Classic board games are seeing a resurgence in recent years, and part of that is due to the increasing availability of electronic versions of popular board games. One of the most popular board games is Settlers of Catan, which is an enormous bestseller in its native Germany as well as in North America. While there are excellent iOS and Android versions of the game, it’s not available on Windows Phone. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team decided to rectify that with Catan Anytime, and HTML 5 app that you can play on any modern browser.
You’ll need to find at least two friends to play, though, since the game has no AI players handy. Also, it’s not yet equipped to match you up with random online players, hence the need to find some friends before you start. It’s asynchronous, so you take a turn and wait for your opponent’s turns to arrive via email.
The game does have some advantages over the board game version, in addition to the portability and near-universal ability to run on most devices. Automatic trading is built in, so you don’t have to get repetitive queries from other players about trade items. The dice rolls and numbers have been simplified for this version, although Microsoft plans to add full Official Catan rules in August. Currently, you can chat in-game by using Skype.
Why is Microsoft doing this, aside from a desire to see a great board game played on Windows Phone It’s a nice marketing tool to attract attention to the once-mighty Internet Explorer, which continues to lose market share. Plus, this showcases the capabilities of HTML 5 for cross-platform use and rapid development. It’s an interesting experiment for Microsoft, and potentially a useful way to increase support for Windows Phone. Will we see more such experiments, this will be an interesting space to watch.