Play The Settlers of Catan Online

very good
key review info
  • Application: PlayCatan 3.1022b
  • Reviewed on:
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application features
  • Connect to other "The Settlers of Catan" players
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Game nights can be very relaxing, although it's not always easy to find people who have the same interests as you. The online version of “The Settlers of Catan” offers you the possibility to enjoy yourself whenever you have the time and make new friends who share your favorite pastime.

The official website for “The Settlers of Catan” allows you to play the game with other people online (here), directly from your browser. The website recommends using Safari, which makes sense if you need to keep an eye on your resources (during play, Firefox, for example, used up to 90% of the processor).

The problem when using Safari is the fact that you need to enable the Java plug-in to run the game. To avoid all this, you can download and install the PlayCatan Access Software and play Catan using a desktop client.

The PlayCatan Access Software requires Java 1.5 or later, the upside being that it can run on most Macs, old or new, from OS X 10.5 onward to Mountain Lion.

The PlayCatan Access Software installer places the game in your home directory, which can be a bit confusing for Mac users accustomed with the /Applications folder as the default installation location for their apps, but you can always create an alias for easy access.

The Looks

The PlayCatan main window design tries to preserve the original game atmosphere but also keeps everything quite organized. The top toolbar contains most account and location management tools, the chat panel is placed on the bottom, the bottom left corner map indicates your location, and the right side panel allows you to view other players’ statistics and create a friends list.

The PlayCatan main area is reserved for browsing your current location in the game. If you are in the tavern, click on the game table to open the games panel. Here you can view the available Catan games, join/watch one, and even start your own (the "Open Up" button).

Once you join a game, the window will transform to match the classic “The Settlers of Catan” setting: the main area displays the game board, the players are placed in the corners, and on the bottom left corner you can view your playing tools (Roll Dice, Trade, Build, and End Turn). The score is automatically calculated and the statistics are shown at the bottom of the player’s icon. The only elements that remain unchanged are the top toolbar and the bottom chat panel.

The Works

Like with any other online game, you are required to register for an account here, free of charge. The starter account allows you to play the base game, but if you are looking for more, you can always upgrade your plan.

Your PlayCatan account can be easily managed via the PlayCatan.com website, and, besides the usual statistics, chat logs, or language settings, you also have the possibility to change your ZIP code. The ZIP code is important because it will place you in a village with other users from the same area: this way you can play with other people who live near you and even make new connections.

Each time you launch PlayCatan you are greeted by the login window, where you can set up the window size and choose to go directly to the games panel. Make sure you memorize your password, because the app cannot.

If you are willing to get involved in the PlayCatan community, you get to explore your city, trade with other citizens, schedule games, buy a house, and much more (for many of these actions a Premium account is required). The entire experience is quite straightforward, but if you ever find yourself in trouble, the Help button (placed in the top toolbar at all times) should clarify things.

In this universe, the Tavern is the place to go if you simply want to play the game. Once you start or join a game, things go quite smoothly: all the tools from "The Settlers of Catan" board game are included, you can trade with other players and communicate with them (for commodity, the chat panel includes a list of frequently used phrases), and so on.

One main difference compared to the actual board game is the absence of the resources cards sheet: the building panel, where you can see what you need for each development, becomes active only when it’s your turn. Being able to view what you need to build items is useful if you want to trade, especially if you are a beginner.

The Help panel could be of use in this case, but the window cannot be resized, takes a lot of space, and does not allow you to interact in the game. Thus, having it open at all times is practically impossible.

Running PlayCatan does not usually take up a lot of resources but, in some cases, it can use up to 50% of your processor. Either way, the desktop client needs fewer resources than your browser.

The Good

PlayCatan is a great solution if you want to play the “The Settlers of Catan” game online, with old or new friends. The online community can make things more interesting but, if you prefer to simply play the game, you are not required to join any of the available activities.

The PlayCatan interface is intuitive and easy to use, preserving the original game atmosphere. The desktop client provides most features included in the “The Settlers of Catan” board game, which makes it a great replacement for the original whenever you have some free time.

The Bad

The PlayCatan access software is working on the Java Runtime Environment and, as a result, it lacks the stylish Mac OS X look and feel.

Although, in some form or another, PlayCatan offers all the information and tools to play the game, accessing some of them can be tricky: the building tool is active only on your turn, and you do not have a development card sheet.

The Help window includes a lot of useful information but cannot be kept open at all times. Memorizing all the rules can be a bit of a challenge if you are a new player, and you need all the data readily available to make informed decisions.

The Truth

PlayCatan loses points on account of not being an OS X native application, but it is a viable solution in terms of resource usage. Whether you are new to the game or an experienced player, the PlayCatan desktop client seems to be the perfect solution for a quick match without all the hustle of organizing a game night.

Here are some snapshots of the application in action:

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user interface 4
features 4
ease of use 5
pricing / value 4


final rating 4
Editor's review
very good
 
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