JCCC2: in which Settlers of Catan is played on a boat

The boat rocked as gently as a giant boat can rock when it's pushing 19 knots. A fresh breeze made small white caps in the sea. The sun — the Nerd's natural enemy — was directly above us in a cloudless sky.

I sat with Anne on the aft pool deck of the Westerdam, my feet floating in the water.

"It's amazing how just putting my feet in the water cools me down," I said. "I wish my heat sinks in Mechwarrior had worked this well."

She gave me a familiar look that indicated I'd traded English for a foreign language without warning.

"It's an old game I used to play all the time. Forget it"

She gave me a familiar look that indicated she'd already forgotten it.

Seamonkey Matt walked past us on the deck. A few days earlier, he'd asked me if I was interested in playing Settlers of Catan1 with him before the cruise was over. I told him that I was, but I didn't want to be inside when it was beautiful outside, and I didn't know if I'd have time. It turned out that, at this moment, I had time, and we were already outside where it was beautiful.

"Hey, Matt!" I called out, "want to have that game of Settlers now?"

"Yeah," he said. "I'll go grab it from the game room."

Aside: One of the greatest things about this cruise was the 24 hour game room, stocked with a library of games brought by Sea Monkeys that rivaled or exceeded the libraries I've seen at some conventions dedicated to gaming. I'm sure pictures of this game room will be published soon, and when you see it you will understand why I loved going in there so much. It was like Sea Monkey Headquarters, and there were always people playing games down there, having a fantastic time.

At one point, some Snorks2 attempted to invade the room, so a sign had to be set up announcing that it was a "Private Function." This sign was immediately anagrammed into several different phrases, my favorite ones involving Pirates.

A few minutes later, Matt returned with Settlers in hand. We found a table that was protected from the sun, and began looking for group. I quickly found my son, Ryan, and asked him to play with us.

"I've never played Settlers," he said.

"Yes you have. We played this all the time when you were little. You'll remember as soon as you see the board."

As we began to put the board together he said, "Oh, I remember this. Wood for sheep!" 

"Yep, that's the one."

We had three players and wanted a fourth. I looked up from the table and saw that my friend Stepto — formerly known as The Banhammer of Xbox Live — was passing by.

"Stepto! Want to play Settlers with us?"

"Sure!" He said.

We finished setting up the board, placed our initial settlements, and began the game. Like all Settlers games, the first few rounds involved many fruitless efforts to acquire wood and brick, but eventually we settled into a pretty good game. Stepto and Ryan began competing for the longest road, and Sea Monkey Matt and I began a minigame involving screwing each other relentlessly with the Robber.

After about 40 minutes of play, we were all separated by two points, with Sea Monkey Matt in the lead. Stepto had run his road into a circle, and Ryan was ruthlessly chipping away, one segment at a time, until he achieved and kept the longest road.

It was Ryan's turn, and he rolled a seven, which allowed him to move the robber. Stepto and Matt had cities on one of the elevens, which I think made Ore. Ryan wanted to screw Stepto and steal from Matt, so it was a logical place to move the Robber. Ryan moved the Robber, stole a resource from Matt, and then traded that resource back to Matt for whatever it was that he actually wanted.

"I'm proud of your evil, my son," I may have said, in a Darth Vader voice.3 

The dice were passed to me, and I rolled an eleven. I should point out that not a lot of elevens had been rolled, because it is only rolled 5.56% of the time.4

"Oh, come on!" Matt said.

"Seriously?!" Stepto said.

"It sucks to be you guys," I said. "I have Sheep for Ore… anyone want to trade me Sheep for Ore?" I took an Evil Wheaton Pause™. "Oh, I'm sorry, it turns out nobody has Ore but me right now, so I guess I'll just trade it to the box for Wheat."

"It's ironic that I don't have any Wheat at all," Ryan said, "Considering our name and all."

I smiled. Ryan doesn't know it, but when he calls me his father, or makes any reference to being proud of his name — he changed his name to Wheaton when I adopted him — I get something in both of my eyes, probably from my heart growing three sizes and pushing leaky emotion fluid out of them.

I passed the dice to Stepto. "It is your turn, sir," I said with a flourish for some reason.

Stepto rolled an eleven.

Before any of us could say or do anything, Sea Monkey Matt held his hands up to the heavens, looked across the table at Ryan, and shouted, "WHEEEEAAAAAATTTTOOONNN!!!!"

A very small group of Sea Monkeys had gathered around us, and were watching us play. They all laughed. Ryan laughed. I laughed. Stepto laughed.

I said, "that was awesome. I hear that reference all the time, but that's the first time I've heard it in reference to a different Wheaton than me, and in context, no less."

I high-fived Ryan. "The world needs more Evil Wheaton," I said.

"I'm working on it," Ryan said.

The game ended shortly after that. I got stuck at nine points, and Matt finally got his tenth point one round before I could catch him.

I was glad that he won the game. Matt didn't know it, but by making that reference, in an entirely appropriate context, to my son who took my name, was the highlight of the entire game for me. It was easily one of my top five awesome moments on the whole cruise, and maybe even number one.


1. The Settlers of Catan is a fantastic German-style boardgame, and it is our generation's Monopoly. If you haven't played it, I can't recommend it enough. In addition to the traditional tabletop version of the game, it's on iPad, iPhone, Android, Xbox Live, and PSN.

2. Our code name for the angry, entitled, complaining octogenarians who meandered all over the boat.

3. This didn't really happen, but wouldn't it have been awesome if it had? Never let the facts get in the way of a good story, Writers.

4. Pushes glasses up.

55 thoughts on “JCCC2: in which Settlers of Catan is played on a boat”

  1. That’s amazing, Wil.
    Just FYI… You know what? One of my top five was when you clapped both hands over your mouth in regards to my space invader dress. So, yeah. Thanks. It made me giggle gleefully.

  2. Two things:
    1) This sentence made me feel old: “We played this all the time when you were little.”, i.e. someone who is now an adult played this game (which I still remember as being new and revolutionary in ’94, my last year at Uni) when he was little.
    My first contact with Settlers of Catan was at Spiel (the game fair in Essen, Germany) where Klaus Teuber previewed it, just before release. Our group promptly voted it Game of the Fair and it was awarded Game of the Year the following year.
    2) That Wheeeeaaaatoooonnn! thing put a huge grin on my face, too. :)

  3. All I'm saying is: if a bowtie were to show up made from some sort of 8-bit geek fabric, I totally know a guy who would wear the hell out of it, because he knows how to tie a bowtie.
    Also: bowties are cool.

  4. Wil – I understand your feelings when Ryan says things like that. My own son, Michael, who doesn’t share my name, often makes little side comments about being a true Topping. And that makes me happier than I ever imagined. It’s his desire to be a part of who I am and who my family is, making all of us greater than the sum of those parts.
    We also are working on increasing the world’s population of Evil Toppings.

  5. I wish that I could have JoCoCruised but, alas, it was not to be. However, reading the title of this post brought back fond memories of my family’s Alaskan cruise last summer. Hopefully I’ve correctly permissioned things such that the following link brings you to a photo of the contents of our cabin’s closet. All items were contained within my single checked bag and/or single piece of carry-on luggage. Priorities!
    In conclusion, thank you for sharing your memories of an island in the sea on a floating city in the ocean.

  6. This story reminds me of a Red Dwarf episode. The one where Rimmer recalls games of Risk from his past. Please tell me that was what you were going for as you describe the toss of the dice. :)

  7. Kim is a complete Settlers addict. I usually, in a tribute to my Celtic ancestors, wind up with way more Wool than anyone could possibly need, but not enough ore, wood, or wheat.
    We came out to the Sea Monkey Pool deck just about in time for the “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAATTTTOOOOOOOOOOON!”. Kim wished she could’ve joined in. Something to do for next year. 😀

  8. It’s been a blessing and a curse. I’ve had a lot of fun with it and a lot of commentary. But I’ve come to terms with it and I couldn’t be prouder of being me.

  9. That sounds like a truly epic game of Settlers. Hope someone captured photos of the game itself! Also, I love a well placed reference myself, that call of “WHEEEEAAAATTTOOOON!” sounds perfectly executed, well done Sea Monkey Matt. It clearly outmatches my reference to “This feels strange but also good” just before the Scrimshaw comedy. Still I take pride in getting a good laugh out of that line. :-)
    Also, the Comedy of Doom was the most brilliant performance of the entire cruise. And I loved the Captain Wesley “Awesome” Crusher bit. They need to have Scrimshaw back next year too.

  10. The other thing: trying to keep Kim’s son B’s postcard secret last night at dinner was difficult. It hasn’t arrived in Houston yet, and my inner geek is all “Wil did this GREAT thing JUST FOR YOU but you can’t see it yet because it’s in the clutches of the US Postal Service!” but I managed to keep it all inside.
    B and I did have a suitably geeky conversation about the cruise, though. He’s currently obsessed with JoCo music. I approve.

  11. I have a picture of the final lay-out of the board, minus the piece that would’ve won me the game. I’ll be putting up a post about the game on my blog once I’m finished going through my pictures from the trip.

  12. I have been sent links to this post about twenty times today and it makes me smile every time. Thanks for the game, Wil, and you’re right, I had no idea. I’m glad it made you as happy as you did when you said, “Matt, we were looking for you! Settlers?” That right there? That was awesome.

  13. Typepad nommed my comment, so I’m trying again…
    1) Settlers of Cattan is all kinds of awesome and I applaud your good taste in German board games (I assume you’ve also played Ticket to Ride, because yes.).
    2) Your emotion-fluid sentence made me AWWWWW aloud, prompting my daughter to look for pictures of fuzzy kittens (alas, there were none).

  14. Awesome story! And I don’t see why you wouldn’t tell Ryan that you complemented his evil in a Darth Vader voice.
    I ended up playing, possibly Settlers of Cataan, in the game room at 3am at Penguicon with Eric (S.) and Kathy Raymond (and someone else I didn’t know). That was super-cool and super-surreal.
    Craig Steffen

  15. Matt earns one internet.
    Wonderful story, and the WHEEEEEEEEAAAAAAATOOOOOOON! is just plain brilliant. Which reminds me: there’s something that needs doing regarding this. Alas, it shall have to wait until payday. Soon, Wil Wheaton. Soon. Mwahahaha!

  16. I’d like to say something deep and meaningful about how games can touch our lives and bring friends and family together, and how my favorite thing about my HDWT journey has been getting to see different groups of friends working together through the lens of the game… but I’m laid up with the flu and my brain is operating at half power, so I’ll simply say thanks for sharing this moment with us!

  17. Wil,
    It looks like you are having a great time with your family. I wish you a safe and happy trip. Your writing style, to me, is still great.

  18. Dude, quite driving home the fact that my life totally sucks and your life totally rocks! :)
    All kidding aside, could not happen to a nicer guy. But of course now you are rested and your batteries are recharged, I can’t wait to see what new awesome things you come out with.

  19. This made me furiously happy. It captures that moment so well, when you look around the table and realize you’re having a good time.
    Also, Settlers is an awesome game, and you just reminded me that I need to play it more.

  20. Brilliant!
    The more I hear about JoCoCruise (mostly from you, but also from 2 friends who went), the more I want to go next time! Alas, we are not ready to brave large-scale events with two very young children in tow. I know it will come in time… and your emotion-fluid gives me hope that someday my kids will want to do things that adults think are fun (ie. not just running around in circles until they fall down.)

  21. I’d go into space whether I got to play with toys or not (but that would be a bonus). I have to be satisfied with seeing the ISS soar by on clear nights.

  22. Just caught this. Wil captures it perfectly. The sun was out, the breeze just right, and the buckets of beer were ice cold.
    And I? I had a hex of wheat so glorious people drove around it in circles all day long just to admire it.

  23. So i read this yesterday, loved it as always. Then went on with my day…. later that day (still being yesterday) i had an amusing image pop into my head, You on BBT again, sheldon again mad at you calling out WHEATTOOOON!!! then each of your sons later doing something evil and again he crys out WHEAAATOOOOONNSSSSSS!!!!! then your wife again furtherly being evil in some fashion and at the end of the episode. he cries out MISSESSS WHEEEAAAAATOOOOOOOONNNNNN!!!!!!
    just had a small giggle in my head about that

  24. Nice Mechwarrior reference, Wil. I’ve been a big fan of Settlers for a long time, but have you had the chance to play Starfarers? Much better, deeper gameplay, IMO.

  25. Wil, your post gives me hope. My partner and I are looking at adopting. Reading how Ryan is so much your son despite being adopted reassures me. I’ve always had this “I want a biological kid” thing; this helps remind me to get over it and love my kids as my kids, no matter how I come by them.

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