I don’t deny that I’m kind of a nerd. But when I found out about The Settlers of Catan novel, I accidentally exposed the depths of my nerd-dom in an outburst of excitement about the fact that there was a novel about my favorite board game (to which most of my coworkers looked at me with raised eyebrows and asked politely “so you’re really into board games, huh?”). But I, along with 25 million other “Catan-imals” out there, would argue that Catan is not just any board game.
For the uninitiated: The Settlers of Catan (the board game) is a bit like the board game Risk, if Risk had more to do with economics and strategy and less with military domination and chance. In Catan players build settlements, cities, and roads to amass power and wealth. The game is ever-changing, and relies on alliances with your fellow players. In my opinion, 90 minutes spent playing Catan is infinitely more fun than, say, Monopoly, where once Park Place and the railroads are gone, you might as well count yourself out. I personally think the Washington Post got it right when they called Catan “the board game of our time.”
So back to our main topic…The Settlers of Catan (the book) is a saga set in the Viking age. Written by Rebecca Gable, a bestselling author of historical fiction in Germany (lauded for her accuracy and attention to detail), the book is a chance for fans of the game (or those intrigued by the Viking era) to experience the world of Catan. The story follows the lives of a group of settlers, divulging the details of their daily routines, struggles, dramas, romances, and aspirations as they set out to build a new community and determine who will come out on top of their new social hierarchy.
The story basks in the details, and it's an enjoyable, often fascinating, foray into the seafaring medieval world. You don’t need to have any knowledge of the game to appreciate the characters and storyline that Rebecca Gable dreamt up in coordination with the game’s creator, Klaus Teuber. (Check out their conversation about this process here.)
Did reading the book make me a better Catan player? Probably not. But the “behind the scenes” look at the lives of the settlers did give me a renewed appreciation for the intricacies of the game.—Sarah Tomashek