“So, what are you doing next weekend?” “Oh well, I’ll be at a work-related meeting.”
Every so often I refrain from mentioning the exact name “Catan Weekend,” because it doesn’t mean much even to those who, in principle, know what I do for a living. That’s why I’m using this opportunity to place a corresponding reference here in our Catan blog, for future inquiries.
Kosmos Verlag has been hosting the Catan weekend since 1998. At that time, it was an exclusive reunion for members of the then still existing “Siedler-Club” (“Settlers Club”), but after the club’s dissolution in 1999, it turned into an open Catan weekend for everyone interested. Ever since, it takes place every year at the Hotel Faerber-Luig in the rural German town Lennestadt-Bilstein, County of Olpe – located in the heart of the Sauerland and, in all four cardinal directions, far away from the next autobahn.
Many Catan fans know nothing at all about the event, even though – apart from word of mouth – it is also promoted via the Kosmos website and the German version of the Catan newsletter.
The core activity of the Catan weekend is the big Catan Board Game Tournament each attendee may participate in (it’s not mandatory, though). Generally, three different Catan games or scenarios are played on Saturday – usually the current new release and at least one of the “classics” such as “Cites & Knights.”
Every year, Klaus Teuber himself also takes part in the tournament, meaning that each participant has a real chance to defeat the author in a game of his very own creation. And for a couple of years now, there is also a Catan Card Game Tournament taking place already on Friday.
The best ranking players in the tournaments win valuable non-cash prizes that are handed over on Sunday morning. Should Klaus be on the victory podium (which may totally be the case), he donates his prize – sometimes to the youngest player, sometimes to the last-place player. Participating in the tournaments is, therefore, definitely worth it.
Of course, besides the tournament activities there’s also time to “play freely.“ For this purpose, since the year 2000 Kosmos Verlag brings along many other games from its portfolio. After the games have been opened and the attendees of the meeting have played them, on Sunday, shortly before everyone departs, the games are sold to those present – partly well below their catalog price.
As a particularly exclusive offer, game prototypes not yet commercially available can be tested, too; that way, they are subjected to a “semi-public beta test,” so to speak. The respective game authors are enormously interested in the feedback from the game testers, which is why each tester can, and should, fill in a questionnaire after playing the game. Sometimes, when the game in question is put on the market the following year, it features a game mechanics that, thanks to the test reports, has been tweaked considerably – or, in case of an extremely scathing criticism, the game might go straight to the closet and never be presented to the general public.
Catan Online World members are also catered for: on one of the evenings, an open roundtable discussion with the COW moderators and us from the Catan GmbH takes place, and everyone interested is invited to participate. In addition to reviewing past year’s events, we use this occasion to present an exclusive preview of the plans outlined for the coming year. And of course we’re also happy to discuss requests and suggestions for improvement put forth by the attendees.
Anything else? Well, someone who accompanies his or her spouse and is not that into gaming will find beautiful scenery surrounding the hotel that invites to hike and explore. And in the basement of the hotel, people can enjoy a wellness area that includes pool, sauna, and massage tables. So, you don’t have to be a Catan enthusiast to spend a wonderful weekend in Bilstein – although it certainly helps a lot.
So far so good. Did the description above explain what the Catan weekend is about and what makes it attractive? I hope so. However, such a comprehensive explanation rarely can be done in three sentences as an aside, when someone asks, “Catan weekend, huh? Tell me more about it!”
Thus, I meanwhile have concocted an alternative explanation that represents all this by means of a different, widely known phenomenon: the Catan weekend is a bit like a Star Trek convention. The die-hard fans meet for a couple of days at a conference center to indulge in their hobby and, in the process, take a look behind the scenes to meet the attendant “guest stars” of the participating companies in person. – Just with a smaller crowd and, above all, without pointy ears and Vulcan mind meld.