How does the perfect Catan lunch look like? Lamb chop in puff pastry with a glass of sheep milk, sheep’s milk cheese with bread for dessert… but in the evening at least a wheat beer to wash it down with?
You’d think that life must be rather monotonous on this island where only grain and trees grow, sheep are the only living beings apart from the settlers themselves, and wooden beams and bricks are the only available building material. At least it is possible to join the wooden beams with iron nails, and you can also forge some swords in case you feel that those people in the neighboring settlement undeservedly have fatter sheep on their pastures than you.
Catan – an area suffering from permanent resource monotony? No fresh strawberries for dessert – never, not even on Sundays??
No, life on Catan isn’t really that monotonous.
Because there are definitely more than five resources available on Catan.
But if all of them were represented in the game – cattle and cats, marble and sand, flax and willow rods, sugar beets and honeydew melons, peat and amethyst, ponies and poodles – the players would have a lot to do administrating and combining their resource cards. And then they wouldn’t have time to enjoy the pleasant feeling of playing an exciting and varied strategy game. They would find themselves compelled to permanently do bookkeeping, and that’s something not even bookkeepers would like to do in their spare time.
A game doesn’t have to provide an exact portrait of reality in order to let the players experience the adventure of settling a still untamed and not always very safe world. And in order to keep the world of Catan playable and playful, Klaus Teuber chose a sound simplification to represent the complex processes of resource production and processing.
Grain is representative for all cultivated plants and the products they can be converted into, from raisin bread to rope. Sheep are representative for all livestock, lumber is representative for renewable resources, brick for non-renewable resources, and ore for those natural resources whose extraction requires a more complex technology.
Therefore, when a road is built on Catan with brick and lumber, we should not so much imagine a kind of pedestrian zone consisting of brick-covered areas interspersed with parquet but rather a paved trail, built with cobblestones, gravel, or rammed earth to make it passable for wooden covered wagons in any weather.
For 1 sheep and 1 grain, you can purchase the Catanian equivalent of a burger with fries, even if you’d use beef and potatoes to prepare the dish.
And fresh strawberries? They are readily served for dessert on Catan too. And as you may already have suspected, you only pay 1 grain for them.
Peter Gustav Bartschat