I’ve been waiting for a decade for someone to write this story, and finally Andrew Curry did it for Wired: how Settlers of Catan and its German brethren revived the moribund and sorry (make that Sorry!) state of board games.
Curry nails why American board games are so lame — “either predictable fluff aimed at kids or competitive, hyperintellectual pastimes for eggheads” — and why Settlers is so engaging: players are involved even when it’s not their turn; trading makes the game social, which makes it more fun; the board is always different; there are several possible routes to victory.
He also provides some tidbits that turn this into a plausible trend piece:
Last year, Settlers doubled its sales on this side of the Atlantic, moving 200,000 copies in the US and Canada—almost unheard-of performance for a new strategy game with nothing but word-of-mouth marketing. It has become the first German-style title to make the leap from game-geek specialty stores to major retailers like Barnes & Noble and Toys “R” Us.
But I’d quibble with one thing: Settlers of Catan isn’t actually perfect.