Settlers of Catan: 2015 Version

Brent from Texas, “Catan” 12/26/10 via Flickr, CC
Caution: This blog is not responsible for eliciting sudden urges to play Settlers of Catan. Play at your own risk.

As 2014 comes to a close, excitement circles through my body at the prospects of the upcoming year. At the same time, a bleakness to rival the winter weather whirls memories around my mind; from bitter relationships, to new friends, all these memories resonate with the realization that it is the end of the year. And with this end comes both reluctant farewells and new paths to embark upon. So in a way, it kind of reminds me of a game called Catan.

Settlers of Catan is a magical game similar to Monopoly; it takes the closest of friends and tears them apart. Through broken alliances and backstabbing robber placements (this will be explained later), the integrity of a group of friends is put to the ultimate test. Just kidding, it usually results in everyone ganging up on one or two people to ensure their loss at the price of their own possible win; but back to the metaphor. One year is like a game of Catan in that you embark on a personal journey to further yourself and grow as a person [kingdom]. You start with certain resources, and you need to trade and earn others in order to build settlements and flourish.

In the beginning, you’re clueless as to how to go about playing the game. Just as no two rounds are the same, every year is different and requires a different mental toughness to endure. Some years, you might be given plenty of brick and lumber to build roads with. Other times, you might (unfortunately) be left with a bunch of wool and have to start out struggling for important resources. But as the game goes on, you gradually learn.

Now [in the cases of certain dream teams], the occasional player will somehow start off as a powerhouse, yet manage to completely squander their resources and end up dead last. This is a rare and special scenario, and definitely calls for much heckling of the aforementioned loser.

You finish building a few settlements, have a plethora of resources, and you have the longest road. Life’s good. But sometimes, life throws something unexpected at you. In this case, one of your allies (henceforth referred to as asshole) just placed the robber on your resource goldmine and took your longest road card. The betrayal, the shock!

Get over it.

Until someone else rolls the 7 and moves the robber to a different place, you’re stuck scrambling for resources. Simply put: sometimes you’re dealt a disadvantage, but everyone else isn’t going to pause for you to whine and sulk about it. You keep on playing and simply hope that the dry spell will be a short one. Getting your resources back is a troublesome, but potentially rewarding obstacle that needs to be faced. That’s the beauty of Catan[Life]. Despite who’s currently winning, there’s always the opportunity for someone else to burst forth and take the lead through pure wit and cunning (by cunning, I mean getting revenge on the asshole by stealing his resources and/or quarantining his kingdom to a desolate corner on the board).

Fast-forward through a few hours of yelling and trash talking, and the game is over. Despite what you or your friends might have started out with, none of that matters anymore. All that matters, is that someone rolled the perfect number on their turn and won the game and all the bragging rights. But, what’s next? Since the game is over, do you just pack it up and leave it in a corner, never to be played again? (Yes, you do have to put the game back at some point in time, but that’s not the point smartass). The whole point is to start a new game. Maybe not with the exact same group of people, but it’s a new starting point. Take those skills you learned from the last game you played, and start catan-ing your way to victory in the next game. You’ll no doubt encounter new assholes (and allies, those are nice too), but you’ll have the experience of your previous games to lead you on your way.

So to sum it up, life is like Catan. You rely on your previous years of experience to guide you through the next, you meet new friends and (hopefully, a few) enemies, and despite the serious moments, you still remember to laugh, smile and make the most of it. Like life-changing decisions and projects, some games don’t end in one round. The game can take several rounds to finish, have several complications (lost pieces and flying goldfish, the works), and just be a pain. But the victory at the end is made all the more sweet by the work you put into the game. That game and its memories stand out in your mind because it is unique. Each game is fun in its own unique way, but remembering to forget the hangups of the last game and attacking the game at hand is crucial in making the most of it. With 2014 over and done with, 2015 is waiting to develop into another year of cherished memories and experiences:

How will you play the game?

Many thanks to Alex for being a sweetheart and proofreading, and to John for introducing me to this deceptively addicting game.
For those wondering about the magic of Catan, more information can be found here: http://www.catan.com/game/settlers-catan
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