App Review: Settlers of Catan for iPhone

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(Settlers of Catan Forum Review by cjvitek. For more Forum Reviews, see the TiPb iPhone App Store Forum Review Index!)

Settlers of Catan [$4.99 - iTunes link] for the iPhone. The long awaited game has made it's debut...so how does it stack up?

Well, first off, for Settlers fans (like myself) who have been eagerly awaiting the game, it's great to finally see it. This style of game lends itself to the iPhone IMO, and I am very happy to see on the quintessential "nerd" games on the iPhone. But having said that, this game is not a home run. It's better than nothing, but there are some areas where I find that game lacking.

For a quick review (for anyone who doesn't know what Settlers of Catan is, is a strategy board game where you goal is to amass a certain amount of points by building cities, roads, trading with colleagues, and using the games resources to your advantage. The game combines both skill and luck, and can be quite engrossing. I have played the online version (Java Settlers of Catan Ladder) many times, so I am sort of using that as my basis for comparison.

The games graphics are very nice. The board has a nice visual appeal, all the features of the game (the cards, resources, even the robber!) are rendered very nicely. However, it almost seems to much emphasis is placed on the visual elements, and the game play itself (both in terms of the iPhone speed, as well as the ease of accessing controls) seems very slow to me. You can control settings to turn animation off (for example) but it doesn't seem to impact the overall game speed.

When it is your turn, the game uses a hexagonal grid system for your player controls - but this means that you have to navigate a couple of menus to get to some more common controls and features (like building a road). These controls are not customizable, so you can't put frequently used features in the front. I would like to see some sort of shortcut system or method of speeding up access to some controls.

The game AI is interesting. I am still figuring out if the AI strategies that are employed are good - but I guess that means that they aren't horrendously bad! Each computer player has different strategies, so playing against different opponents will result in different kinds of games.

One of the key features of the game is trading. I am not sure what causes an opponent to accept or reject a trade, but I haven't gotten any of my suggested trades accepted....ever. Maybe I am always asking for too much, but it seems as if when I am offering a lot, someone would accept a trade I am suggesting!

There is an indirect multiplayer mode - multiple people using the same iPhone. This is okay, if you have some friends sitting around and have the inclination to pass the iPhone around. There are no options for playing over bluetooth, wifi, or the internet - hopefully at least the latter will be added in some future update.

You do have the option of modifying some game settings, such as victory points needed to win. A variety of other options (which I have never heard of) can be set - things like friendly robber, resource bonus, stacked dice, etc. There also is a nice tutorial for people who don't know how to play. I would love to see the ability to set up different kinds of maps, and i hope to see some of the expansion sets available as well!

All in all, it's great to see Settler's of Catan make its way to the iPhone. While the game comes off as very polished, there are some areas I could see some improvement - most notably in speed of game play and the ability of wifi or internet multiplayer. It still is fun, however, and will remain on my iPhone for the foreseeable future. At $4.99, it's not as cheap as some games, but for people who have been waiting for a while, the price is probably not a concern.

Pros

  • Well, it's Settlers of Catan!
  • Nice graphics
  • Multiplayer by "hotseat"
  • Can modify game settings

Cons

  • Slow gameplay
  • No wifi/bluetooth/internet play
  • Tedious to get to some of the controls

TiPb Review Rating

TiPb Forums Review: 3.5 Star App

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Reader comments

App Review: Settlers of Catan for iPhone

26 Comments

I find the iPhone version to be a marked improvement on the desktop version (with the possible exception that the dice roll takes waaaaaay too long).

Please review your posts, Chris!!!
Your review is unreadable by the third paragraph. You're missing brackets, you have run on sentences that look like you took two complete sentences and deleted a big chunk in the middle, and a confusing misspelling.
"For a quick review (for anyone who doesn’t know what Settlers of Catan is, is a strategy board game where you goal is to amass a certain amount of points by building cities, roads, trading with colleagues, and using the games resources to your advantage."
When I read a review here, I want an idea of what an app is like, I don't want to decipher a secret message. I expect this kind of writing in the comments, but it SUCKS to read it in the actual review.

I've played the iPhone version about 20 times now, and have found that the AI opponents will trade with you, you just have to be a bit tricky about it. Much like with real opponents you have to offer things they really want, and in order to do so have to keep a close eye on what they're asking for in their trade attempts and failing to get.
In addition, I find that they're more likely to go for bigger trades, like my offering a stone and a wood in exchange for a sheep and a brick, instead of just a stone for a sheep.
I have two UI frustrations. The first is the needlessly slow animations of the dice and the distribution of goods. The dice one seems to be due to basically bad animation concepts: they generate a random (or not-entirely-random, if you're using the stack or stack 5 rules) number and then tumble the dice into the center of the screen, and THEN try to rotate them to match the needed numbers. And to make it worse, they insist on straightening them out. Bleh. The distribution slowness comes from the little circle animation designed to be played while the resource sound is played: even if you turn off the sounds, it still ensures there's time for the sound to be played, which bites.
My other UI problem with it is that there's no way to "peek" at the board during a trade. Very often an opponent will offer something like a grain for one of my wood. I need to know if that red-colored opponent is the one that's about to horn in on the area where I want to build a road or if he's off somewhere else entirely. If the former then I don't want to make the trade no matter what (since I may well be enabling him to build the road that screws me), but if it's the latter it may be fine. I can't easily remember who's encroaching on what so I end up rejecting trades that would probably be quite helpful for me, just in case.

I really like the game. The trading gets easier to figure out, but you do have to be offering something they need. Overall just the slowness of the whole game is my biggest gripe. Watching the computer do its thing takes too long over 3 turns, and it is hard to even tell sometimes what is going on. Being asked 20 different ways to trade for a specific resource is annoying as well.

The game is slow, including the dice. I wish that you could turn the dice animation off - that would be great.
Rjak - I make no claims about being a professional writer. I am an iPhone user, that's it. Thanks for pointing out the missing parenthesis, I have corrected it in the review. If something in the review is unclear, by all means post a comment and ask, I will be happy to clarify.

I love Settlers but I don't think playing against AI would be any fun. The game is great with friends and I think I would like online play, especially if these UI annoyances were cleared up. Name recognition is probably enough for this app to sell a few copies so I doubt the developer would take the time to totally rewrite it and set up online servers for that type of play. It's a shame, I'll stick to the non-digital version of the game (which is awesome if anyone is looking for a good, albeit nerdy, party game).

Pretty damn sure this game is mentioned in a fugees song, might be family business or the mask.

^^ nope my bad, the lyric is "at night the evil armies of shaton don't play". Thought it was "at night the evil settlers of katan don't play".
You are all now dumber for reading my post. I am awarded no points and may god have mercy on my soul.

I was extremely disappointed in Catan for iPhone. I loved Kolinists, and would MUCH rather play that for $4.99 rather than this version of Catan. I have never even played half a game before deleting it from off my iPhone. Surely the devs of Catan realize they are competeing with games such as Fieldrunners, Asphalt 5, NinjaTD, Sally's Spa, and all the others we love for their awesome graphics and intuitive gameplay. They should have simply COPIED exactly what they offer in their free online java version for this first installment of the iPhone version, and build off that, instead of trying to do and commit to too much too soon with this very first version. I think they ruined it for a lot of peops out there who had high hopes in Catan for the iPhone, and possibly even LOST many true fans. Like I said, I love the game, truly, but I'd rather have that icon spot open on my iPhone for something else that I'd enjoy playing...and not be disappointed in.

@ Dan Thompson. That's a huge load of wah wah. Kolonist looked like garbage and it was a terrible rip-off.
Your obviously a a nark for these lame garage developers, trying to plant bad comments about Catan!

I know the original Settler of Catan Game (this you play on your Table :) ), so i don't understand why to use the multiplayer on the iphone version. If i had to past the iphone arround i also can play the original.

I am a massive Settlers fan but this app is a big disappointment.
The game is far to slow. The creators should compare the speed to the ASO Brain Games desktop version. I can whip through a game of C&K on that in 10 minutes when playing the bots. Obviously it is harder and slower to play on a smaller device but I'm sure they could make gameplay faster.
For starters I would recommend simplifying the graphics. The board looks reasonably pretty but needs much less detail - simple coloured blocks would actually make it much more playable.
Roll on V2...

I don't mind the speed (after all it is a boardgame AI simulation there), I do mind the "computer player banter" and that the game drinks battery like a very thirsty thing. I mean, I can play Diablo clone Dungeon Hunter for ages before the battery is as drained as after a single game of SoC.

I find Kolonists to be a much more enjoyable and satisfying game. I own both and I'm going to keep it that way. But for me, Kolonists gets played 10 times to every one time I play SoC.

It's great to learn on, and the recent upgrade improves the speed. Looking forward to expansion packs.

The AI sucks no matter which characters are used. I paid 4.99 so i could play my friends online. We love to get together around the board game version and it didn't even enter my mind that "hot seat" would be the closest i would come with this version. Oh wait! I could mail my phone to whomevers' turn is next! O.0

Am I the only one who cannot get my development cards to "stick"? The Knights do, but as soon as I purchase any other card it flies off the screen and never re-appears.

With the new upgrade have no option to go back to the main menu. This is a issue at the momment since the game is stuck and I can't even restart it. Any hints....

I like this app, but my biggest con with it is that it is nuisance-y to try to make trades. Whereas this is just a natural flow while playing the board game, it doesn't translate easily into the app; it's very hard to figure out what other players may or may not want, and it just doesn't give you the same haggling feel as the board game. Overall, though, I wasn't disappointed with my purchase of it.

This game is as frustrating as it gets. There is NO WAY the dice are randomly generated. The most common rolls are 6 8 and 9. So buying up territories with those numbers would seem like a great idea. And for the most part...It is. However, If you get ahead of the AI? The majority of rolls that benefit them versus you increases ENORMOUSLY. 3's and 4's and 5's are EVERY other roll. and when you are ahead be prepared for your AI opponents to roll 7's and rob you EVERY turn. In fact I just played a game where I had 6's 8's and 9's allow me to get ahead by 2 points...A comfortable lead. Then I counted 3 4's rolled in a roll (a number that benefited BOTH AI players but not me and then a 7 followed by another 4 and another 7. I was robbed both times and the AI caught up and won. This game is impossible to win no matter what strat you apply.