Catan, to me, was a gateway game. It was not the first game to bring me back to tabletop gaming (that was Lord of the Rings), but it was at the top of my list when I started buying games for my collection. In fact, Catan and Munchkin were the first two Christmas presents my wife ever bought for me. It is a classic and I think it belongs in every gamer’s collection.
Here’s my dilemma:
Catan is easy to teach. It is easy for gaming rookies to grasp. It has replayability, and enough randomness and evilness (7’s) to make it fun each time you play it. I get that there are superfans out there who still play on a regular basis. I’m overjoyed that it has brought families together and continues to foster a love of tabletop gaming. I even really like the t-shirts.
So why have I never played this game with any of my current gaming groups? Come to think of it, I have only ever played my copy of the game once.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the game. If you came over (call first) and really wanted to play Catan, that is what we’d do. We’d jump right in. But no one ever does. Not once. In fact, any time we get a new member of my most regular group and they bring Catan, we groan. We have all played it before. We would probably play it again (if there were nothing else), but we don’t want to.
Used to be I might pull out Catan to teach someone new to the table about gaming. Now I start them with King of Tokyo or 7 Wonders or Sushi Go or Forbidden Island or Castle Panic. I have one friend who was stuck on Catan, but she hasn’t asked for it once since we showed her 7 Wonders and Pandemic.
I thought that maybe I was just addicted to new games (and I am) but that’s not really it either. Some times I play Castle Panic or Pandemic 3 or 4 times in one week. I still like the older modern classics. I still like the old-school classics.
So here’s what I really think:
There are better games now than Catan. More tabletop games are being published now than ever before. When Catan was first introduced in America, there wasn’t much like it and not much could beat the experience. Now there are plenty. In fact, there are over 115 games in my collection alone that are better. Better for me and better for my friends.
We want to play Blood Rage and Super Dungeon and Pathfinder and Mysterium and Castle Panic and Pandemic Legacy. We want to play epic sessions of Fury of Dracula and ten-minute games of Fuse.
We want to try out new Kickstarter releases and demo test not-yet-released expansions. We want to spend hours and hours talking about, arguing about, and playing the year’s best new games. We want more bang for buck. We want better games.
We want to play fantastic games and we will no longer settle for Catan.