Board game champ paves road to victory, piece by piece

Kat Wong |

Elliott Yap (second from left) won the 2023 national Catan championship.
Elliott Yap (second from left) won the 2023 national Catan championship.

Everything went quiet when Elliott Yap prepared to seize the championship title at one of the biggest board game competitions in Australia.

His heart was racing, but all he had to do was wait.

And as the player to his right gathered resources to finish their turn, the 2023 Australian Catan champion broke the silence.

“Don’t even bother collecting, I already have the win,” Yap said.

The 20-year-old medicine student is now gearing up for the 2025 world championship after winning the national competition in August and the West Australian state contest a few months earlier.

Having sold more than 40 million copies in 40 different languages, Catan is a seminal board game that has been parodied in TV shows like Parks and Recreation and inspired ovine memes across the web.

People playing Catan
Caan has sold more than 40 million copies in 40 different languages. (HANDOUT/SUPPLIED)

Yap’s cousins introduced him to the game in 2021 and he fell into the world immediately.

He started watching Youtube videos by pros like DyLighted Catan, joined Discord servers like Catan Community and Catan Championship and spent the next six months playing for three-to-four hours a day.

“I just thought it was amazing, I wanted to do it myself,” he told AAP.

“So, I’d go online, play with people, and lose a lot.

“In terms of helping me grow as a Catan player, they were essential, and I’ve made a lot of friends there.”

Previously known as Settlers of Catan, the board game asks players to develop roads and settlements while trading and acquiring resources like ore, lumber and sheep.

Most casuals see it as a game dependent on luck where every player must fight for themselves.

But to Yap, it’s all about collaboration.

Though he still competes against the other players, Yap’s strength is in balancing the board, teaching other players and learning from them too.

“All four players should be working together so that we all have equal chances and no one rushes ahead,” he said.

Though dice rolls play a role in a player’s success, Yap says matches generally follow a 20-60-20 rule.

In 20 per cent of the games a player is guaranteed to win, purely because the dice is rolling in their favour. The other 20 per cent they will lose as luck is not on their side.

The remaining 60 per cent of matches are where the great players thrive.

Though he’s had to prioritise his studies and whittle down his matches, Yap is planning to return to the Australian tournament circuit in 2024.

“Even if you play the same board with different people, it’s still a different game,” he said.

“This game just has unlimited potential that I would love to explore further.”

State qualifiers will take place in June and July across Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.