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Catan The Dice Game Review

Catan Dice Game

Based on the massively popular Settlers of Catan (Now just known as Catan), Catan: The Dice Game is a condensed, travel-friendly version of one of the most impactful board games in modern history.

The Basics

Catan: The Dice Game plays just like regular Catan – you build roads, then settlements and cities along those roads, instead of development cards you directly purchase knights (which grant a single, free resource once-per-game).

Instead of being able to place settlements and cities wherever you please, the game sheets dictate where you can build, with further away and harder-to-build items being worth more victory points. It’s not a race to 10 now either, but rather the aim of the game is to get as many victory points as you can in 15 turns – this makes for an even-playing field and increases the need to build early and fast to win.

Going For Gold

The physical box of Catan: The Dice Game contains 6 dice, plenty of game sheets and a pencil. These are no ordinary dice, however – each face contains a symbol for the classic Catan materials; Lumber, Brick, Grain, Wool and Ore, with the final side depicting a gold nugget. The gold nugget is effectively half a ‘joker’ – you can combine two gold nuggets to swap for any one other resource.

Just like in Yatzee, you may keep some or all of your dice, and reroll the others up to two more times. Once you’ve used all your rolls (or sooner if you’re lucky), you enter the building phase, the rules being the same as Catan in that you may build as much as you like, provided you have the materials. Once a dice is used for a construction, it is gone until your next turn.

Has Anyone Got Any Wool?

One key mechanic that has been lost in the slimming-down from Catan is player interactions. You can’t hoard or trade materials, block other players from taking a certain route or steal their resources with a knight. In short, Catan: The Dice Game has very little player interaction (this changes a bit when we go onto Island Two below). It can be played solo, or you can play with as many other people as you like, either taking it in turns to roll or playing a complete game each and comparing your scores.

This can be a pro or a con, depending on what you want from a game. If you enjoy the solo-mechanic; having a strategy and being able to execute it with nothing but the luck of the dice and your own tactics to stop you, then this game is ideal. If, however, you like the player interactions; being able to snatch victory by messing with your opponents or simply partaking in some polite trading, then you won’t find what you’re looking for here.

Island Two

There is also a second game sheet with different (in my opinion, better) rules, and a different island layout, adding a new and more complex layer to the game that better mimics the original Catan rules.

The original Victory Point system, Longest Road and Largest Armies all make a comeback, and settlements and cities can be built in any order, making for a much more authentic Catan experience. Island Two is at the end of the game rules and as such is often overlooked. This is unfortunate, because Island Two turns this game into what any Catan-enthusiast would hope Catan: The Dice Game would be – a genuine, pocket-sized version of Catan.

The Good

Catan: The Dice Game is infinitely replayable, as each game will depend on the way the dice fall, your strategy will need to adapt to the routes that will net you the most victory points with the materials available to you. Making good use of knights and sometimes skipping over building a settlement in favour of a more difficult (but more rewarding) city, are tactics you’ll need to employ on-the-fly in order to win.

The game is also incredibly easy to explain and play. I have played this game with nieces and nephews as young as 6, and grandparents as old as 80, and all are able to pick it up in just a couple of minutes. No long explanations of rules or checking the book every few minutes – once you start, you’re off and within 15 minutes you’ll no doubt hear the familiar words – ‘That was close, shall we play one more?’.

The good quality of the components is what you’d expect from a Catan Studio game. The dice are clear and well-made, the sheets look like the original game board and everything fits well in the box. The only thing they skimped on was the pencil, but it’s only really in there for completeness anyway.

Island Two is the biggest pro that almost never gets talked about. It is as good a game of Catan as you could hope for with so few physical resources, making this the ultimate game for a board-game lover to take travelling.

The Bad

The loss of player interaction is the biggest loss for me when comparing this to Catan-proper. I think it is unavoidable, and more interaction does come when we play with Island Two. It does mean that Catan: The Dice Game is largely a solo game that you can play with others, rather than a truly interactive experience.

Whilst Island One is ideal for a quick and casual game, it does mean it is basic and won’t appeal to strategy-loving boardgamers. Given the audience of Catan, Island Two should have been front-and-centre, with Island One being the alternative variation rather than the default.

Final Verdict

If I had to sit down and make a miniature version of Catan with so few components, I would be hard-pressed to do better than Catan: The Dice Game. I especially enjoy the Island Two rules, and any Catan fan will likely end up playing this variation. Island One is fine, and will appeal to a wider audience.

Overall, this is a great travel-game that encapsulates the essence of Catan perfectly, even if some of the depth is inevitably lost in the condensing of the box. I would highly recommend this if you’re travelling and want the joy of Catan without the space and weight restrictions.

This post was originally published on October 30th 2023. Updated on 27th March 2024 to improve the information available.

Zatu Score


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  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

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