On Sunday I spent the day at Thirsty Meeples for a Settlers of Catan tournament. If that opening sentence has confused you, then I apologise. But I’ll explain.
Thirsty Meeples is an excellent café in Oxford centre, which specialises in board games. It’s a little bit like a board game library, only you can’t take the games away with you. You pay a small fee and can rent any games you want for the whole day. And they have plenty. 100s. It’s an immersive experience. The selection they have tends to pander to the modern board gamer, with plenty of German-style board and card games, gateway games and the like. So whilst they have the likes of Operation and Monopoly on offer, they also have five versions of Ticket To Ride, all the versions of Carcassone you can imagine and many, many copies of Settlers of Catan.
It is this last point that was critical to the surging popularity in these kinds of games in recent years. More than any other game, Catan (or Settlers if you prefer) has become the go-to game to introduce friends to a whole new world gaming. Designed by Klaus Teuber 1995, the basic game involves up to four players who each represent a settler on the resource-laden island of Catan. Players place settlements from the start, and these provide the ability to gain resources based on the roll of two dice. These can in turn be used to buy more settlements, cities (which double the resources gained), roads or development cards. The ultimate goal is to get to ten victory points before anyone, with points handed out for a number of different achievements (one for settlements, two for cities, two for the longest road, etc.) I’ve perhaps not explained it very well, but its simplicity led to it being taken up at a hugely rapid rate and it is now the leading light in getting people into these kinds of games.
So it is for this reason that there is now a National Settlers of Catan tournament, with regional heats held in 12 different locations, one of which being Thirsty Meeples. It was a worthy excuse to make the long journey over from the East Midlands to check it out.
The tournament was set up so that you received 5 points for a win and 2 points for a second-place finish. There were 11 players, each playing 3 games in the round robins. After these games, the four players with the most points were pitted against one-another in a single game to determine who the heat winner was.
I won zero games and came runner up in two, though one of them was a joint runner-up position so I only amassed three points in total. I was out, but thankfully my wife was having a much better day. She managed two wins in three games, landing her 10 tournament points and a place in the final. Unfortunately, she didn’t win, but it was closely fought and she left with her head held high.
It was a fantastic day and we also found time to play a number of other games. We ended up buying Love Letter, Splendor and Star Wars: The Card Game, having either played them or had them recommended to us.
We’ll be back next year to see if we can go one step further and reach the national finals