Game Review: Catan Dice

1393784692425Dice games are hot, and Catan has pretty much pimped it’s game out to any and every varietal so one could only expect a Catan dice game. I recently got to play and think it might be my favorite Catan version yet.

I played the deluxe version of the Catan dice game and I must say at the price, the finish is quite nice. You get an embossed leatherette dice cup, 6 custom etched dice, a printed scorepad of both games (we will get to this in a sec) and a golf pencil for around $20. Not a bad deal at all.
My only qualm is that because it comes in a clear plastic case, there is no box. Everything is designed to fit in the dice cup, which is great for gamers keeping it at home, but if you take it on the go, there is bubkis holding the lid on, which doesn’t bode well for it not dumping your contents. Solid A

This is another great area for the game, there is a one player variant which is nice, and then the game can also accommodate 2-4 players. Then there’s the fact that this isn’t just one game, but it has 2 maps which utilize different styles of play. The two maps and the dice randomness really up the replayability factor. There’s also the ease of diceplay which mean that it’s an easy game to learn- you just match up dice to set patterns with values. Solid A+

The game utilizes several of the Catan features:
1) Players are trying to amass resorces to cash in for set items (roads, armies, towns, and cities) just like in Catan. You just use dice to do it.
2) Roads and Armies matter, just like in Catan and largest army and longest road get you a bonus in one of the games.
3) Hexagon shapes are used on both maps to provide similar playability to Catan.
You definitely get the feel of a Catan styled game despite the differences in play and lack of everyone’s favorite thief.

They did add a new feature in this game, in addition to standard sheep, lumber, wheat, brick, and ore, you have gold. 2 gold=wild card item, so you can make up for an inability to roll a commodity by turning in gold instead. Because you need 2 gold to create any 1 other commodity, you shunt your abilities to build secondary items in your turn and by not re-rolling gold dice you remove the possibility of rolling the commodity with that die. Value judgements become messier, and the game becomes more about fun and chance.
I, for one, love this added hurdle that elevates the Catan dice above a simple dice game. By not creating dice with varied weights of strength likeĀ Zombie Dice they saved production cost, but also managed to have an additional dynamic while not forcing players to pool dice like Bears!.

Island 1 plays more like a traditional Catan game, there are points for longest road and biggest army, and you are playing to a 10 point total. There is no direct competition for resources, unlike non-dice Catan games, but players scorecards are public and in this game you can at a glance see where you stack up. In this variant, armies also can be used to supplement a resource to your die roll but only once per game per army. The resource that they can supplement is the background that they are on with the exception of two wild card bonuses that cost 2 armies each.

I liked the additional mechanic built in with armies, as they add even more variants to resource management and provide competition over largest army by giving bonuses both in points and in resources, keeping the game more interesting. I also happened to roll up armies more easily than towns and cities so I found them helpful in the later stages of gameplay as we were all trying to get the last 3-4 points to win. Though I felt that Island 1 felt much more like a traditional Catan game than Island 2, I didn’t actually like it as much as Island 2, nor did I do as well as I did with Island 2. Island 1 kept a very level playing field and we stayed pretty much equal throughout the game with very little excitement. It was fun but not exciting.

Island 2 introduces a different set of dynamics. Roads must be built in a certain order, as must cities and towns, and each is worth increasing values as you go. You also tally up earned points per round and write it down kinda like Yahtzee. Also like Yahtzee it’s hard to read all the tiny numbers so we ended up being very surprised by the winner at the end because in the last few rounds you can get some serious point values. Play is for a set number of rounds.

I liked Island 2 better because it kept things more exciting. I was a major dark horse come from behind to win by scoring big in the last 4 rounds. The person who thought he was in first place came in 3rd out of 4. The way this game is set up with the elements of surprise because you can’t clearly see the score also made everything more exciting for my group and the game had a faster pace overall because of the set number of rounds. Less Catan than Island 1 but more fun.
Island 1- B+, Island 2-A

Bottom Line:
Overall, I would definitely play this game again. I think it’s a great game for kids or adults and would make a great family night game. It has the flexibility to be friendly or more competitive and teaches resource management. It’s well-made and the dice cup design is great for keeping it stored on a shelf. I would suggest securing the lid if you are putting it in a backpack, etc. to take on a trip, etc. At $20 it’s a rather good value for the deluxe edition; and it has the feel of Catan while still remaining a unique dice game that would make a great addition to your collection.

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