The AtlanticThe Atlantic

We settled for Catan

By Ian Bogost

06 Apr 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

Klaus Teuber's game, Settlers of Catan, has sold 40 million copies worldwide. Writing for The Atlantic, Megan Garber argues that its success is down to its inoffensiveness.

Board games are hostage situations. “C’mon, it’s fun!” your brother or so-called friend says, and then for the next two or eight hours you’re stuck. Rules are read, cardboard chits are distributed, and rounds of wit or chance (or both) transpire. But it is fun, because the joy of gaming first involves accepting arbitrary rules just to feel the sensation of having embraced them.

And yet, board games are terrible. Candy Land is stupid, Scrabble takes too long, Risk is how you learn your dad is an asshole, and Monopoly—let us not speak of Monopoly. Better, nerdier options have long existed (Diplomacy, Vector, Gettysburg—not to mention chess, go, backgammon), but the same few products dominated American rugs and tabletops for much of the 20th century, and thus defined board-gaming as a mainstream activity.

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