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Klaus Teuber, Catan board game creator, dies at 70

Klaus Teuber, a dental technician from Darmstadt, presents his game The Settlers of Catan on Sept. 29, 1995, in Frankfurt, Germany.
Bernd Kammerer
Klaus Teuber, a dental technician from Darmstadt, presents his game The Settlers of Catan on Sept. 29, 1995, in Frankfurt, Germany.

Updated April 5, 2023 at 5:42 PM ET

It's time to raise a hexagonal tile to the memory of Klaus Teuber. He created one of the best-selling board games of all time.

The Settlers of Catan was first released in 1995, and now the game known as Catan has sold more than 40 million units in nearly 50 languages all over the world, as well as in video game versions.

Teuber died Saturday, April 1 after a short illness, according to the Catan Studio website. He was 70 years old.

Catan is one of those games that's wildly addictive but also so absurdly complicated it was parodied on the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation as "The Cones of Dunshire."

Teuber grew up in postwar Germany. He was a peaceful man who loved good games based on cooperation. But for years, he was stuck working as a dental technician.

"And I had a lot of frustration," he told NPR in 2020. But starting in the 1980s, Teuber created board game after board game that swept industry awards. None of them hit though, until The Settlers of Catan.

"It is just a remarkable achievement in game design," said Erik Arneson, who wrote the book How to Host A Game Night. In that 2020 NPR profile, he said Teuber designed a civilization on a fictional island that keeps everyone playing involved. "The games are always quite close," he added. "No one gets eliminated."

Or obliterated.

Instead, players trade and build. "You cannot destroy someone's building," Teuber told NPR. "It's impossible. And you have to communicate."

"While Klaus' contributions to the board gaming industry are immeasurable, we will remember him most as a kind and selfless human being, an inspirational leader, and most importantly, as a friend," the statement read from the Catan Studio. It urged fans to "honor Klaus' memory by being kind to one another, pursuing your creative passions fearlessly, and enjoying a game with your loved ones."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Neda Ulaby
Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.