Winnipeg group invites local Catan players to trade, build, settle their way to national championships

Board game players will gather at the University of Manitoba this weekend to compete a national qualifying tournament.

Winnipeg Settlers League hosting city's 1st qualifying tournament for hugely popular board game

Winnipeg Settlers League co-founder Charles Tetrault, middle, plays Catan with his dad, Claude Tetrault, right, and league member Derek Spencer, left. The group will hold a qualifying tournament in Winnipeg this weekend for a national championship for the hugely popular board game. (Shannah-Lee Vidal/CBC)

A Winnipeg fan of one of the world's most popular board games has strategized his way into building lasting friendships — and now, his group is giving local players a chance to win their way to a national championship.

Each month, the Winnipeg Settlers League gets together in St. Boniface to play the board game Catan (originally called Settlers of Catan when it was released in 1995). The popular board game sees players collect resources and set up cities and has become a massive hit, with a series of expansions and new editions.

On Sunday, the local league is sharing their love of the game with the rest of Winnipeg by hosting a national qualifying tournament at the University of Manitoba.

The winner will be sent to compete against other players at the national Catan Canada Championship this August in Toronto.

Catan involves collecting resources to build settlements and cities. (Shannah-Lee Vidal/CBC)

The local group was formed about six months ago by brothers Charles and Rob Tetrault. The pair have been playing Catan for two decades.

Charles found he was having trouble getting together with friends for his favourite hobby as he entered into his late 30s.

"So I just decided to make it a standard automatic thing once a month — meet up with friends and play board games," he said. 

"The game that I love the most is Settlers of Catan, so I decided to do it around that."

The group stared off with a handful of people in December. As the months went on, more people have joined, so they can run multiple games at once. They have a website where they post monthly rankings. Even though the group contains many of Charles's friends, new people are welcome to join the league and its monthly gameplay.

Never the same game twice

League member Derek Spencer believes it's the simplicity of the game that has made Catan so popular.

"Within 30-45 minutes, if you've never been exposed to it, you could learn, you could play it, you'd know what you do, and you'd have a lot of fun."

He notes the game can also change, depending on how the tiles are placed when creating the board.

"The other nice thing about it is that every time you set  up the board the game is a little different … so you're never playing the same game twice."

Catan, first published in 1995 as Settlers of Catan, continues to be a top-seller, and has spawned a series of expansions and new editions. (Abby Schneider)

Spencer formed a friendship with Charles Tetrault through Catan, when the two competed against each other last year at a qualifying tournament in a different city. The two Winnipeggers hit it off because they co-operated and shared resources.

This weekend marks the first time that one of the qualifying tournaments has been held in Winnipeg. Charles himself won't be competing, though — he's already won a spot for the national championship.

Charles says he and his brother, who have competed against high-level players at past championships, wanted to give people here the same opportunity. Their dad, Claude Tetrault, went with them when they competed in Essen, Germany for the world championships.

"Just to win Canada is tough, and … in Japan and other countries they have, like, 2,000 people vying just for the two spots at the nationals," said Charles. 

"So it's a bit easier in Canada, because you've got about 80 or 100 people vying for the national spots to go to the worlds. But it's a lot of fun."

Strategy guide

The Tetrault brothers are so into Catan that they have been working on a book about how to win at the game. Charles says they started the book about a decade ago, and it needs just a little bit more work before it will be done.

The book will include not just basic gameplay tips and examples from their own Catan experiences, but also interpersonal strategies.

The Winnipeg Settlers group meets monthly to play Catan. (Shannah-Lee Vidal/CBC)

"[It] goes through everything: how to deal with people, how to talk to people, how to trade, major strategies. It's a different strategy every time you play, different people is different," Charles said.

"Some people you might want to talk in a certain way. Some people just like to have fun, so you talk to them in a certain way. It depends also on how competitive you want to be."

The national qualifying tournament for Settlers of Catan is happening this Sunday at the University of Manitoba. Participants will need to register in advance online.


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