It had been years since i visited the isle of Catan, but i couldn’t leave such an important and well-played game off the site. i received this copy of the 5th edition around my birthday, and wondered what had changed since i’d last tried in vain to trade sheep for wood. In this unboxing video, i line up my early-aughts version of The Settlers of Catan against the slicker, modernized 5th edition to see what’s changed, and what has stayed the same. If you want to see the game in action, watch my How to Play Catan video.

(click to view transcript)

Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is a game called Catan. i’m gonna say a coupla things about it right off the top: first of all, it used to be called “Settlers of Catan.” Now it’s called just “Catan.” It’s kind of like when Wheel of Fortune… you call it “Wheel.” You know, it’s all cool. I pronounce this “CatAN.” Apparently, the correct way to pronounce it is “CatAHN,” but listen: this is a significant game to me, because this is the game that actually got me into the board gaming hobby, way back in (flutters lips) probably 2002? 2003? Something like that. And that was before YouTube, i think! i think YouTube was 2005, it launched? So we didn’t have all these videos and nice, congenial, good-looking, funny people to teach us how to pronounce things. So we had no idea it was called “CatAHN.” So – you know – we called it “CatAN,” with i think what linguists call the “obnoxious A,” which you’ll also find in “naaacho” and “chimichaaaanga.” So i call it “CatAN.” If you’re having trouble with that, d-d-d-DEAL WITH IT!! This, as i said, is the game that got me into gaming, and the way it did that is we had – my wife Cheryl and i met a couple through our church, and they were murmuring at one point when they just had met us, and they said “Do you think Ryan and Cheryl are SMART ENOUGH to play Catan?” And they’re like “Uh, yeah, i think they might be!” and i’m like “Whaaat is this?” i’m like “What’s that?” They said “It’s a board game.” And i said “You have a board game that somebody has to be smart enough to play??” i was super-intrigued. I said “Count me in!” They said “Yeah, we played with our friends, and they we kinda too dumb to get it.” i’m like “Aaaaah! i can be tha… i can be smart enough!” (laughs) So… it appealed to my ego! They sat us down, and they taught us how to play the game. i loved it! i ran out, and i bought my copy. Check this out: this is my well-worn, original game of The Settlers of Catan. You can see it’s got a lot of… love etched into the corners of it. The box is a bit split. It’s probably in the worst condition of any board game in my collection. It’s not even red any more because i used to have it on a bookshelf and the sunlight leeched the colour out of it. Anyway, so i’ve played the heck out of this game, and i bought the 5-6 player expansion, and then i bought Seafarers of Catan, and the 5-6 player expansion for that, and then i bought Cities & Knights, and then i bought Traders & Barbarians, but there’s a point at which you have to stop buying Catan, because if you were to buy every single Catan game, first of all, you’d be having no fun, i don’t think, and in order to afford every game in the series, it’s probably like a cost higher than the gdp of many small countries. There’s a lot of Catan out there. Why is this such a ubiquitous game? If you’ve never heard of it, i can tell you a little bit about it. i am going to be doing a How to Play of this game, so watch out for that. If you’ve never played Catan, or if you’ve heard people say – you know what? People on – if you look in a Board Game Geek or in different forums about board games – people will dump on this game, because they say “Aw, there’s too much LUCK in it.” And those people are… crazy. And snobby. And don’t listen to them, because this is a fantastic game. i don’t play it any more, just because i’ve played it to death. i’m kind of tired of it. i’m excited to try new things. What i really wanted to do was unbox it, and compare the components in the new version to the components in my old 2002-2003 era version, and see what the differences are! And then, of course, do a How to Play video on it, so that i can get more views from moms and dogs! So here we go! Unlike, like Carcassonne, Catan isn’t actually based on a real place. You know, it’s got artwork that will remind you of pilgrims and pioneers, but it’s a fictional island, like the Isle of Sodor where Thomas the Tank Engine and friends live. So it’s a lot – you know – the back is already more slick than my version. i don’t even think that QR codes were a thing back in 2003, when i got my copy. Here we are. It’s very nice. It’s very, sort of, a definitive approach on the front of the box. It almost looks like the reverse version of the Japanese rising sun flag. It’s very – almost propagandic, you know what i mean? It’s like “This is CATAN. Listen up! It’s a big deal!” Box Fart-O-Meter: zero. Right off the top, we have a brochure for every flippin’ version of Catan you can get – oh, no. There’s lots missing. This – this isn’t even the beginning of it! We also have – i think there’s a Star Trek Catan, and then there’s like, like a Settlers of Canaan Biblical version of it – wait, maybe those are on the back? Rivals of Catan, Dice Game, Catan Jr.. Catan socks! Oh my gosh. So, yeah. It’s popular! It’s popular. If it wasn’t popular, you couldn’t make socks of it! So the popular saying goes. The Game Rules & Almanac: if you’re – you know, if you’re not into the board game hobby and people are like “Oh, you gotta try this game, Catan,” i can imagine you open this thing up, and you’re used to things like Uno or Sorry! where it’s got, you know, maybe the rules are printed on the inside of the box? It’s only a page of stuff to read, and you ignore half of them and you only read the couple of paragraphs and you’re off playing? So i can see this being pretty intimidating to someone, because it’s like “Oh, my God! There’s more than 30 words on this page!” i get it. i totally get it. And that’s why i’m gonna do a How to Play, because it’s a game – it’s a game worth playing, i think. Rulebook clocks in at 16 pages, full-colour, there’s pictures. But again, i can see it being a little bit off-putting, if this isn’t quite your thing. Especially if you’ve got kids, and you wanna teach kids, and you just open the box, you’re like “Oh my God! What have i done?” and they’re all like “Nnneh! Can we play now??” and you’re like “Urrrr… give me half an hour!” You’ve got punch cards. These are the tokens that go in the middle of your island to tell you what the dice rolls do, and these are the harbours where you can achieve better trades than your 4:1 or trading with other players. And all the tiles are to be punched out. Now, i wanted to compare the artwork on the new version tiles and the artwork on my old version tiles. Just a sec – i’m gonna go get ’em. Here we are, so just right off the top, there’s obvious differences in style. There’s an interesting, sort of like dark black outlined… almost old-school fairy tale book approach (?) to the older tiles, and the new ones are a lot cleaner, they don’t have outlines – they’ve got little tiny shepherds on them. This is the pasture where sheep come from. And there are actually sheep on here. Here, it just looks like there are… rocks, and a river. So it’s a bit more thematic. And they’re different, too. i think all of the original sheep tiles – pasture tiles – are the same in the original game, but in this version, you’ve got sheep in different flock configurations on different parts of the tile. There’s a little pond here. So it looks like the tiles may be unique here. And in the mountains, where… what comes from mountains? Iron? Dwarves? i can’t remember. But you’ve got a little mine depicted here, and some dudes hangin’ out. They’re all different. They’re all unique. That’s cool. Brick – they actually have little scaffolds where they’re mining clay to make brick on the brick tiles. Nice! Looks nice. The desert looks like it fits a little bit better? i dunno. The desert was always kinda weird, because you’ve got the island of Catan, and it’s all lush, and then on this one patch, you’ve got just this stark Arabian desert. Maybe it looks a bit like it fits in a bit better, this one. The colours match nicer. So the colours are more muted for sure. You can see the difference in saturation between the old desert and the new desert here. And then i also wanted to point out – i brought out one of the water tiles that goes on the edge, where you trade with a better ratio, and it was always implied that you were trading with people from other lands or other islands, but here, they spell it out by putting them on a boat. So here’s the difference, the 2:1 difference. You’ve got these 2:1 tiles, and they’re movable, too, right? Here, you’re stuck on the tile. We’ll see why in a second, i think, when we get to the ocean border. But yeah, they put them on a boat. (laughs) These guys are sailing a ship with a gigantic sheep on the sail. Kinda weird. Most go for a jolly roger. They’re like “Baaa!” And what else do we have? Tiles, tiles, tiles. And then blank tiles in case you lose some, you can write your own number in, invent your own game. Oh! The wheat tiles are quite nice. Yeah! Again, they’re all unique. It’s lovely. They look good. Nice artwork! Beautiful artwork. What else do we have? Ah! These are the player guides. These were just thin cards in the original game, and in this one, they are thick on cardboard. Same with the Longest Road tile and the Largest Army tire – TILE. There’s new artwork on both of them, and they’re on thick card instead of… thin? Wait a second. Let me compare. i was wrong! They ARE on tiles in the original game. i dunno why i remembered them thinner. But! You can see that there’s a distinct improvement in the artwork from the old version to the new version. The new version, all the player guides are colour-coded. That’s pretty nice. And they’re just, i mean, this is like a brutalist design on these cards. It looks a lot nicer than the newer version. The buildings and structures here are depicted in 3D. Here, they’re 2D and a little bit, kind of like, Excel spreadsheet-looking? So this looks a lot – it just looks a lot nicer, the new artwork. So it’s a definite – it’s a definite improvement. On the next board- ah, yes! So here’s one of the major adjustments/improvements to the game, is – oh, interesting, interesting. i’m gonna make a coupla guesses here, i might not be right, but: in the original game, in order to set up the border of the island, it was a bit of a pain in the butt. Here, i’ll show you. Because you had a ton of individual water tiles, and you had to make the border of it, and you had to remember, in order to make the border, that there were, like, 6 tiles down the middle, and then 5 and then 3 and then 2, i think is how it went? If memory serves? And you had to kinda make the shape, and then deal within? Anyway, it was more challenging than it needed to be, so now they’ve made this nice jigsaw-style border. But what i didn’t like about this border is that the 2:1 and 3:1 trading harbours are baked into the border. And one of the nicest things about Catan is that it has this modular setup. So i didn’t like that, but it looks like because we have that other card, again i’m just guessing… but it looks like because we have this other card, and we can punch these ships out, they’re the same ships as on here, it looks like we can cover these up with those ships and make it a modular harbour layout, and that these are baked into the puzzle border for, like, your first couple plays while you’re still learning the ropes. That’s my guess. Now if that’s accurate, then that’s cool! That’s a great improvement to make it easier for new players. Smart! Smart idea. This is a sticker! Huh! That’s interesting. A decal? i dunno if that’s for your… your locker, if you wanna get crap beat out of you for being a nerd? Um…. baggies. Couple of dice. Oh – interesting. The dice are two different colours. Why would that be? i’m trying to think of a gameplay reason for that. You know, i’m gonna cheat, and i’m gonna look in the rules (fast forward sound effect) i dunno! i dunno why the dice are two different colours. Maybe that plays into an expansion thing? But i can’t remember it being necessary in the original game. Comment below and set me straight! i know you will. Here is a deck. One out of two decks of cards. There’s probably about… fifty thousand cards in each of these decks. i’ll crack one open right now. The backs look the same. i’ll compare with the old version. In the old version, you actually get a box for your deck of cards. i dunno if it’s necessary, and it gets all beat up. But here is the back of an old card, and the back of a new card, so same artwork on those. But i’m betting – ah, yes. Well, look at the difference in two brick cards. i mean, quite a bit nicer, i think, in the new one. It looks nice. That border is really beautiful. Yeah. Very nice. We should find – yeah, they’ve done new artwork for the Library, and Great Hall, Chapel, University, (chuckles) the Monopoly card which, if you’ve played the game, you know is… SO sweet. The knights all look nice. And there’s some unique knights on there, too. It’s not all the same artwork on all of the knight cards. Yeah! Very nice. The wood looks to be about the same. You’ve got a bunch of roads in here. And a bunch of cities and settlements in here, and then one (chuckles) One big social justice change they made to the game, which i think is pretty key, and it was probably a good idea: the robber is now grey, and in the original versions of the game, the robber was black (laughs) Which, i mean, come on! So they changed the robber colour to grey, probably for the best. Good idea, everybody. (laughs) And there it is! That’s everything that you get in the box of the new version of Catan, or CatAHN, if you’re a… absolute insufferable nerd. It’s… it’s an excellent game. i’ll do a How to Play if you’ve never played before, and if you HAVE played before, i’ll do a great video that you can show to your mom or your dog to play with them later on, and hopefully, get them hooked into the fun, but absolute money- and life-sucking hobby that is designer board games. Thanks for watching! Did you just watch that whole thing? Oh – hey! To 100% this video, click the badge to subscribe, then click the bell to get notifications when i’ve got new stuff!

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