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How the Princes Came to Catan …

September 12, 2012
Sebastian Rapp

Don’t think that games are created in the blink of an eye – or that there are rushed decisions concerning games. As early as 2007, one year after the 10th anniversary of the Catan Card Game, Klaus Teuber and Kosmos started talks about reforming the Catan Card Game. Our memories of it may easily become blurred, but fortunately the meeting minutes still exist … In 2007, it initially was “just” a matter of reforming the game, planned for 2010. In the following year, the original idea had already been developed further; the simple reform project now had become a fully revised version of the game – and the planned release date had been put off until spring 2011. In 2009, the release date was set for 2010 again, and further details such as the title “Die Fürsten von Catan” (published later in English by Mayfair as “The Rivals for Catan”) were added. The structure of the game had also been decided: an Introductory Game plus 3 Theme Sets, an expansion one year later – and then we’ll see. A game box and some cards were shown at the Nuremberg Game Fair 2010, and indeed, “Die Fürsten von Catan” was produced right on time for the scheduled release date. The game was presented for the first time at the Catan World Championship 2010.

All this may sound as if everything developed in a relatively coherent, consistent, and problem-free fashion. But of course, things never were all that easy.

The decision to review the Catan Card Game could be made fairly quickly. The game had been on the market for more than 10 years, and in terms of graphic design it evidently was no longer up to date. Also, the Basic Game for newcomers was too long and extensive, particularly in comparison to more recent games. (Not that it had ever been really easy …) Even various attempts to solve some of the Card Game’s problems via rule changes and new Theme Sets couldn’t hide the fact that the game didn’t have a well-balanced overall concept but had gradually evolved over the years. Many a situation in this game could not be resolved without consulting the extensive FAQ database. In addition, the step from the Expanded Basic Game to the Tournament Game was very big; one of the most commonly expressed wishes was to be able to include more than one Theme Set without immediately having to play the Tournament variant.

Klaus Teuber and his team would be responsible for the redesign of the game – that was clear from the beginning. But the discussions already started with the title. Shouldn’t the game also be called “The Settlers of Catan”? Can the term “Kartenspiel für 2 Spieler” (Card Game for 2 Players) be dispensed with? Wouldn’t a new title be more appropriate? Is it a card game at all, and how do you differentiate it from the new game “Siedler von Catan – Das schnelle Kartenspiel” (title of the corresponding Mayfair edition: “The Struggle for Catan”)? Also, when the game was first presented the question of how the cover was to be designed was still open. At the Nuremberg Game Fair, the game was still presented with this cover:

Altes Fuersten Cover Schatten How the Princes Came to Catan ...

Half a year later, the cover didn’t look the same any more. But apart from finding the appropriate title and deciding on the artwork on the box, the team around Klaus Teuber had free reign. And the fact that initially one game and one game expansion had been projected – while already before publishing “Die Fürsten von Catan” it became clear that there would be (at least) two expansions – wasn’t a problem either.

The actual work, however, took place behind the scenes. Needless to say that the discussions about title and cover paled in comparison with the discussions within the editorial team. 441 threads regarding the development of “Die Fürsten von Catan” and the two expansions (not counting threads regarding the programming for PlayCatan) and the Tournament variant) had been posted in the internal Catan forum – clearly more than there are individual cards in the published game and its expansions. The four team members wrote almost 5,000 posts, in which cards and concepts were discussed, changed, discarded, readopted with new functions, and much more. And, of course, there were conflicting opinions and controversies – which, in the end, was always constructive – and each discussion finally led to a better result, even though it wasn’t always possible to reach a consensus among all team members.

The first forum posts regarding “Die Fürsten von Catan” go back to January of 2009, after Klaus Teuber presented the first concept. At the moment of writing this text, “Goldene Zeiten” (title of the future Mayfair edition: “Age of Enlightenment”), the hitherto last expansion, has been in print for a couple of days. The date of the last forum post is … today. It’s a never-ending story – and I think that’s the way it should be.

Sebastian Rapp, July 30, 2012


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