Microsoft has created an HTML5 version of Settlers of Catan

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Microsoft has something of an extracurricular activity: When it’s not releasing Office for iPad or updating Windows, it has a habit of helping other companies build websites. Its latest project is a web version of Settlers of Catan, the popular board game, which it co-developed with Bontom Games. As with previous Microsoft-backed sites, the appeal is that anyone, even Microsoft haters, can use it: The web version will run in any browser that supports HTML5. That’s obviously a different approach from the existing Settlers of Catan apps for Android and iOS, which are of course reserved for people using those platforms.

There’s no app version of Settlers of Catan — the island building board game beloved by geeks worldwide — for Windows Phone, although its iOS and Android versions are excellent. So Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team announced an HTML 5 version that’s truly cross platform — in addition to running on devices with IE, like Windows Phone, it should work in any modern browser that supports HTML5. Catan Anytime is a multiplayer web app: You’ll need to find at least two friends, because it doesn’t set you up with random online opponents nor furnish AI players yet. Catan Anytime works asynchronously, like Words with Friends. You take a turn then your opponents have a set amount of time to take theirs. Because notifications change from device to device, turn notifications are delivered through email. There are a few nifty modifications to the mechanics of Catan: Microsoft and Bontom Games built in auto-trade features, so you won’t get queried whether you’ve got any wheat during every single player’s turn. The traditional dice roll mechanism has been simplified, and has been replaced by a sun button. The board full of numbers has been converted into easy-to-understand icons, although Microsoft said it’s adding full official Catan rules — including development cards — in August. In-game chat is furnished by Skype.

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