Catan: Dawn of Humankind Review – Exploring For Victory

The name Catan can be a divisive one in the board gaming world. It arguably was the launching pad to propel hobby board gaming forward. Since its initial printing in 1995, it has seen multiple expansions and spinoffs. However, there are plenty of those in the hobby nowadays that have grown tired of Catan and want nothing to do with the franchise. Catan: Dawn of Humankind set out to breathe new life in the venerable name with almost a soft reboot of the familiar mechanics. Did it succeed?


Gone is the fictional island of Catan. Instead, the large game board depicts an artistic rendering of an early map of Earth. All players start off with campsites in Africa and send out explorers to build new campsites throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. What’s especially nice is that the game board is two-sided with one side for three players and the other for four players.


Just like the base game of Catan, Dawn of Humankind is only for three or four players, you roll two dice to gather resources at the beginning of every turn, and the first player to accumulate ten or more victory points wins. 


Instead of five resources to gather, there are only four: meat, animal hide, bone, and flint. These can be used to move explorers, create campsites, and move up the four tracks (hunting, food, clothing, and construction.) These tracks increase how far you can move your explorers, manipulate the tribal threats (replacements for the robber,) and unlock areas for you to explore on the map. Plus, there are four victory points up for grab, one for each track earned by the first player to max out that tracker.


Also, campsites can only be placed on designated spots on the board. Each of these intersections have a marker placed in that spot at the start of the game that matches that area’s color. When you place a campsite, you take that marker. The first player to place a campsite in all four of the explorable areas gets a bonus token worth two victory points. 


What makes placing a campsite even more interesting is that rather than simply paying the cost and placing the campsite, you “convert” your explorer into a campsite. That means your explorer is removed from the map and replaced with a campsite. You then have to pay the resource cost required to send out another explorer. 


Dawn of Humankind is still a resource-gathering game, but it emphasizes exploring the map. There are bonuses spread across the map that you access through upgrading your clothing and construction tracks. Those bonus areas can give you victory points and allow you to manipulate the tribal threats. There are even tiles that will remove resource numbers from Africa, potentially taking away valuable resources from either you or your opponents.


The choice to go with explorers rather than building roads prevents players being blocked from progressing in certain areas. This allows for more fluid movement across the board. However, you do need to upgrade your clothing and construction trackers in order to reach certain bonus spots on the board as well as getting to Australia and the Americas. 


Catan: Dawn of Humankind gives you plenty to do and plenty of ways to earn victory points without ever feeling overwhelming. The decision to cut down from five resources to four as well as giving you the option to use one of two resources to move your explorer across the board helps simplify. You can still find yourself struggling to get certain resources at points, but that’s why you can either trade with your fellow players or simply trade with the supply at a 3-to-1 ratio at any time. You don’t have to get to a certain area of the board, you can simply trade at any time. 


In terms of the production, the map is quite nice. The top of the board is snow-covered to represent the Arctic Circle while the oceans have some creatures swimming around. Each resource hex looks good and matches the corresponding resource card well. The plastic miniatures are incredibly detailed, and the tribal threats are especially quality. You can even choose to paint them for further realism.


Is Catan: Dawn of Humankind the next great game in the world? No. However, it is a refreshing take on Catan that is enjoyable and easy to understand. The emphasis on exploration coupled with the large map works well to help breathe that new life into a classic resource-gathering game.



Catan: Dawn of Humankind

Review Guidelines

Catan: Dawn of Humankind takes the tried-and-true resource gathering mechanics of the original Catan and places a new emphasis on exploring the much larger world map. The reduction of resources from five to four, allowing campsites to be placed only on certain locations, and being able to trade in resources regardless of your location helps streamline the game. If you've grown tired of the original Catan, then Dawn of Mankind might just be the revitalization you need.

Jeremy is a freelance writer covering multiple subjects from board games to sports to barbecue. He lives outside of Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and their three kids. They love to play boards game together, ranging from Qwixx and Azul and Splendor to Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth.

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