When I told my cousin that I was writing a blog about Christianity and nerdom, one of the first things he asked me was whether or not I had written about Settlers of Catan. My second post ever was about Settlers of Catan. Apparently my cousin knows what I know: Catan is to board games what Chick-fil-A is to fast food. Catan is the unofficial Christian board game and we need some ways to make it even more Christian. Here are five suggestions.
Change The Robber’s Number
God has a few numbers reserved for himself: three, seven, 12, 40 and 144. It is unconscionable to think that the robber shares one of the same numbers with our Heavenly Father. The robber’s number shouldn’t be seven; it should be six. The devil’s number is six and Jesus did say that the devil is a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy. Anyone who has ever hit two or three rolls in a row, then rolls the robber, knows that the robber comes to steal, kill and destroy. In my case he also comes to tempt me towards violence and anger.
If the robber’s number is changed to six, everyone will fear that number more than seven. There’s nothing worse than finally acquiring a significant number of resources only to lose them to the robber. A change could be to address this issue and also remind us of Jesus’ sacrifice. Once a game, if a six gets rolled, a player who is robbed could sacrifice a sheep from his or her hand to foil the robber. Much like Jesus’ death and resurrection defeated sin and death, the sacrificed sheep will defeat the robber and loss of cards.
Convents and Cathedrals
The story behind Catan is the settlement of a new island. That island is settled by the players who plant settlements and cities. In a more Christian Catan, the objective of the game wouldn’t be settlement but evangelism. The island could be viewed as a mission field and, instead of planting settlements and cities, players would plant convents and cathedrals. This transition wouldn’t change the core gameplay; it would just keep each player mindful that the work of God’s kingdom is never done, even when playing a board game with friends. Jesus said to make disciples of all nations, which includes the citizens of Catan.
If the goal of Catan shifted to planting convents and cathedrals, then scoring would need to change as well. Instead of playing for mere victory points, players would play for kingdom points. Every city and cathedral planted would be like adding jewels to a heavenly crown. Playing for victory points is so trivial and temporary. Playing for kingdom points has an eternal impact. Instead of just playing for their own personal victory, players would play for God’s ultimate victory and glory.
If players are playing for God’s ultimate victory and glory, in the end, everybody wins. The game would still finish when someone reaches 10 kingdom points, but the only winner is God. If every player is participating in the expansion of God’s kingdom, all the points go to God, not the individual player. The player who scores 10 points would be equal with the player who scores 6 points. That might seem unfair but it’s very similar to the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Some people work harder, some people earn more kingdom points but, in the end, the reward is the same for everyone.
Settlers of Catan is already pretty Christian. But just like adding Bible studies and Chris Tomlin to Chick-fil-A makes it more Christian, Catan can be more Christian, too. We just need to show some more of God’s creativity and come up with ways to make us feel better about losing.
How would you make Catan more Christian?