The Settlers of Catan


5 - 5

Number of Players: 3-4

Year of Publication: 1995

Creator(s): Volkan Baga, Tanja Donner, Pete Fenlon, Jason Hawkins (Artists) and Klaus Teuber (Designer)

Create the Best Civilisation and become King of Catan!

Okay, you don’t actually win the title “King of Catan” if you win the game, but it’d be cool if you did. Instead, you just win the sheer joy of winning, which is almost as good. Settlers of Catan is a brilliant game, primarily for its simplicity and versatility. Because of the way the board gets set up, no two games are ever going to be the same and it’s got so few rules that anyone can learn to play!

What’s In The Box:

The stuff!
The stuff!
  1. 19 Terrain Hexes and 6 Sea Frame pieces – set up in one possible arrangement for play.
  2. 9 Harbour Pieces
  3. 18 Circular Number Tokens (chits)
  4. 95 Resource Cards (19 each of Stone, Sheep, Clay, Wood and Grain)
  5. 25 Development Cards
  6. 4 “Building Costs” Cards
  7. 2 Special Cards
  8. 16 Cities (4 each in Orange, White, Red and Blue)
  9. 25 Settlements (5 each in Orange, White, Red and Blue)
  10. 60 Roads (15 each in Orange, White, Red and Blue)
  11. 2 Dice (one Yellow, one Red)
  12. 1 Robber
  13. 1 Game Rules and Almanac Book

Playing The Game:

Objective: To develop your civilization fastest in order to gain 10 Victory Points and win the game!

Setting up the Board:

To start the game you set up the board so it looks more or less like the photo below. You give a few of the Terrain Hexes to each player. They’re then laid out in that honeycomb kind of pattern, and edged with the Sea Frame pieces. There’s no set layout for the beginning of the game, so the hexes you get given can be placed anywhere. Once the board is set up each player chooses a colour and takes all the Cities, Settlements and Roads for that colour. They also take the Building Costs card of that colour. Then the Circular Number Tokens are placed on the board. These tokens all have both a number and a letter on them, numbering from 2-12, missing only 7, and having the respective letters A-R. One player then chooses a starting tile, and places the Token with A on it. The other tokens are then laid out in alphabetical order moving clockwise around the board. One of the Terrain Hexes is the desert, this is the only Hex which doesn’t have a token placed on it.

Starting set up for the game.
Starting set up for the game.

Once that’s been done, the grey Robber figure is placed on the desert Hex, and each player can then place two of their Settlements, and two Roads on the board. Settlements (and later Cities) are always placed on the corners of the Hexes, so your Settlement will be on the point on a Hex where two or three Hexes meet. Roads must be placed on the edges of Hexes and connected to a Settlement or City of their colour. To start, your Settlements can be placed anywhere on the board, but following this they must always be connected to a previously existing Settlement by a road. To start each player collects one Resource card for the tiles they have Settlements on, for example, at the start of the game above, White would receive two Stone cards, one Clay, one Wood and one Crops.

Turns:

A players turn is divided up into the following phases:

  1. Rolling the dice, moving the Robber and collecting Resources
  2. Trading Resources with other players or the bank
  3. Building Roads or Settlements, upgrading to Cities and buying Development Cards

Rolling the dice always happens first, and the number rolled reflects which Resources will be produced on that turn. There are two Number Tokens for each number that can be rolled, apart from 12, once the dice are rolled, find these, and anyone with a Settlement on the corner of the corresponding piece receives one Resource card for that tile. On a roll of 7 no Resources are produced, and the Robber’s moved. The player that rolled the dice can now put the Robber wherever they like. If placed on a tile, the Robber prevents any Resources being produced for this tile until someone else rolls a 7 and moves him, so he can be a huge inconvenience to your opponents.

Like this:

Here the Robber was preventing me from receiving any Sheep Resources
Here the Robber was preventing me from receiving any Sheep Resources

Next you can trade Resources. This is done verbally and with the exchange of cards. One player simply states which Resources they need, and what they’re prepared to offer for them, and other players may accept or decline. Or haggle, if they feel so inclined. if a player has a lot of one Resource they can trade five of one Resource in to the bank, in exchange for one different Resource of their choice. If a player rolls a 7 all players must also count how many cards are in their hand, if they’ve got more than 7 Resource cards in their hand they must discard half of them, in the case of an odd number, for example, 9, you round down, so you would only discard 4, not 5.

It’s also possible to use the Sea Ports to trade resources, but you have to have a Settlement or City built on one of the three points adjacent to a port to use it.

Finally you can build things, your Building Costs card tells you how much each thing will cost you in Resources, and you discard Resources into the Resource bank to build on the board or buy Development Cards. Settlements or Cities must be connected by at least two roads, so they cannot be on the points next to each other, meaning that only three Settlements can ever be on one Hex. You must also have a connecting road before you can build a Settlement.

Play continues like this until one player has gained 10 Victory Points!

Winning the Game!

Winning the game actually isn’t very difficult, each Settlement you build is worth 1 Victory point and each City is worth 2. So you start the game with 2 Victory points, for your two Settlements placed before game play starts. You can also gain an extra 2 Victory points for having the longest unbroken road, this is one of the Special Cards, and is awarded once a player has a road at least five segments long. However, this card can get passed around a bit, as other players build longer roads. In the game we played, I had the longest road:

I was Orange, my road was 8 segments long
I was Orange, my road was 8 segments long

So I got the extra Victory points on the Special Card:

Longest road!
Longest road!

So, the end of our game looked like this:

I win!
I win!

So, ignoring the tea, ice cream and small rubber duck, this is what the game looked like at the end, I had acquired here, Longest Road, Largest Army (which is the other Special Card, Knights can be acquired by buying Development Cards and you get Largest Army once you’ve got three) and then also some Cities and Settlements.

Strategy!

This game can be played strategically, at the start of the game, when the board is being arranged, look for areas where a lot of one resource are concentrated, if you build both your starting Settlements on these and then quickly expand your Roads you can create a monopoly on one resource, forcing other players to trade with you for whatever you demand. Alternatively, try and build you Settlements so that you get as many different resources as possible. Both these are acceptable ways to start the game. One thing I would say to not do is this: unless you’re going for monopoly on something DO NOT BUILD YOU SETTLEMENTS CLOSE TOGETHER TO START. Doing this is going to severely inconvenience you later in the game. It makes getting Longest Road, or heading out to resources on the other side of the board much harder. Also, don’t be too harsh with trading, if you have something another player desperately needs, don’t ask too much for it, as they might get annoyed, and refuse to trade something you really need later in the game. It’s all a question of balance, getting as much as possible out of the trade without being unreasonable.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. One of the first European games to achieve real popularity outside of Europe – it’d sold over 15 million copies by 2009.
  2. There are over 50 Scenarios and Variants now available for this series of games.
  3. There are only four base expansions to this game, which are: Catan: Seafarers, Catan: Cities & Knights, Catan: Traders & Barbarians and Catan: Explorers & Pirates.
  4. Die Siedler von Catan is a novel, set on the island of Catan, written by Rebecca Gablé following the popularity of the initial release of the game.
  5. Settlers has been created and recreated online over the years – it used to be playable over MSN, for everyone out there who remembers when MSN was the going thing!
  6. A series of mini stuffed animals based on the resources produced in the game was released by Mayfair, call Catanimals.
  7. A version of the game to be played on Nintendo DS was announced in 2008, but has yet to be released.

To Conclude:

This game has a rating of 5 because of how versatile it is, and how easy it is to play, the rules have little to no ambiguity in them, the storage space in the box is well laid out and therefore not annoying, and it’s a really, really fun game to play, which takes between an hour and an hour and 40 minutes, more or less. Which I think is an almost perfect running time for a game, long enough to be interesting, without becoming boring! It’s a brilliant family game too, as the simplicity of the rules allows for younger players!

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