catan board game box artwork

How to play Catan

The Settlers of Catan, now officially known as just “Catan,” stands as a contemporary classic in the realm of board games. Created by Klaus Teuber, this game of trade and expansion has earned its reputation as one of the most influential and significant games ever. It played a pivotal role in ushering in a golden era of modern tabletop gaming and has sold over 20 million copies in the 25-plus years since its initial release. Notably, Catan has garnered a diverse fanbase, including celebrities like Kristen Bell from “Frozen” and pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to play Catan:

  1. Player Count, Game Length, and Overview: Discover the number of players suitable for Catan and the expected duration of a game.
  2. Setup: Prepare the game board as you get ready to embark on your Catan adventure.
  3. Gameplay Rules: Delve into the basics of playing Catan, covering everything from trading and construction to dice rolling and the infamous robber.
  4. Scoring and End of the Game: After collecting resources, constructing settlements and gathering victory points, it’s time to determine the winner.

Despite the numerous expansions and spin-offs released for Catan over the years, including a big-screen adaptation in the works, many individuals have yet to experience this timeless game. If you’re a newcomer or just need a refresher on the fundamental rules, continue reading as we guide you through the world of Catan.

catan board game setup layout

Player Count, Game Length, and Overview

Catan accommodates two to four players, and the game typically lasts approximately one hour. The objective is to compete for resources and build the most prosperous settlements on the fictional island of Catan.

Setup

The Catan game board is modular, allowing for various configurations as you become more familiar with the game. However, for your first game, a recommended setup is available in the rulebook. Follow these basic steps:

  • Assemble the frame by connecting the blue edges of the board.
  • Arrange the land hex tiles following the beginner formation in the rulebook or shuffle them face-down for a variable setup.
  • Place the numbered circle markers either according to the beginner setup or alphabetically, starting at a corner and moving counter-clockwise towards the center of the board.
  • The robber pawn begins in the desert.

Each player chooses a color and receives five settlements, four cities, and 15 roads of that color, placing them in front of them. Two settlements and two roads are initially placed on the board. The recommended beginner setup should be followed, or experienced players can take turns placing a settlement and an adjacent road in reverse order.

Players receive a building cost card, which outlines the required resources for constructing settlements, roads, cities, and purchasing development cards. Place the Longest Road and Largest Army cards, along with the two dice, beside the game board. Organize resources into piles by type: sheep, wood, brick, ore, and wheat. In the beginner setup, players obtain resources from the land surrounding the settlement marked by the white star in the rulebook.

Gameplay Rules

A turn in Catan consists of three phases:

  1. Resource Production: Before anything else, roll the two dice. The result applies to all players and determines which resources can be collected based on the number rolled and the locations of their settlements. For example, if a player’s settlement is on a hex with a 9 marker for sheep production and a 9 is rolled, they receive a sheep. Players must keep track of their settlements and their resource yields for each roll.

    Catan incorporates an element of probability since resource availability depends on the dice rolls. Notably, a roll of 7 is the most common and triggers special rules.

    settlers of catan board game gameplay

  2. Trading: Trading in Catan occurs in two forms: domestic and maritime. Domestic trading allows players to negotiate with each other, announcing what they want and what they’re willing to offer. Maritime trading, on the other hand, enables individual players to trade four of one resource for one of another. Players with settlements or cities on harbors enjoy trading advantages, such as 3:1 or even 2:1 exchange rates for specific resources.
  3. Building: The final phase of a player’s turn involves construction. Players can build various structures as long as they have the necessary resources and building materials. Here’s what can be built:
    • Roads: Constructing roads requires one brick and one wood. Roads expand your network, facilitating the construction of settlements and resource collection. The player with the longest continuous road, at least five sections in length, earns the Longest Road card, which is worth two victory points. However, this card can be taken by another player with a longer road.
    • Settlements: Building settlements necessitates one brick, one wood, one sheep, and one wheat. Settlements are pivotal as they provide one victory point each. To place a settlement, it must be connected to your existing network of roads, and there should be a minimum of two spaces between settlements, including your own.
    • Cities: Upgrading to a city requires three ore, two wheat, and an existing settlement. Cities provide double the resources and are worth two victory points each.

      Development Cards: Purchasing development cards is also part of the building phase and requires one sheep, one ore, and one wheat. Development cards are drawn blindly but offer various benefits, including knights, progress cards, and victory point cards. Knights can lead to the Largest Army bonus, similar to the Longest Road card, while progress cards grant resources or special abilities. Victory point cards remain hidden until a player accumulates enough victory points to win the game, and they can be played on the same turn they are acquired.

Scoring and End of the Game

The goal in Catan is straightforward: the first player to accumulate 10 victory points during their turn emerges as the winner. Keep track of victory points, including those from buildings and bonuses like Longest Road and Largest Army, to determine the victor.

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