When I first got back into board gaming, over a year ago, this was one of the first games I bought. Love it or hate it, Catan is one of the most well known board games of recent memory. I would even argue that Catan revived mainstream board gaming in the late 1990's and early 2000's similar to Trivial Pursuit in the 1980's.
That said, I was disappointed. I bought the game without trying it, and found it one dimensional. I like my games a bit more complicated, and Catan seemed too dependant on lucky die rolls.
However, yesterday at our FLGS gaming day, I got roped into trying it again, but this time with the Seafarers and the Cities & Knights expansions. I was pleasantly surprised.
The expansions, especially Cities & Knights, add a lot more strategy and flexibility to the game. The addition of commodities and using them to improve your cities to receive development cards adds some variation and prevents some of the well known resource tricks (like the sheep port).
Our 4 player game started with me picking last. The way the board was set up, there were 3 good spaces to start, so by going last I got a sub optimal spot. This was slightly offset by having the 5th placement immediately after. Everything went well for the first part of the game, with some good rolls coming up allowing me (Orange) to remain in the lead with Red. Then things started to go south. Green, who had horrible rolls for the first part, was so far behind by this time, that the game is already over for him. Two or more rounds go by for me without receiving even one resource. This allows Brown to catch up to me, but Red, who seems to live a charmed life, runs away with it, at one point building multiple roads and settlements.
Final score: Red 13 victory points, Me with 7, Brown with 6 (only behind me because Barbarians attacked on the last turn and his Knights were not activated), and Green not worth mentioning.
Overall, for me this was much better experience with Settlers of Catan and that was due to the addition of the expansions. I like what Cities & Knights added, but I am not sure about Seafarers. Due to the way our map was laid out, no one even built a boat in our game.
Settlers of Catan remains, in my view, a gateway to modern board gaming and I will use it to ease non gamers into gaming. However, without the expansions, I will tend to avoid it, as it is too simple and reliant on good die rolls in determining the victor.