Niantic's new 'Catan' game trades table tops for the real world

Forget catching Pokémon, this is about building dazzling augmented reality settlements.

When German designer Klaus Teuber created The Settlers of Catan board game in 1995, he couldn't have predicted how hugely successful — or influential — the game would go on to be. Seen by many as a gateway game to those interested in tabletop gaming, Catan has also been known to test the limits of friendships, especially if someone in your social circle is fiercely competitive. The fundamentals of the game are simple: You acquire resources, trade with other players, build settlements, and try to win. That simple mechanism might be why it's remained so popular.

Now, Niantic (the company behind the cult classic Pokémon Go) is building on that fame and offering an augmented reality version of the game called Catan: World Explorers. Here's what we know so far:


The world is your board — With Catan: World Explorers, building a new world gets pretty realistic thanks to Niantic's augmented reality technology. Now you can "transform" the physical environment around you while also trading resources with other players, and engaging in the Catan bread-and-butter activities of collecting lumber, brick, wool, grain, and ore. Like the original game, certain resources will be more prevalent in different regions, forcing you to trade to get the necessary combinations to build things.

How many bricks for a sheep?Niantic

Team players — Of course, the multiplayer element is incredibly attractive too, and could even reach Pokémon Go levels of success. Heck, it could even surpass it given how many casual games are familiar with Catan already. By playing with other Catan explorers, you can score Victory Points and level up in your local game, while also collecting points for whichever global faction you align yourself with at sign-up (much like you do in the original augmented reality game, Ingress).

"You’ll befriend and bargain with in-game Catanians and complete quests as you explore," Niantic explains. "Use your resources to craft Building Cards that you can use to transform humble settlements into booming metropolises." Which sounds like a mix between an adventure game and SimCity.

How to grab it — You can pre-register for Catan: World Explorers by heading over to the official website and following the steps at the bottom of the page. While you wait for it to launch later this year you should probably brush up on your skills by playing a few rounds of the board game with friends and family. Just consider who you least want to make hate you forever when placing The Robber.