The ‘’’History of Catan’’’ is as legendary as the sinking of Atlantis. So much so that Catan suffered the same fate. Much is known about Catan through records kept by Catanians who now live throughout the galaxy. The Catanian people are not so old, but they are a vast and industrious people who began their journeys to the mythical land during the Age of European Exploration.
The Discovery of Catan
European traders and seafarers spoke long ago of a mythical archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean where fields of wheat grew beneath the auspices of great mountains. Forests, too, grew near the clay-rich hills. There were no native Catanians, at least not yet; there were only herds of wild sheep that grazed the windy grasslands near the shore.
It was in the year of our Lord, 1503, that the great explorers of Germany set their own course across the Atlantic Ocean toward the New World. Yet in that year, a great storm ravaged the seas, and many of the ships were lost. Only a few ships survived the carnage, left lost and alone in the middle of a desolate sea. Long they wondered, fearing they would lose everything, until land was discovered by one of the ships and hope returned to the disenchanted sailors.
They set foot on the island and explored much of it. Most of the island was heavily forested with thick jungles and steep crags. A small group of sailors founded a settlement on the island and from there began to make trade agreements with the local island chieftains. Other ships returned to Germany with news of hope for the newfound land. Word soon spread that a new island, rich in resources, had been found and sailors, ever eager for profit, sailed for the glorified land.
Meanwhile, the settlement established on the island continued to trade and grow for many years, but pirates soon discovered the island and raided the small village. Although the settlers fought back, they were unable to stop the menace of the pirates and eventually the entire village was burned down and the sailors returned home.
Candamir and the First Settlements
Yet more explorers came and the effort to colonize the archipelago resumed. Sailors established forts and military settlements throughout the region, although they largely left the big island alone. Scouts were sent into the interior of the island once more, and this time they found the legendary fields of wheat and herds of wild sheep as the legends told. Knowing they had found what they were seeking, they named the island Catan.
A group of enterprising settlers finally decided to settle Catan, hoping the recent finds would help them succeed where the former settlers did not. They set up a small village on the eastern coast and began to harvest grain and herd sheep. Candamir, Osmund, and Jared were elected the group’s leaders and they helped establish a more permanent settlement to fend of wild animals and vicious pirates. The island was still wild so many of the villagers went out to hunt for pelts. Through this process, they depleted Catan of most of its predators, especially bears and wolves. The only predator that remained was the one of human kind.
Pirate raids increased as the settlement expanded. Eventually, other settlements were established too, first as partners, but then as rivals. Thieves and robbers took to the roads and stole precious resources from the settlers. Yet the settlers endured the raids and continued to expand. The settlers learned how to mine for ore and began to build militaries to fight off the robbers. Then suddenly, something happened that would change the course of Catan forever.
The Gold Rush and Elasund DRED
Gold! The shout was heard across Germany. Gold had been discovered on Catan along the banks of the Great River. Much of it had settled at the end of the river, along the last stretch of jungle remaining on the island. Unexpectedly, the island’s population skyrocketed and the meager settlements became thriving cities.
Elasund was the first city established. It struggled with the explosion of growth and limited resources, thus forcing it to trade with local settlements for resources. Over time, it developed its own rich culture. It began producing its own coins and at the same time, the city hall began documenting the history of the island. The fabrics produced by the city became world renowned. Also discovered was the wealth of fish that could be harvested from the sea. Christianity too entered the island at this time, prompting a build-up of church buildings and monasteries.
The Caravans and the Colonization of the Archipelago
Annual caravans began to venture into the cities from the oases in the deserts. They brought with them much wealth and trading privileges along their trade routes. It became a contest each year to see who could gain the most from them, even though the caravan leaders only sought enough resources to survive another winter. The presence of traders in the desert also acted as a hideout for robbers seeking unjustly earned treasure. They often would travel with the honest traders and steal away with treasure before the sun rose the next morning.
It was undeniable: the island was growing beyond its bounds. The Catanians, as they were now called, sought to expand. They sent out ships across the waters to the other islands of the archipelago. The largest of these islands they named Transcatan (The Other Catan) but many more were explored and settled. Great fields of gold were even discovered on some of the more remote islands, but most explorers only came away with a new fresh land to settle with their families.
The Barbarians Raids
As often happens, new wealth and power brings unwelcomed friends. Barbarians from a nearby island rebelled against the Catanians in regular intervals for many years. The robbers of old became their scouts and the pirates became their raiders. Rogues who found refuge in the interior desert began to attack nearby cities and caravans. Catan needed to defend itself if it sought to survive. The small militaries of the colonial days were built up into full armies of knights. Walls surrounded the cities and castles were built, making the cities impregnable fortresses to those who paid the cost of protection.
The added security of the cities brought another, less welcome, aspect into everyday life. To control the knights, dukes were appointed as regional overlords. They built the Catan Council in the north to monitor the activities on the island. A king was elected by the people to control the dukes, but over generations, the monarchy became the most corrupt bureaucracy of them all . . . until he disappeared and never returned again.
The Technological Revolution
Catan became a modernized city. Petty feuds between the people ceased and they became united. The feudal lords eventually lost their power and the Catan Council became a democratically elected legislative body. Communications between the mainland and the islands of the archipelago improved greatly with the addition of Optinex technology. Suddenly the islands didn’t seem so distant from their German origins.
Inventors and scientists began to create space-faring ships, able to travel the stars. Unlike much of the world, they did it strictly for commercial reasons, although exploration would be a natural result. The Catanians discovered that there was a Galactic Council responsible for all the galaxy’s races, and the Catanians wanted to represent humankind. They set out to colonize much of the known galaxy, combatting other alien races and hostile space pirates along the way. Yet it was through very careful diplomacy, extensive and in-depth trade networks, and the support of the humans of Earth that a Catanian achieved the title of Ambassador of the Galactic Council for Earth.
The Great Flood and the Sinking of Catan
It was at the height of their triumph that tragedy at last betook the small island of Catan. Although Catanians had colonized much of the galaxy, the small island that sparked a technological revolution began to fade away. Global warming heated up the island leading to terrible droughts on a nearly annual basis. The warming trend mixed with an increase in pollution in the surrounding waters led to further troubles. Sadly, the island was sinking. The bountiful fields of grass that surrounded much of the island had receded in recent years and now they were doing so with much more intensity. The desert became a marsh, the forests swamps, and the mountains islands. The archipelago disappeared forever and few native Catanians now live to retell the tale. Yet the triumph of Catan remains. Catanians live on virtually every human-inhabited planet and have spread their technology across the known galaxy. While the island may have disappeared beneath the seas, the legend of the island lives on!
By now it seems that everyone knows about The Settlers of Catan® game. It has become one of the most popular board games to come along in years, attracting an audience of millions around the world and expanding into a series of related games and expansions. But The Settlers of Catan™ has a secret past that most of the fans would never even guess. And from that secret past come Catan’s two brothers: Entdecker™ and Domaine™.
When master game designer Klaus Teuber first sat down to create what would someday become The Settlers of Catan™, he envisioned something much larger. From his early childhood, he was always fascinated by stories of discovery and adventure. When he began his career as a game designer, he hoped to capture the essence of these stories and he sought to create games that allow the players to experience the thrill of exploration, discovery, and development for themselves.
It was not until the early nineties that he was able to begin working on his first prototypes. Part of his style of game design is to take ideas that develop while he creates the game materials. In a way, this mirrors the same themes of discovery and development that he hoped to express in his designs. Many of the elements of this first design would be familiar to fans of Catan: landscape tiles featuring seas, mountains, and forests, settlements which generated resources from the neighboring countryside, even trade and negotiations with the other players.
But there was much more to this game. For starters, only a small part of the “world” would be available at the beginning. Players would have to send out “scouts” to explore the rest of the land, drawing tiles as they went. These same scouts would be used to establish new settlements in this growing land. Eventually conflict crept in as players would compete with their bands of scouts for the most valuable regions. It quickly became apparent that the game was too much for one box.
So Klaus went back to the drawing board. He re-envisioned his concept. Instead of trying to draw all of his interests together in one game, he realized that he should create a trio of games. Each game would be able to focus on one aspect of his original grand design. This focus would make each game that much more interesting, that much more exciting. That much better. The first of this triad of games was, of course, The Settlers of Catan™, known in German as Die Siedler von Catan®. This was the game that was focused on development and trade.
The second game would be known as Entdecker™ in both German and English. Entdecker™ translates roughly as “Discoverer,” and that is the role that players must undertake in this game. Entdecker™ begins with an almost empty field. Only a few clues about what you will find are given. Each player is supplied with a small amount of coins that they must invest in order to send their exploration ship into the unknown. The exploration is done through the use of tiles. Each tile shows the waterway that the ship can explore, and may also show a small amount of land, ripe for further exploration. The goal, of course, is to explore the islands, earning points as you go. But it is not limited to that! For the second theme taken from the original grand design for Entdecker™ was the creation of new outposts. In addition to funding your exploration, you must use your limited resources to establish new settlements and forts on the islands you discover. The points don’t go to the explorer, they go to the player who ends up in control of the island! And to further stretch your strategy, you must hire intrepid scouts to brave the jungles and negotiate with the natives that live there.
The third game would focus on the inevitable conflicts between established princes for the limited resources. This game would be known as Domaine™ among the American audience, and the Germans call it Loenherz™, although the game slightly differs in Germany. In Domaine™, the entire realm is explored. The settlements are built. The forests tamed. But your rivals certainly are not! First, you must stake your claim to regions of the board (which are called domaines). Then you must hire knights to defend your holdings, and to expand them into the domaines of your opponents! Politics and intrigue are the order of the day in this third portion of Klaus’ original grand design.
In a way, the three “brother games” tell a story. First, there is the Discoverer, boldly setting off into the unknown to explore and seek out new lands. Behind him comes the Settler, who establishes new outposts, and develops bold and productive societies. Lastly, there comes the Lion-hearted conqueror, claiming the various lands and forging them into a single mighty kingdom, under his own control.
It is the genius of the designer that can take one bold vision, and create from it three fabulous games, each unique in its own right. Each game presents the player with unique challenges and opportunities. Each has a very different flavor to be enjoyed. But together they present the creation and growth of a world very much like our own.