Catan / Catan HD

Catan HD for iPad and Catan for iPhone are iOS implementations of the Settlers of Catan board game. Launched originally as the German Siedler von Catan over a decade ago, the game has since been translated into English and various other languages and achieved much deserved international success.

For those not familiar with the game, it is effectively a simplified, board game version of Civilization. You build up a network of settlements and cities on the land intersections of a small island, collect resources from the land neighbouring your settlements and cities and with those resources extend your network, attempting to be the first player to reach a number of "victory points", which in effect represent the extent of development of your empire. Much of the game dynamics are oriented around trading resources with other players and competing for valuable spaces on the board such as ports or intersections between furtile land bearing rare commodities.

These iPhone and iPad versions are very faithful, absorbing and graphically attractive representations of the original board game. Since the original board game was launched, a number of extension packs have also been released. The iOS versions include a variation of the Seafarers expansion, in which the game board consists of multiple islands. As with the original, unextended board version of the game, the iOS version supports up to four players, in any combination of human and computer players.

Update: Since this review was written, the Knights & Barbarians extension has also been released for this iPhone/iPad version.

In general, gameplay is slick. It is worth noting that on the iPad, the game is a little more so as you might expect due to the bigger screen, though on the iPhone it is still very playable. The multiplayer dynamics of the original board game translate more or less well into the iOS version, with a few niggles that might be expected. Clearly not all of the flexibility of oral trades made between human players can be expressed in the simple interface presented in the computer version. In particular, "or" combinations such as "sheep or wool" are not supported, meaning that these must be broken down into two separate offers to trade. Perhaps for this reason, computer players tend to exaggerate the number of trades they propose, which can be a little irritating at times. Luckily a button is provided to automatically decline all trades until the player's next turn, which can home in handy when computer players start to be a little over-aggressive in the number of offers they make. When playing between human players, a few quirks in the handover process also mean that it is possible to see one another's resources when this would not ordinarily happen in the board version. Overall, though, these are minor quirks which do not detract from the enjoyability of the game.

The app contains a number of "scenarios" (board layouts with accompanying variations on the rules). Slightly annoyingly, not all of these are available at the outset but become unlocked once you have reached that scenario in "tournament" mode (against computer players). This is slightly annoying if you simply want to play the full range of scenarios with other human players, since you will have to wait until you have played the computer a good number of times before all of the scenarios are available. However, various scenarios are still unlocked from the outset: so you can see the new ones as a "plus" as you unlock them.

All in all, Catan (iPhone) and Catan HD are both faithful and enjoyable versions of the original Catan board game. In particular, I would recommend the latter version if you have an iPad: on the bigger screen, the game is particularly playable.

Catan for iPad
Board game
Attention span: 
In-app purchases: