At the tender age of 16, I was introduced to the hobby of gaming. As a young man, I grew up on mass-market games from the toy departments of major retail chains, but two events in my formative years radically changed my view of the tabletop gaming industry.

In the fall of 1994, a buddy from school introduced me to “Magic: The Gathering”. For those of you too young to remember, this was a little over a year after the release of the “Alpha” set. “Antiquities” and “Legends” had been out of print for not quite a year and were already notoriously hard to find. “The Dark” had just gone out of print and the base set at that point was “Revised”. Prior versions such as “Alpha”, “Beta”, and “Unlimited” were already starting their inevitable trek up in price on the nascent secondary market.

Magic The Gathering Splash

Also, just coming into existence at that same time was the World Wide Web. It certainly wasn’t Wizards of the Coast’s intent, but information about the latest “Magic: The Gathering” releases, including complete card lists, could travel across the world at the speed of digital. I don’t think many of us knew it then, but it was just a matter of time until “Magic: The Gathering” cards would become less like game pieces and more like commodities in which to be invested.

Being the young man that I was I had no steady income stream. It didn’t take me long to become disillusioned with the business model that collectible card games, or CCGs, represented. I wanted something I could play repeatedly without having to make an “investment” every time a new set came out; something that I could play because it was fun and not have to keep up with the Joneses. I got my wish in 1998.

Classic Catan Board with Wooden Pieces
Image Copyright: Frank de Jong

By this point, I had started hanging out downtown at the local hobby shop that sold skateboarding equipment, billiards, darts, paintball, and of course, CCG cards. It proved rather difficult to get my fellow gamers to play anything that wasn’t “Magic: The Gathering”, but that didn’t stop me from trying.

At the local haunt one afternoon, as I paged through the owner’s wholesale catalog, I found a full-page ad for an interesting game I had never heard of before. It had colorful pieces; a modular board; was highly unlikely to ever play the same twice. It had also won an award that I had never heard of before, Spiel des Jahres, the Game of The Year in Germany. “The Settlers of Catan” had been out for a few years, but this was the first I had ever heard of it and I was absolutely mesmerized. I asked the shop owner if he could get a copy in and thus was born my love of tabletop gaming.

Classic Catan Board with Wooden Pieces
Image Copyright: Frank de Jong

“The Settlers of Catan” is a deceptively simple game. The mechanics are simple to learn, gameplay rules are easy to follow, but how you use those rules to your advantage will be key to locking in that win. If you love gaming and you’d like to start involving a friend or a loved one “The Settlers of Catan” makes a great starting point. From there you can open a whole new world for your gaming friends, just like it was opened for me.

Ryan Kelly

40-something lover of old games, gaming trivia, and the oxford comma.

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