Settlers of Catan is the juggernaut of Eurogaming. I’m pretty sure it has infinity+1 different expansions, versions, and alterations. But one of those versions doesn’t have wooden dice, cardboard cutouts, or playing cards, in fact it is completely digital and found only on Xbox Live.
Catan was the first board game to appear on Microsoft’s digital download service for the Xbox 360 Arcade. And thanks to a promotion a couple years back I was able to download it for free. Now, it will run you 800 MS points which is approximately $10.
The game boasts the most sophisticated artificial intelligence of any Catan game to date and last night I fired it up to give the game another test. I played a 4 player game against three AI opponents–Alexander, Elizabeth, and Fredrick–on medium difficulty. I used the quick set-up option where the game places your first settlements in the optimal places automatically. From there it was time to press “A” to roll dice.
The early stages of the game included a lot of trading. The AI opponents, all named after historical figures, where happy to trade to get into a position to build whatever they needed. I used my early resources to connect my two villages with a road, gaining the “Longest Road” victory points, and upgrade them to cities thanks to all the stone I was collecting.
However, this launched me into an early lead and the once friendly AI turned on me like a pack of rabid raccoons. Every time a seven was rolled, the robber was placed on my territory and another card taken from my hand. But, I still wasn’t out. Thanks to buying development cards, I was able to play soldiers and move the robber off my land. This in-turn gained me the “Largest Army” VP and put me further out ahead.
But, as if robber trouble wasn’t bad enough, the new VP made me a bigger target. I now felt like a third world dictator facing an embargo, no one would trade with me. I tried offering 3 or 4 cards for just a single wheat, but was faced with a stern rejection on all fronts. I had to resort to port trading to get whatever I wanted.
Soon Alexander leaped forward with the “Longest Road” stealing VP from me. But I had an ace up my sleeve. Thanks to an abundance of brick and a brick port, I could buy and development card and turn my last village into a city, provided no one rolled a seven.
Luck was on my side. I dodged the robber and got a development card worth a VP. This bumped me up to ten, winning the game. The computer opponents were fairly good, but they came across as homogeneous. I felt more like I was trying to beat the game rather than beat three separate opponents. However, it was an enjoyable game and an easy way to get a fix of Catan.