Catan: The Milk Chocolate edition
So I’ve been told that every now and then it would be beneficial for me to write something in the more geeky genre. Well, thankfully the good people who make our beloved Catan have provided me with something sufficiently off the beaten path. It has attracted my attention for being food as well as a board game. That’s right, we are looking at the holiday release of Catan: The Milk Chocolate edition.
I have always had somewhat mixed feelings on re-skinning games to fit a certain theme. When they are done well they are amazing and can often bring a game into a new light by introducing a fun (hopefully) variant of the game. A notable example of this being done well in my opinion is Love Letter. Granted when you re-skin a game about a dozen different ways you are bound to get it right eventually (still waiting on the sci-fi versi on, and to answer your question, yes I have played Coup.)
Who ever is currently holding the rights to the Catan franchise has struck brown gold here. They licensed the IP to a company called Games for motion, and I have to say, job well done. Games for motion has chocolatized (I don’t care that’s not a word, I’m making it one) a number of games over the years, most notably Monopoly, Scrabble, Uno and Twister (that one sounds a bit more kinky than the rest, because, you know. . . . . Twister). Their latest installment of the chocolatized series would be our beloved Catan. I have to say, as an avid gamer of both board and video fame, this is a pretty solid addition.
Trydus and myself often meet to discuss top secret plans for how to hijack the Illuminati and get the Freemasons to finally admit that they are part of the ‘deep state’. But this time, as we wandered into one of the many local game stores around us we were struck by the familiar site of a Catan box, complete with milk chocolate. I picked up the box and gave it the once over. It looked alright, and after finding out the whole game was less than $15, I was in. Worst case scenario, I was going to force Trydus to play a game with me while we suffered through it and ate the game pieces until there was nothing left to play with. The other very real possibility was that we would play the game and realize that we actually liked it, and that we would not want to eat the game (fat chance).
After some minor arm twisting Trydus was on-board and we took off on that proverbial Hershey Highway (except this chocolate is way better than the aforementioned chocolate). We cracked open the box and started to separate the chits into their respective stacks. All the while the delicious chocolate was staring back at us, mocking us and demanding that we tear into it. We held our own against the silky temptress that is the emulsion of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, milk and sugar like champs while we learned the rules to the game.
The game itself is a severely truncated version of Catan, so if you have played it recently, or are like board game pioneers and did nothing but play Catan back in the early 2000’s then you will be able to jump right into this one. The game realizes that its taunting you with the chocolate, and wants you to get to the fun part as quickly as possible. As such you only play to 5 victory points, and we are using standard Catan scoring rules on this one, so you start with 2 already.
They have completely done away with the dice, which is a solid move for this edition, they have replaced them with a spinner. I have to admit that I was quite skeptical at first. A number of questions were flying through my head, among them: how would the pacing of the game be affected? how would the robber work? are we destined to go 8 turns where everyone collects nothing? I was pleasantly surprised to see the pacing of the game was not impacted that much with the addition of the spinner, the robber still popped up with about the same frequency, so that was nice. Where the spinner really shined was just how well it felt like every turn someone was able to build something, or do something.
The board is gone as well, and they have simplified the rules for that as well. Everyone starts with two settlements and a road connecting the two. The color of the settlements correspond to a color on the spinner, which is further associated with a specific resource (for example, if you want to collect sheep you would need either a green, brown or purple settlement). If you want to build another settlement then all you need to do is to construct a road (and take one of the chocolate road game pieces) and place it next to one of your existing settlements. You only need one road in between settlements, which I found to be a welcomed change for play purposes.
We were able to get though a game in about 30 minutes, and we had even extended the game, first one to reach 7 points was the winner. The game felt like a true Catan game, the randomization method was a very effective choice for the game. It kept the flow of the game moving and there were very few turns in which neither of us collected anything. It was fun, easy to jump into and it was a fairly quick game.
If you have a gamer in your life, or are a gamer yourself, I highly recommend this as either a stocking stuffer, or a main gift. Its priced competitively and will make a great temporary addition to any game night, partly because its a fun little take on a classic, but also because the chocolate is pretty goddamn good.