The Grandson: A book?
Grandpa: That’s right. When I was your age, television was called books. And this is a special book. It was the book my father used to read to me when I was sick, and I used to read it to your father. And today I’m gonna read it to you.
The Grandson: Has it got any sports in it?
Grandpa: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…
The Grandson: Doesn’t sound too bad. I’ll try to stay awake.
Grandpa: Oh, well, thank you very much, very nice of you. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.THE PRINCESS BRIDE (William Goldman)
That’s right… a book. Well, a book review. Right here in the middle of all these games.
And it’s not just any book – it’s a memoir from game designer Klaus Teuber – the designer of (no surprise here) Catan. (At this point, I spent way too much time trying to create a Prince-themed joke involving “the board game formerly known as Settlers”… since I failed, I’ll trust you to give it a courtesy laugh and create your own punch line.)
And it’s not a quickie knock-off paperback, either – it’s a hardbound volume with a slipcover and filled with both color and black & white pictures that supplement the text. I’m not sure my photo does it justice… but since I own a relatively early German set of Catan, I figured I could make a very appropriate picture of it.
This is Herr Teuber’s story – beginning in childhood and working up to the present day – with a focus on how Catan came into existence and then basically took over the world. Along the way, he shares anecdotes and stories that help detail the history of the design and proliferation of this incredibly popular game. (Well, game family… I personally own 9 stand-alone games in the Catan universe and countless expansion boxes, maps, and promo items.)
But the road to Catan isn’t all Catan – Herr Teuber talks a good bit about his journey into game design and the creation of his earliest designs… including a large section on Barbarossa (his first published design) and a couple of chapters on Vernissage (which he considers to be one of his best designs).
Free of charge rabbit-chasing paragraph: there are some wonderful games in Klaus Teuber’s design history that are well worth seeking out… including the children’s games Hallo Dachs and Die Ritter von der Haselnuss as well as Gnadenlos!, Anno 1701: Das Brettpsiel, and Im Reich der Wüstensöhne.
This isn’t a tell-all gossip-y biography… if anything, Herr Teuber goes out of his way to highlight various folks who have helped him along the way. He is especially complimentary of his wife, Claudia, and her role in encouraging, playtesting, and supporting his designs.
For those who’ve read the fanciful introduction to Drunter & Druber (most recently published in the U.S. as Wacky Wacky West), you’ll have an idea about the tone and style of Klaus Teuber’s writing – which includes in this memoir a “ghost” who appears in his dreams and has some slight hand in directing his steps toward becoming a game inventor. Herr Teuber’s flights of fancy can be an acquired taste – but he’s clear that this is his sly way of trying to explain different key moments in his development.
If you’d like to hear some passages of the book read by the author, you can do that on the Catan website… though, unless you speak German, you may find the videos difficult to understand. (My three years of high school & college German are not sufficient… I recognize words and names – but following a complete sentence is, in the words of Monty Python, “right out”.) For people like me, there are subtitles available.
As a limited edition book, it’s not inexpensive – but I’m very glad I had the opportunity to read and enjoy the memoir. If you’re interested in ordering a copy, check out this site.
And now I want to play a game of Catan!
A review copy of the book was provided by Catan Design Studio.