There are three essential “gateway” games that every board gamer should have: Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and The Settlers of Catan. While these games have been able to slowly make their way into the mainstream, they haven’t gone the way of Monopoly where they have been branded to death. Mayfair Games has taken a huge risk with the Settlers of Catan and have made a rebranded version set in a popular science fiction universe. Prepare to settle the universe in Star Trek Catan.
If you have played The Settlers of Catan, then the gameplay of Star Trek Catan won’t surprise you. A set of nineteen hexes are arranged in a random pattern. All of the hexes except one, a barren planet, represent a resource that the planet is rich in. These resources are Dilithium, Tritanium, food, oxygen, and water. A number is placed on each planet, representing the number rolled that activates when the planet produces its resource.
Each player starts with two Outposts and two Starships. Each player in turn puts down an Outpost at the intersection of three planets, and points a Starship away from the Outpost. Once everyone has completed this once, the last person places their second Starship and Outpost and the rest of the players do the same in reverse order of the first time. Then everyone gets the resources attached to the second Outpost placed.
During each turn the player rolls the dice. The roll is counted and any planets with that number produce a resource to each Outpost and two for each Starbase. When a seven is rolled, all players with more than seven resource cards must then discard half of them. Then the Klingon Ship is activated, and the player who rolled the dice moves it onto a planet of their choosing. That player then picks a resource card from another player who has an Outpost or Starbase attached to that planet. This planet is prevented from producing resources until the Klingon Ship has moved to another planet.
Then the player may trade with anyone else on the table for resources. Any kind of deal can be made, but the trading can only be done with the player whose turn it is. They may use these resources to build Outposts, Starships, upgrade an existing Outpost to a Starbase, or purchase a Development Card. The player also has the option of trading four of a single resource to the bank for any single resource. Once the player is done trading resources and purchasing items the dice are passed to the next player and play continues.
To win the game you need to have 10 points. Outposts are worth one point, and Starbases are worth two. Development Cards can be worth points as well, depending on which one you get. Also, the Longest Supply Run card, which is given to the player with the longest continuous path of Starships, and the Largest Starfleet, given to the player who has the most “Starfleet Intervenes” Development Cards, are worth two points each. You are only given a specific number of Outposts and Starbases, and you won’t be able to win by only building Outposts and Starbases. You need to gain points another way.
If you have played The Settlers of Catan, this should sound familiar. The names of the resources are different, Outposts replace Settlements, Starships replace roads, and the Klingon Ship replaces the Robber. Yes, the theme is pasted onto the game, but it actually enhances the game instead of detracting from it. You feel like you are exploring the galaxy gathering resources instead of being on an island where certain areas are only capable of producing specific items.
One new addition comes with Star Trek Catan. Each player is given one of ten Support Cards at the beginning of each game. These represent a character from the original series. These give each player a unique special ability. For example, Captain Kirk has “Protection from the 7” ability which means that player is immune from the Klingon Ship when a seven is rolled. Each of these cards can be used twice, but after the second time the card is sent back to the row of other Support Cards and a new one is chosen.
The components of Star Trek Catan look accurate. The Starships look like mini versions of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and the Outposts and Starbases look like they came from the original movies. All of these need to be put on stands, and there is a slight difference between the Outpost stands and the ones for the Starships. Still, the end game looks spectacular with all the different pieces taking their place on the board. The hexes themselves are made up of a sturdy cardstock. I did notice that some of the numerals were off ever so slightly from the center, but this isn’t something that will affect gameplay. Putting the game back into the box is a bit more of a challenge. They provide some plastic bags, but the bags are so small that you most likely need to take all the pieces off their stands or provide your own plastic bags.
This version only handles the three to four player version with no expansions. While it would have been nice to be able to play with five to six players, I think that sticking with three to four is the right decision since the five to six player version can drag down with the amount of trading that goes on. It would also be nice to see some of the current Settlers of Catan expansions rebranded for the Star Trek universe, but I doubt that this will happen unless the sales of the game go through the roof.
I will say that the theme of Star Trek Catan makes the game more enjoyable for me, and if you have some friends that enjoy sci-fi, this might be a way to get them to find out what the big deal over The Settlers of Catan is. The Support Cards give the game a new wrinkle, but it’s not enough to justify buying the game if you already have the original. Still, the game pieces are much nicer looking than the wood blocks that come with the original, even if they don’t fit that well back into the box. If you and your friends enjoy Star Trek and the Settlers of Catan, then I would definitely recommend adding it to your collection.