To Germany and Back: An American’s Quest for Opponents – Part 3
In Chapters one and two of this story, I explained how I discovered Catan through my brother and his wife who lived in Germany for a short time, and how I found opponents online at German websites that later became unavailable to me.
Chapter Three: Aero Discovers the “World”
Since I had all but given up on real-life opponents, I searched the web for other boardgame sites. I found a few, most notably BrettspielWelt (Board Game World), which featured online boardgaming, but I found their German or poorly-translated-English interfaces difficult to navigate. Actually, BrettspielWelt’s interface for Carcassonne was quite good, so I used to play that game instead of Catan, which had a not-so-intuitively designed interface. I then tried an unlicensed site that allows Cities & Knights to be played for free with cheesy graphics. But I found the people there to be rude, the interface boring and soulless, and it left me with an overall feeling that I was ripping off the person who designed this wonderful game in the first place. I may have played five times on that not-so-brainy site.
In 2001, I moved my family from New Jersey to my home town of Indianapolis. On a trip during July to visit old friends in New Jersey, my son and I stopped along the way at the Origins convention in Columbus, Ohio. Wow! That was fun. My first major game convention. A year later (if I recall correctly), GenCon, an even bigger convention, moved from a location just north of Chicago to Indianapolis. Wow! That was even better! My gaming thirst was thoroughly quenched during these long weekends. And even though I still struggled to find real-life opponents, I optimistically purchased several games, Catan and non-Catan, hoping to entice others to play with me.
Still, the quest for viable online gaming continued. I found the Days of Wonder site where I could play Ticket to Ride to my heart’s content, and that was a lot of fun for a while. But the game lacks the depth, complexity, and strategy that makes Catan so replayable (is that a word or did I just make it up?). Also, the program relied on A.I. opponents to finish games when people jumped out, so I finished several games with one or more A.I.s. After a while, Microsoft came up with a playable Catan base game available online for an annual premium. I stopped playing Ticket to Ride almost immediately, and spent way too many hours on this site for a couple of years.
Then, in July of 2008, I checked out a Professor Easy tutorial for Domaine, and at the end of it a strange blurb popped up that said something like, “Thanks for completing the tutorial for Domaine. To find like-minded people, go to www.playcatan.com.”
Since I’m always interested in finding “like-minded people,” I took the plunge and discovered the Catan Online World. Base game, Seafarers, Desert Raiders, Domaine, Hoity Toity, and oh my God it can’t be, but it is. Yes! Cities & Knights!! Very few people I had played with wanted to take Catan to that level. Can you hear the music? Sounds like a walk through heaven and Paradise while experiencing Nirvana all at the same time. AAAaaahhhhhh. Heart pounding. Drooling. Money’s tight. Can I afford the premium membership? More importantly, how can I pass this up!? Within a few hours of playing the base game with my free account, I was ready to open my wallet.
In part four, I’ll explain how I met some influential people on the site and how that led to my dream job.