Meet Brett Fish

World Catan Champs

My history with Catan in South Africa goes back a LONG way to when one of my old youth kids taught me the game using an old German copy called Siedler von Catan. Because there was a minimum of language in the game, i only really had to learn the five different development cards – and the pictures helped – but instantly fell in love with the strategy and the changing nature of the game. Different to any other game i had ever played before, Catan introduced the changing board and the multiple roads to victory options [including an actual – longest – road!]. Years later i would be re-introduced to it as Catan and fall in love again and it would be my gateway to longer and even more strategic games such as Great Western Trail, Tzolkin, Lords of Waterdeep, and my current favourite Terraforming Mars [and more!]  

i eventually found myself at a tournament in Joburg – before World Catan Champs was a thing – and made it to the final table by winning all but one of my games and got to the point where i had a hand full of cards and was one dice throw away from becoming the National Champion. And we can all guess where this is going. Of course i rolled the only number i needed to avoid – the dreaded 7 – and had to discard the 4-to-1 trade cards i had in my hand and ended up coming second. A few years later i happened to be in Joburg when the Nationals were happening and entered again, was second overall going into the quarterfinals and was unfortunately paired up against a boyfriend/girlfriend team who ganged up against me, and somehow managed to irritate the other girl and so had no chance, being robbed and blocked out of the game. Sad face.

So when i heard the Nationals were going to be in Cape Town last year i knew this was my chance. Entered and after a disastrous first game [although one i managed to get seven points in] thanks to some shady trading by a player who was just there cos her sister was playing [who eventually made the final – her sister, not her!] i knew i probably had to win the rest of the games to stand a chance. Got very lucky being first to place in the second game which was a strangely one-sided board and won the rest of my games and made it to the final, which i won! Which included a trip to Malta to compete in the World Champs and represent South Africa which was mind-blowing for me.  

The previous two SA champs i had heard about [i was part of a team that helped the previous guy practice and prepare and it was frustrating that he didn’t beat me in a single game and got to go represent SA] had come 42nd and 47th in the competition and so i was determined to do better and see if i could at the very least get South Africa to a top 20 but in my mind a top 10. And of course secretly i was planning to win the whole thing, but never really expected to for reals.  

A bunch of the players from Nationals started a Whatsapp group called Play more Catan and we met a number of times for practice leading up to the big event and i am so super grateful for all of them and their efforts to send me across as prepared as possible. i also recorded a Bonus podcast episode for my podcast Out of the Fishbowl with Adam from Solarpop who were the South African sponsors of the trip.  


i decided to get creative around my look for the competition so that South Africa would definitely be noticed and so i did some crazy funky hair dye – Joker colours – and for the first time in my life got my nails done and managed to get them done Catan-style with the logo on one fingernail and resources on the others with card numbers and dots. So ready and looking the part i set off for the competition. 

Two of the three highlights for me of the trip – with competing in the World Champs of Catan and doing so well, being the third – were the people and the place. So being able to take a few extra days and get to see a bit of Malta was incredible. And then meeting and connecting with and staying in contact with so many of the players from so many different countries around the world has been the actual prize. [Although the Catan man-bag and water bottle i have are also pretty schweet!] My roommate, David, was from Portugal, and on the first evening i sat with a table of people from the Czech Republic [each country was allowed to send two people but due to covid years, some countries sent two reps who would have been at the previous worlds and so max from one country became 4 plus people could pay for plus one partners and so on]. Through the Discord as we prepped to leave for Worlds, i made deals with a number of people to exchange candy/chocolates from places i have been to [chief being Netherlands and the chocolate Hagelslag goodness!] and so that helped forge some immediate friendships and connections which were amazing. 


In terms of the competition, day one was four games against different people and a chance to be each of the four picks. Top 16 moved to what were called the semis but looked like the quarters on the following day and then the four winners of those games advanced to the final. [My one criticism of the competition which was incredibly well run – well, two maybe cos my semi final game was meant to be streamed and was not for last minute unfortunate reasons – is that the semis really should have been more than one game, possibly another three games getting to play against different people and then top four heading to the finals – the fact that none of the top 10 after the initial day’s play made the final game speaks loudly to this and i hope they change it in the future!].  

Once again, i decided to make it hard for myself and lose the first game, again with 7 points [seems to be my thing. Bo who is one of the top-fancied players from the States, played a really good game to politic his way to victory in the first one] and again i was stuck with the feeling that i likely had to win the remaining three games to make top 16 or at the very least, two of them. i managed to win the next two games fairly easily, which set up my fourth game as the nailbiter, although at that point i suspected a strong points finish might be enough. This was my chance to pick first – which i found so much harder than any of the other games but eventually ended up picking first spot, and after a hard fought game, i managed to win. 

Our game finished last out of everyone [my previous three games had all finished first or second] and it was to my absolute surprise when the app that was logging the competition revealed my name at the top of the leaderboard, tie with Bo i think it was on points but ahead of him on some technical maths. i was absolutely blown away and guaranteed South Africa a final position of Top 16 and also entered the semis with first pic and technically the easiest table. i really was hoping to make the final table and have a shot at the gold.  

Sadly though, the semis was my worst game, and i knew from early on, that it wasn’t likely to be a win for me, but managed to fight hard and finish second, which meant that on points i ended 7th overall. 7th at a thing in the world? While disappointing not to have made final table, that did not seem like the worst of results. First time a South African has made the semis and ended top 10.  

What i had said to myself and anyone who would listen, even back from when we were getting ready in South Africa, was that for me i had already won the prize. Being flown to Malta to compete in the World Catan Champs with all those players was the win, and anything more than that would have been a bonus. Fortunately [as a super competitive person who hates to lose] i maintained that posture after the semi which felt like a big win for me personally, and was glad that the guy who beat me in the semis went on to win the whole thing at least. But the whole journey was an incredible ride.  

i also got to meet Klaus Teuber, designer of Catan, and got him to pose with my world famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob, so that was another win. We met his son as well and they gave off such positive vibes in their conversation and in Klaus speech before and afer the games, of how he just wants to see this game bringing people together, which it has done around the world for a few decades now. 

And my hope, and the hope of Solarpop and so many others, is that together we can spread the love of Catan, and other board games, to the people of South Africa. That more people will start to experience the community and vibe and friendships that are formed around the game, that are truly international. i have competed in some online streamed games with some of the Champs players and am planning a trip to go and visit them in their countries.


Challenge Brett in our “Beat Brett Challenge”. Test your skills and strategy against the best in the game, and see if you have what it takes to become a Catan champion.