For months and months the geek-cub hadbeen asking us to play Monopoly. She was relentless. She was merciless. Every good deed led to a plea — nay, a demand! — to play Monopoly. We had precious few board games. None would challenge her. None would sate her board-game palate. She threatened to become a delinquent pre-teen, and begin committing violent felonies to fill the empty hours. We were running out of time; out of hope when…
My wife visited her cousin in Seattle. This fairly geeky cousin had an extemely geeky boyfriend (Seriously, the guy wrote a doctoral thesis on the accumulation of heat inside laptop processors. The guy makes me look like Mick Jaggar.). Said boyfriend is part of a non-electronic gaming group that tries all kinds of unusual voard games, and gave us an old copy of Settlers of Catan. So we gave it a try.
SoC is a non-violent empire-builder (or settler in this case) board game. Everyone builds settlements and roads, collects resources, and ultimately accumulates "victory points". The first person to hit 10 victory points wins. We love it. It only takes and hour or two to play, whereas Monopoly usually takes four hours (for us anyway). You also trade resource with the other players so it builds on inter-personal skills, such as bargaining.
My main suggestion: don’t use the bandit against one-another. When he moves, push him out to where he doesn’t affect anyone and leave him there. The game is designed so that people who get aggresive tend to lose. Or at least, they don’t advance very well, and whoever isn’t involved does and wins.
If you want to learn more, this is the link to the Settlers of Catan website.