Voodoo! with the 5-6 Player Expansion of Catan

Listen, I love Catan. I loved it when it was Settlers of Catan, and I love it now that it is just plain old Catan (even though I used to call it Settlers for short).

It was one of the first five or so games I played when I discovered the hobby gaming industry. I’ve introduced it to friends and family, and it has almost always been a hit. (My wife, SneauxBunny, says not always!.)

So you know I was excited last year when I finally ordered the 5-6 player expansion and it arrived on my front porch. More Catan means more fun, right!

Not right. More Catan means a longer game. Instead of finishing in about an hour and half, our games have doubled, especially with new players. Trying to convince someone new to stick with the hobby when their first experience is a three hour game?? That mes amis is a recipe for failure. Luckily, a few games of Code Names can easily remedy the situation.

So here’s the basics.  Catan, as everyone knows, is a hand management euro that includes a little dice rolling for randomizing the resources, has a little backstabbing with the use of a robber who prevents your opponents from getting resources, and has a pre-generated tile layout that can also be randomized. For many gamers, it’s their first introduction to winning with victory points as opposed to a finish line or victory condition or bankrupting your opponent. It was designed by Klaus Teuber and published way back in 1995.

Since then it has spawned tons of sequels, expansions, spin offs, and maybe someday the LA Rams will play in Catan Coliseum. And the next year in 1996, it spawned the 5-6 Expansion (or as Board Game geek calls it, THE EXTENSION.)

The small box comes with 11 additional terrain hexes to make a bigger board, new frame and harbor pieces, additional resource cards and development cards, and everything else you need to add two more excited Catan fans.

Look, its not all bad. those new bits do come with some cool new colors, green and brown if I recall correctly, for your roads and settlements and cities. (If you are like me, you can add them both to the regular game as additional choices.)

And I admit — I like the “special building phase”, a new rule that the designer added that takes place at the end of each turn. Right after you pass the dice to the next player, and before he or she takes their turn, your opponents get to build roads, settlements or cities or even buy a development card — but they cannot play a development card or trade with other players. While it is not a “full turn”, it goes by quickly and allows players to stay interested in the game despite the long wait between turns.

And that is the flaw of this expansion. With six players, lots of decisions to make, lots of calculations as to what you are gunning for and what you need to trade for and what you want to build, there can be a LOT of downtime between turns. Even with the “special building phase” that’s still a lot of waiting. That’s where the 5-6 expansion just doesn’t make it for me.

I am all for expansions. I get as excited as the next player when my favorite designer cooks up something new for one of my favorite designs.  BUT, if you are looking for a little LAGNIAPPE, that little something extra to spice up your Catan gaming night, stay away from the 5-6 player expansion. Find a game that handles 5-6 players better, and you’ll thank me later.

And seriously, how did they not include green as a color in the game in the first place?  Until next time, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

B J