Tag Archives: Catan

Settling on Catan

It’s been 200 years since colonialism was this much fun.

Settlers of Catan represents a colonial ideology about an uninhabited land ripe for economic development. Players pretend to live their big fat white dreams – a command over nature, a life of fair and equal competition. Except it never really was fair, and it never really was uninhabited, was it?

The Settlers of Catan is a massively popular multi-player board game designed by Klaus Teuber and released in 1996 by Mayfair. Since it’s introduction, Settlers of Catan has spawned more than 40 expansion/spinoff games including an online competitive tournament version of the original game.

Catan is a turn-based strategy game that focuses on economic development and resource extraction as the primary objectives. Players win by collecting 10 points. Points are earned by building cities and towns, roads, and armies. All of these must be purchased by earning/trading and selling resources.

The game of Catan exhibits colonial ideologies, specifically the idea of Terra Nullius. The land of Catan is empty and unmodified – just waiting for colonial development – in fact, the colonial agent (player) who develops the land fastest, wins!

Terra Nullius means "empty land." When colonial agents made their way to the new world, they deemed it Terra Nullius. This self imposed title colonial forces the right to take and use the land for whatever purposes they desired, while simultaneously disregarding the humanity of indigenous peoples.
Terra Nullius means “empty land.” When colonial agents made their way to the new world, they deemed it Terra Nullius. This self-imposed title justified to colonial forces the right to take and use the land for whatever purposes they desired, while simultaneously disregarding the humanity of indigenous peoples. In fact, for years much ‘scientific’ debate centered around whether indigenous people should be classified as humans or animals. I hope you are as offended by this as I.

The truth is that Terra Nullius is a myth. The land was never empty, it was always being used. Here in Canada, as with elsewhere (maybe everywhere), Indigenous Rights Movements are resisting the colonial ideologies that have embedded themselves in our society since historic times. These ideologies occur in our thinking, and are expressed in the way we play. Later, these ideologies inform our political views and understanding about the past.

Is Catan fun? Yes. It is a colonial boat-load of fun. It is fun for all levels of skill and competitiveness; advanced players will know how to squeeze you out of resources and lands to develop.The gameplay creates a snowball effect, where if one player can grab an early economic lead they will quickly dominate the rest of the game.

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