loved board games. I have been playing them for as long as I remember. From games of Chutes and Ladders to Candy Land to Monopoly to Clue to Stratego to Scrabble to RISK (my maybe current favorite) I have loved to just sit in a basement somewhere with friends or family and watch the hours roll on by while hoping to outplay and outsmart my opponents. I still love it. I just get to do it less.
RISK occupied plenty of my afternoons and evenings during my formative years. Each one of my friends played a certain role: one took Australia, one made an ill fated attempt to control Asia, one took Africa and could never hold it, etc. I was big on trying to take North America & Europe. Sometimes it was effective, sometimes not so much. The RISK themed Seinfeld episode – “The Ukraine is weak!” – is one of my favorites for the love that it bestows on my maybe favorite game.
I keep saying maybe favorite because a new game possibly has supplanted it for fav game status. The game to which I am referring to is Settlers of Catan the 1995 winner of the German Spiel des Jahres “Game of the Year Award” which over the past few years, through simple word of mouth, has become one of the most popular games in the world. It literally has sold 15 million copies. No joke.
If you’ve never heard of the game, let me tell you that it is flat out awesome for more than a few reasons. I could start with how each game begins with the random placement of 19 different hexagonal pieces but instead I would rather like to point you towards a Wired Magazine article in this month’s issue titled “Monopoly Killer: Perfect German Board Game Redefines Genre.” Here is an excerpt:
Settlers is now poised to become the biggest hit in the US since Risk. Along the way, it’s teaching Americans that board games don’t have to be either predictable fluff aimed at kids or competitive, hyperintellectual pastimes for eggheads. Through the complex, artful dance of algorithms and probabilities lurking at its core, Settlers manages to be effortlessly fun, intuitively enjoyable, and still intellectually rewarding, a potent combination that’s changing the American idea of what a board game can be.
The article is about 1000% true: after my friends turned me onto the game a few years back I’ve been addicted ever since. I regularly get together with between 3 – 5 friends to play both the Regular and expanded Seafarers editions and truly we all have become addicted – case in point, when a number of us took a trip abroad last year, we brought not one but two boards with us and played not one night but two nights in a row. Sick.
Net / net: I see no reason for this tread to not continue. I think 20 million copies is just around the corner…