I played a long-distance version of Settlers of Catan, the wildly popular and complex board game, with 3 of my friends. Here's how you can do it from your own home.
Juliana Kaplan/Business Insider
- To practice safe social distancing, my friends and I are staying far apart from each other.
- That means we won't be able to play Settlers of Catan, the popular board game, together anytime soon.
- So we, like many millennials, turned to the Internet for answers, and played an online version called Catan Universe.
- We used a Zoom chat to see each other while playing, and while our first game was a little rocky, it eventually turned into a delightful Catan game.
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In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, options for entertainment can seem a little limited. As an extrovert who loves playing games with friends, I've been on FaceTime every night with friends, but it's not the same as the semi-regular board game cafe excursions we enjoy (we miss you Hex & Company!).In particular, we wanted to play our beloved Settlers of Catan - a board game where you strategically build roads and settlements to acquire resources, rob other players, and acquire victory points. The first settler to reach 10 victory points wins. I am very bad at Catan, but I love my friends and being competitive, so I was excited to coordinate an online game.Advertisement
Enter: Settlers of Catan-tine. I had heard about some friends getting creative and texting photos of boards back and forth, but we decided to use app/video game Catan Universe. You can play Catan Universe on your browser, download it as an app on Google or Android, or play it via Steam, an online game platform.
It's free to play, but you can buy "Catan Gold" within it to unlock features like different theme sets and expansions; 100 pieces of Catan Gold are $.99.We started with four players: me from my childhood home in Boston; my friend Adam, who is currently quarantined after being evacuated from Spain; my roommate Rose, who remains in New York; and my friend Asya, who is also self-isolating in New York.
All of us except for Rose played on browser; she played via Steam. One drawback of the game is that there's no video or audio option for players to communicate through (although there is a chatbox) so we set up a separate Zoom call and pinned it. Here's how it worked.
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First, we had to set up our accounts on Catan Universe.
Next, we had to activate our accounts. This sounds simple, but it wasn't immediately clear that activation codes were sent to our emails.Advertisement
Next up was our first big challenge: creating a game. First, we had to add each other as friends. Turns out, it's actually pretty easy. First, you click on the top left diamond with your profile.
Then, click the "friends" option from the dropdown menu that appears.Advertisement
Next, you'll see this screen. This is where Zoom came in handy: We told Adam all of our usernames and he added us. On each of our screens, a little pop-up window told us he had added us.
While Catan is generally played with four players, we quickly realized that Catan Universe was optimized for three players.Advertisement
To start a game, you have to click the game token — the brown one on the left — at the bottom of the screen.
We had to use "auto match" to play our game of four players. We all put in the same specifications so we would be matched with each other: We chose a custom board, all opted for four players, and indicated we only wanted to be matched with friends.Advertisement
At long last, it was time to start the game. The board set itself and chose who went first. The rules were the same as in the board game: Every player got to put down one road and one settlement. I was selected last, so I got to place two roads and two settlements.
Finally, after everyone else went, it was my turn to roll the dice. All I had to do was click them — everyone with settlements on the corresponding pieces automatically received their cards. The dice are on the bottom right side of the screen.Advertisement
To trade with another player or the bank, you have to click a little symbol on the left side of the screen. It looks like a money pouch with a recycling sign overlaid on it.
If you're making a trade, you indicate what resource you have, and what you want. All other players get a pop-up with the proposed trade. Here's Adam trading with me.Advertisement
To place a road or settlement, once I had the necessary materials, I could click on them during my turn. Then, I could click where I wanted to place the materials. Here's me expanding my empire.
We were finally getting the hang of it when I accidentally happened upon the reason that you want to play a custom match: There's an auto timer on each turn. If you don't press "end turn" — the black circle on the bottom right side of the screen — at the end of your turn, you get a message telling you you'll be kicked out of the game. So yes, I got kicked out ... and was replaced by an evil AI version of myself.Advertisement
We started a new game later that night, this time only with three players. This made all the difference — we could select who was in the game and turn off the auto timer.
From there, we jumped right in. We were pretty much pros at this point. Here I am playing the Knight, a development card that allows me to steal from the other players.Advertisement
Adam was right: I did steal from him. At this point, our game was chugging along — we were executing trades, building roads, and playing much like we would have in person.
Not to fear: Adam still won. It was a little more abrupt than our usual game ending, because there's ordinarily some human error (and time) involved in calculating victory points. But Catan Universe processed his win immediately.Advertisement
Overall, I had a great time. It helped us feel a little bit normal during these trying times, and I felt like I got better at Catan. I had a few major takeaways.
I came away from the experience with some tips for anyone hoping to start their own virtual Catan game.Advertisement
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