Settlers of Catan is the strategic resource management bar for excellence. Developed in Germany in 1995, over 18 million copies have been sold. This game makes the list of essential games for any collection and it does for good reason. Simple to learn but impossible to master, games are going to need 3 or 4 players and take around 45 minutes. This is how to play Settlers of Catan.
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WHAT IS SETTLERS OF CATAN?
You are settlers in the fertile land of Catan and you need to build yourself a civilization. The game board has 19 randomly placed tiles the represent one of 5 resources – Red Clay, Silver Ore, Yellow Grain, Light Green Sheep and Dark Green Wood. Then each tile gets a number 2 – 12 that is going to correspond to the roll of two dice each turn.
You are going to build your settlements strategically across multiple resources so you can earn more resources. Then in turn building more settlements and bigger cities. Things get you points and the first person to ten points wins.
HOW TO PLAY SETTLERS OF CATAN – STEP BY STEP
Time needed: 1 hour.
This is a step by step guide for how to play Settlers of Catan the popular euro-strategy board game. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.
- SETUP | Put Out Board Frame
Everything is constructed new each time to make for a completely different game every time. First is the outer frame. Six long water pieces come together to form a hexagon that will hold all the game tiles. The placement is important because these have all the dock spaces which we will get into later. You know a piece will connect because they share a number, there are two of each number. A six male end will go into a six female end, a five into a five and so on and so forth.
- SETUP | Add in Resource Tiles and Robber
Once you have the frame done, you are going to randomly fill the middle with the resource hex tiles. There are 19 tiles total, 18 are the mix of the resources (3x Clay, 3x Ore, 4x Grain, 4x sheet, 4x forest) and 1 is the desert which is a dead tile. Add the silver robber token to the desert to start, we will get into that soon. The cards here show the different resources these correspond to.
- SETUP | Add in Resource Numbers
The final part of the setup is adding random number tiles to the random resource hex tiles you just put down. This is how you actually get the resources. People take turns but at the beginning of each, two dice are thrown and if that number is the same as one of these number tiles, any player touching it will get one of those resources. Numbers are 2 – 12 the possible numbers you can get with two dice. There are two of every number except 7 (which is absent for reasons we will talk about later) and the 2 and 12. There are only 1 each of the last two because they are really bad numbers because the probability of rolling either number is low. Randomly put one number tile on every hex except for the desert.
- SETUP | Take Pieces and Put Out Card
There are four colors (red, blue, orange, white), each player needs to choose theirs. Give that player their sack of pieces which include roads, settlements and cities. Next put out the five resource cards, put them in stacks around the board for easy access. After that is the development cards, a special wild card to buy during game. Shuffle these and make one face down stack. Put out the two bonus cards (longest road, largest army) Finally, if players wish, they can grab their own reference car which shows what things cost.
- INITIAL PLACEMENT | Roll for Placement Order
To start, everyone gets to put down two settlements and two roads to kick off their civilization. This takes place over two rounds of a settlement and road each. Choosing is done in the style of a fantasy football draft or what people affectionately call “The Wheel”. The picking is called the wheel because whoever goes first in the first round, goes last in the second round. If there are three players it goes Player 1, Player 2, Player 3, Player 3, Player 2 and finally Player 1 again. Each player rolls a dice, whoever gets the highest number gets to choose the order. Sometimes it makes sense to go first, sometimes it makes sense to go last.
- INITIAL PLACEMENT | Understanding Tiles and Settlements
Take a look at the board you setup. Inside the board, you can see that all these resource tiles you put down intersect with one another in groups of three (that what happens with hex squares). Those intersections are where you are going to place your settlements. This not only gets you victory points, but it now generates the resources that it is touching. A resource is generated when the number that sits on top of it is rolled during any player’s opening roll. Since it takes different resources to buy things, you want a mix of the five resources and you want good numbers to generate those resources. A good number is one that is as close to the center (7) as possible because you have the best mathematical odds of rolling it.
- INITIAL PLACEMENT | Understanding Rules, Roads and Expanding
You are probably thinking about what a road does right about now. These do not get you points or resources, but they do the important task of letting you expand your empire. To build a settlement, it HAS to be at least two spots away, it cannot be within one hex spot, and you have to connect your settlements to one another. The way you do this is roads. Speaking of expanding, the other thing you need to do to win is to build cities. These give you two resources and victory points instead of one. These aren’t placed like settlements, these can only be upgraded from an existing settlement. You can place on the water as well, you are by less resources but have ports (see below). Now would be a good time to scroll down and check out some of the game nuances in Key Information below.
- INITIAL PLACEMENT | Take Starting Resources
Wherever you put your second settlement, you get one resource for each resource space it touches. Those 0 – 3 cards are your starting resources. Take a card from the resource cards for each.
- GAMEPLAY | Dice Roll and Resource Generate Phase
Once you have made the initial placement the main gameplay can begin. The oldest player goes first. Each turn starts with a dice roll from the active player. Every player collects any resources their settlements or cities are touching based on that number. If a seven is rolled that instead triggers the robber (see Robber below).
- GAMEPLAY | Player Action Phase
After the initial global role that everyone benefits from, the next phase is all about the active player. During this time that player can build, trade or play a development card. See the Key Information section below for very specific breakdowns of each of these actions.
- GAMEPLAY | Trigger a Bonus Card
There are two bonus cards that each give +2 victory points, largest army and longest road (see Bonus Achievements below). These just happen if you meet the condition, then it is your bonus until it is taken from you. There are no ties, once you have it, someone has to beat you to take it. For example, you get to a segment of five roads and get the bonus, that is yours until someone hits six, unless you get to six, then they have to get to seven, and so on.
- GAMEPLAY | Pass the Dice
When they have decided they do not have any more actions, that player passes the dice to the player to the left to start a new turn. The process is started all over again with the new player.
- WINNING | Victory Point Victory
A game is over the moment someone has collected at least 10 victory points. As your building cards show, you get victory points by having settlements and cities. You also, however, can get victory points from development cards or having one of the bonus cards (longest road and/or largest army).
The whole game is collecting resources to build things to then get even more resources to then build even better stuff. Each player gets a reference card that tells you what you can build. There are three things that you can build – (1) Settlement (2) City (3) Road.
SETTLEMENT – This is your basic town structure. You can place this on any corner of a hex to sit between one, two or three tiles. It has to be connected to a road and it cannot be within one space of any other city. It gives you one victory point for each one you have. These are key because if it is touching a resource tile and the dice hit that tile’s number, the player with the settlement gets one of that resource.
ROAD – This helps you grow your empire so you can build more settlements. The road doesn’t give you any points and help gt resources, it is only a necessary evil to give yourself space to build more. When you have a city, you can’t build another one unless you are two spaces away so you need to build two roads from a city to have a spot where you can build again.
CITY – You don’t just build a city, you pay the building cost to upgrade an existing settlement into a city. This is important because instead of getting one victory point and one resource per roll, you now get two of each.
You may have noticed one other item on the build reference card that you could spend your resources on. For one sheep, one grain and one ore you can buy a development card. These are like wild cards, they will have an effect that can help you in the game. There are things like road-building which lets you put down two roads, monopoly which lets take all of one resource from everyone, victory point cards or year of plenty which let you get two resources of your choice any two resources.
The main card by far, however, is the Knight card. The Knight lets you move the robber which we will get into next. You can hold as many of these in your hand as you want, people can’t take them or make you get rid of them. You can only use one per turn and you can’t use it the turn you get it.
One wrench in the game is the Robber, the reason why there is no number “7” on the board. Whenever a seven is rolled, whoever’s turn it is gets to move the robber. They have to take it off its current space and move it somewhere else to stay there until it is moved again. The robber blocks the space, if that number rolls, the players touching the space doesn’t get the resource.
When a robber is placed on a new space, the person putting it there gets to take a resource card at random from one of the players with a civilization touching that space. This only works if they have at least one, if they don’t you can still move the robber to a space you just don’t get the card.
The final thing the robber does is devastate the hand of anyone who has over seven resource cards. There is no limit to your hand size, but if you do run into the unfortunate situation of being over when a robber tolls, you have to discard half your hand (rounded down). So if you have nine cards in hand, you have to discard four. You get to choose these cards.
The Knight development card replicates you rolling a seven and has all the same effects with the exception of making people discard if they are over seven cards.
TRADING & PORTS
Trading is a huge part of the game. You can trade any of your resources for any resources of one of your opponents as long as you both agree. It doesn’t have to be one for one, you could do two or three for one, or two for two. It comes down to who is more desperate and who is the better negotiator. You can only initiate a trade on your turn.
You can also trade with the bank. The rules are different though. On your turn, you can trade any four of the same resource, for one of any other resource. This 4:1 trade can be slightly changed by controlling a port.
You control a port by having a settlement or city on one of the outer port symbols. You have two options, it is either a general port or a resource specific one. Marked with a “?” the general spaces let you change any 3 resources for anyone instead of 4. The resource-specific one lets you trade 2 of that resource for any one other resource. The ports are accessed by two different spaces each, you only need one of them.
There are two very important bonus achievements that really help with victory points and only one player can claim. They can change hands. Say someone gets 5 roads to earn the longest road, well if someone beats them and gets 6 they take it over until someone else gets 7.
LONGEST ROAD – Whoever has the longest running road segment, as long as it is at least five, gets a bonus two victory points. It has to be continuous and all in one line, they can’t split off and go in multiple different directions.
LARGEST ARMY – Whoever plays the most knight development cards, as long as it is at least three, gets a bonus two victory points.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE
The Knight card is the only thing that can be played before the initial dice role.
There are several expansions to Settlers of Catan. The main one is just a board extension that lets you play with 5 – 6 players instead of 3 – 4 but there are also things with fish, camels and all sorts of interesting twists.
I hope now you can say you have mastered How To Play Settlers of Catan Board Game. This game is addicting and spreads fast. Show three people and next thing you know they will be showing three of their friends. People really love this one.