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.
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.
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.
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.