hel·low (ˈhelō/) exclamation. A salutation embodying the vibrant energy found in the color yellow.

16 January 2013

Build to Prosper or Destroy to Conquer

I have fallen deeply, madly, and irrevocably in love. There have been many before her, coming and going as I progressed through the years. Early on, they taught me the basics, they introduced me to their world. I enjoyed interacting with them, playing with them. As I matured, I began to realize what I cherished in them. Each time I formed a relationship with a new one, I could pinpoint the characteristics I adored and the aspects I despised. I found myself displeased with them, settling on the fact that I would never discover one that met my expectations of perfection. But then I found her. She was German in origin. A true beaut, I might add. She came in a sturdy cardboard box, unlike the cheaply unstable boxes I had grown so used to. She had many pieces, beautifully simplistic and made of solid wood. Her cards were tastefully designed and easy on the eyes. Her board was adaptable and unfixed to a predetermined vision. It changed with every iteration of our intercourse. She was not a board game I would grow bored of.
Throughout my life, I have been a lover of games. My first love was Go Fish. I loved the animal pictures on the cards and the simplistic concept. It was an early introduction to the wonderful world of time-killing and my jumping off point for future endeavors of this sort. Soon after Go Fish, I delved in Sorry! and Candy Land. The colorful board and pieces fascinated me, so many hours of my youth were spent piddling with these games of luck. As I grew older, I learned to play Monopoly. I grew in love with accumulating wealth and properties and building houses and hotels. If only the money was real. As stereotypical for young boys, I was fascinated by the idea of war and combat, and soon became an addict of Battleship, Stratego, Risk and anything with a possibility of conquering imaginary lands on a cardboard surface. Before long, I grew sick of the aspect of luck and became irritated with dice-rolling. Chance could make or break a game. So I eradicated it entirely and became a self-taught student of chess. Years passed in mastering the openings, tactics, and endgame. I had thought I had found a true love. I was in control of my own destiny. Every aspect of the game I could control and master. I was a king.
But no matter how sweet the victory, I still became bogged down with the losses I would endure on the path to conquering. My pieces would be sacrificed in lieu of a greater cause. It was a vicious game, cutting down an opponent until he was at my mercy. Or I at his. Victory was sweet, but the path was riddled in misery. It was not perfect. My longing for an unbreakable love in board games was dying.
And then I found her. In the past few weeks, I have entered a seemingly eternal honeymoon that rekindled my love for board games. Perfection came in the form of Settlers of Catan. She was so unlike all those other games. The American board games I had grown up with promoted domination (like Risk or Battleship), favored chance (like Sorry! and Candy Land),  glorified gluttony (Monopoly), and were disgustingly dramatized (Clue). Settlers of Catan was different. Like most German board games, she minimized luck and emphasized strategy. She did not aim to marginalize or eliminate her players. She allowed for a small group of 3 to 4 people to play, encouraging interaction but minimizing conflict and direct competition. As opposed to the militaristic nature of many American games, she was more economic in nature. She wanted players to build and prosper, not destroy and conquer.
Settlers of Catan more realistically mirrors actuality. It teaches us that there are many roads to success and stomping out opponents will not lead us there. Rather the structure of the game allows one to work with opponents and form mutual arrangements, as there are limited resources necessary to build and no one person can do it alone. The goal of the game is to accumulate 10 Victory Points, which can achieved in a variety of ways. Players can build roads, settlements, cities, and development cards, which are each worth point values. Considering there is no currency in the game, the accumulation of resources cuts out a middleman in the construction process and allows a more direct connection with the adaptable board which provides those resources. In the lack of money, a ‘thief’ piece is present to punish gluttony and the hoarding of resources. This encourages the players to be more clever in their moves and thoughtful of the limited resources. The game encourages trading and agreements, which involves social interaction and strategy. With the variety of ways to win, the game pushes players to be adaptable, changing their the strategies as the game progresses, reminding us that, unlike chess, we can never fully be in control of situations. While dice-rolling is minimal, the small insertion of luck keeps the game interesting and more representative of life, where we must take risks and factor in chance. The game length itself is ideal in length (approximately 90 minutes) as it allows for the game to still remain fresh and interesting without getting tedious. It is relatively easy to learn but supports strategy so more experienced players can earn what they deserve. The theme of the game gives it character but does not control the game itself, making it both original and elegant.
For true lovers of board games, Settlers of Catan is the perfect fit. It is a design of pure masterpiece.
My praise Klaus Teuber.

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