I’ve been emailing back and forth with Lindsay from Bytes of Memory (blog is closed down) about games and gameschooling for months now, and when I told her I was trying to figure out how to best write about this popular game, she came up with some good suggestions. I asked her to write a post for me about the original because I don’t have it.
I always liked board games growing up, including the logic, luck, and poker face required to be good at them. A few years ago, some friends of ours introduced us to the game Settler of Catan, and it quickly became my favorite game!
Hi! Future Ticia 2023 here, I’m combining my various Settlers of Catan posts into one UBER Settlers of Catan post, and also generally organizing this a bit better, so I’m editing it just a little bit.
Also, Settlers of Catan is THE homeschool game, it even made it onto Blimey Cow.
Settlers of Catan Background
In this game, you are an explorer who discovers an unsettled island (which is called Catan) and decides to settle it. You want to be the first to develop the island, which is full of different natural resources, including pastures full of sheep, forests full of wood, mountains full of ore, hills full of brick, and fields full of grain, and one desert. You are not the only person to find this island so you must build strategically to become the winner.
As part of play you set up the gameboard by placing the hexagons in a random order. Then you place a series of circles that have numbers on them facedown so you can’t see the numbers. Flip over the numbers and the board is all set to start playing.
Settlers of Catan board
As the land you are settling is an island, you will notice that water surrounds it. On the shores of the island, there are multiple trading ports. The hexagons that make up the inside playing surface of the board are placed in a different, random order each time the game is played. Each hexagon represents a different resource.
Setting up and playing the game
Once you’ve set up the board and flipped over the numbers, it’s time to figure out where everyone is going. Each player starts out with two settlements and two roads. Settlements are placed at the corners of the hexagons, and much be at least two lines away from another settlement or city.
On your turn you roll two dice, add up the result, and then hand out any resources on the numbers rolled.
In the board up above you can see the red player is on a corner with forest, clay, and wheat. If a 10 is rolled, red and yellow would both get wood from the forest, and yellow would get stone from the quarry.
Here is the tricky part, if you roll a 7, the most common number to roll with two dice, in theory, the robber comes. The player who rolled that number gets to choose where the robber will go, and then gets that type of resource from the player whose settlement is on that location AND a card. This can be a huge deal (I’ll address the thief in adaptations)
With your resources you can build roads, settlements, upgrade settlements to cities, or buy cards (cards can give you victory points, extra resources, or extra plays).
At the junctions next to the water, cities built there are able to trade resources to the bank at a better rate than you could on your own.
Tips for playing
This is a game of playing the odds. What number is more likely to be rolled according to statistics and are the junctions of resources at good locations?
This is where the strategy of the game comes in.
- You will want to have at least one port city, to increase your ability to trade.
- If everyone cooperates and places their settlements exactly 2 spaces apart, that means you can get 3 settlements on each hexagon, BUT there is a strategy where you deliberately place your settlements 3 spaces apart. This is aggressive and can backfire as it angers other players.
- We modify the thief, so you only lose the resource, and it doesn’t stay on the space forever. While statistically 7 is the most frequent number rolled, it is incredibly frustrating to have the thief placed on your square at the beginning of the game and then 7 is never rolled again.
- You have to pick the winning strategy that works for you. You can get points for the longest road, which can win you the game, but if multiple people are going for that win, it can be an easy way to use all your resources
The goal of the game is to get 10 victory points. You get victory points by building settlements, converting settlements into cities, having the longest road, having the largest army, and development cards.
The Nitty Gritty
The game takes about an hour to play. You need at least 3 people to play, but can have up to 6 players. The recommended age for the game is 10+. I would say this is probably pretty accurate age range. If a child played a lot of strategy games, then maybe a little younger. We play a lot with my youngest sister-in-law (currently 14) and she has been playing for a few years, but only recently started to give us a run for our money. In the picture below, she won her first game against my husband and I.
If you like strategy games you will love Catan! If you are looking for a game to start with a little more in depth strategy, then this is the game for you! Let me know if you give it a try!
Now let’s look at some Settlers of Catan variations
Settlers of Catan is wildly popular, there are several expansions that add in other rules, and there are several different variations.
Compact Settlers of Catan (used to be portable version)– I have an earlier version of this, and I have to admit I think this is even better than what I have because it is much more secure than the version I have. In this version, the game board is made of plastic, and the hexagons have numbers already on them. This does limit the variations of gameboards you can have.
Settlers of Catan dice game– this is like a Yahtzee game, but you have to score on your turn or you lose 5 points, this is a much shorter game, probably 30 minutes to play, or maybe even shorter. The one downside is the scoresheet is consumable.
Settlers of Catan Star Trek- there are several themed Catan games, this one adds in using special characters to the game, these seems to shuffle in and out of print, so if you see one you like grab it when you see it