Settlers of Catan is a popular board game. An online version is available at games.asobrain.com, and that is played by a group of Board 8ers once in a while.
Paratroopa wrote a guide on how to play Catan. (see below)
How to Play Settlers of Catan: A quick guide written by Paratroopa1 Edit
This is a quick and easy tutorial for Settlers of Catan, a game I only recently discovered, and it has now quickly become my favorite board game. The game mechanics are really rather simple, but the strategy is like nothing else I've ever seen in a board game. There's a perfect balance of luck and skill involved, and the game is quite literally different every time you play it. The game mechanics may seem complex and overwhelming at first, but they're much simpler than they seem, and by reading my tutorial and playing a couple games you should be almost fully integrated in no time.
I probably could've pulled some tutorial somewhere from the internet, but I thought it'd be a lot more awesome to write it myself.
Before I begin, I'd like to say that even if you don't understand the rules at all, give it a play anyway. It's surprisingly easy to figure out, and it's a lot easier to understand from practice than from reading. But for those of you who don't want to start playing the game blind, here's my tutorial.
games.asobrain.com is quite easily the best site I know of to play Settlers of Catan, and it's where you'll find any Board 8ers playing. The name of the game on this site is actually "Xplorers", probably to avoid lawsuits or something, but the game is virtually identical to the real thing. Registration is required to play, but it's literally the fastest, most painless registration I've ever experienced. E-mail activation isn't even required. Once you've made an account, go to the Non-Ranking Room for Xplorers, and from there creating and joining a game should be self-explanatory. To talk during a game, just start typing.
Note that the game is Java, so if your computer/browser is notorious for having problems with Java... sucks to be you. The site itself can be somewhat unstable at times, and timing out or locking up happens, but on the bright side, it's not even remotely as glitchy as games.atari.com.
Now for the actual game part!
Playing Settlers of Catan Edit
Table of Contents
- Settlement Placement and Resource Gathering - Roads and Building New Settlements - Cities - Development Cards - The Robber - Trading - The Bank and Ports - Ships, Sea Travel, and the Pirate - Gold and Hidden Spaces - Victory Points - List of Development Cards - General Tactics - Advanced Tips - A Brief Overview of Cities & Knights
Settlement Placement and Resource GatheringEdit
This is an example game board. The main object of the game is to build settlements (the square objects on the map) on the board, collect resource cards from these settlements to expand and build more settlements, and eventually collect enough points to win the game.
To start, players roll the dice to see who goes first, then each player takes turns placing a settlement until everyone has two on the board. A settlement may be placed on any corner of a hexagon on the map - the only rule is that all settlements must be placed at least two edges of a hexagon away from each other, whether they're yours or someone else's.
Once everyone has placed two settlements (as well as two roads - more on that later), the game begins. Each player takes turns rolling the dice and taking any actions, such as building or trading. When the dice is rolled, every player collects resource cards according to the number rolled. If any one of your settlements is touching a hexagon that shows the number rolled, then you collect that resource. There are five types of resources.
Brick (red) Wood (dark green) Wheat (yellow) Sheep (light green) Ore (blue)
All of these resources are used to buy different things. By collecting these resources, you can build more settlements to collect even more resources, upgrade your settlements to cities, and buy cards with special effects. By doing any of these things, you can gain Victory Points, which is your score. In a standard game, the first to 10 Victory Points is the winner. (Victory Points will henceforth be known as VP.)
Roads and Building New SettlementsEdit
One of the most important things you'll want to do as the game progresses is build more settlements. However, to build new settlements, you will need to build roads. Any new settlements you build must be connected to another settlement by a road. Each piece of road costs 1 brick and 1 wood. Roads can be built on any edge of land on the map that is connected to your settlements and roads; they may not overlap other player's roads or go through their settlements. The same rules of building settlements two spaces away from others still applies, so you'll need to build at least two roads before you can build a new settlement. Settlements cost 1 brick, 1 wood, 1 wheat, and 1 sheep to build, and each one (including the two you start with) is worth 1 VP.
Note that you may only build a maximum of 15 roads in a game. You may only build 5 settlements, as well, but you can build more if you build cities (see below).
You can also upgrade your settlements cities, which doubles their resource output, giving you two resources instead of one, as well as giving you 1 more VP. Cities require 3 ore and 2 wheat to build, and are placed over any of your settlements.
A maximum of 4 cities may be built in a game. Note that when you build a city, you get the settlement back. So for instance, if you have 5 settlements (the max), and upgrade one to a city, you may now build one more new settlement.
For 1 wheat, 1 sheep, and 1 ore, you may buy a development card. These cards have various effects. Many cards give +1 VP, while others have special actions. In Xplorers, when you buy a development card, you may not play it on that turn - additionally, you may only play one development card per turn. I'll give a full list of Development Cards later. All development cards may only be used once.
You may notice that there are no 7 spaces on the board. That's because 7 is a special number. When rolled, the player who rolled the dice gets to move the robber, represented by a black dot on the board. The robber is placed on any hexagon on the board. When the player moves the robber to a hexagon, they get to take one card at random from any player with a settlement there. Also, as long as the robber stays on that hexagon, no resources may be collected from that hexagon until he is moved away. In addition, when a 7 is rolled, any player holding more than 7 cards must choose half of them to discard, so be careful about hoarding too many resources.
Like in Monopoly, trading is one of the most crucial elements to Settlers of Catan, and it's possible but extremely unlikely to win without it. When it's your turn, you may offer trades by clicking on the "trade" button in the lower right hand corner of the screen. The trade window is pretty intuitive - simply make your offer and demand, and other players may accept, decline, or make counter-offers, and then you choose who you want to finalize a trade with (if anyone).
Another way to trade is simply to make a demand with no offer, and let the other players make counter-offers. This is useful if you have several resources to trade and don't know what other people want.
Note that if you are offered a trade, and accept, the trader must still finalize the trade, so even if you click accept first they can choose to trade with someone else or decline the trade altogether.
The Bank and PortsEdit
During your turn, you may also trade any 4 of one resource to the bank for a resource of your choice. This may seem like a steep price, but if you have a surplus of one resource and desperately need another, this can be crucial. You can trade to the bank at better rates by occupying a port on the map. Ports are the circles in the water that have ?s or resource icons in them, and you can own one by building a settlement on the shore that is connected to a port. The ports with ? on them allow you to trade any 3 of one resource to the bank for a resource of your choice instead of 4, while the ports with resource icons on them allow you to trade any 2 of that particular resource for a resource of your choice.
Ships, Sea Travel, and the PirateEdit
Note: This is not applicable to land-only maps. I recommend land-only maps for beginners, so ignore this section until you play an island map.
Some maps are made up of seperate landmasses and islands, and you must travel across the sea. To do this, you must build ships. Ships cost 1 wood and 1 sheep, and work exactly like a road. However, there is one rule you must keep in mind - ships may only be built off of settlements and other ships, NOT roads, and vice versa. A boat and road cannot connect. Therefore, to build out to sea, you must have a settlement placed at the edge of a landmass, and if you reach a new landmass and want to build roads, you must again build a settlement at the shore. Notice that both roads and ships can be placed along the edge of a landmass (though, again, no road-ship connections).
The first settlement you build on a new landmass is worth 1 bonus VP in addition to the VP the settlement already gives, as extra incentive to build out to sea.
When placing your first two settlements in the game, if you build one on the shore, you may choose to build a boat instead of a road. You'll be prompted for this.
One more thing to talk about with island maps - the pirate. Instead of moving the robber, you may also choose instead to move the pirate on a sea map. You can place him on any water tile, and as long as the pirate is there, nobody may build ships along the edges of the hexagon he inhabits. When the pirate is moved, ships may be built freely on that space again. Remember that although the rules for moving the robber and pirate are the same, they operate seperately, you may only move one at a time.
Gold and Hidden SpacesEdit
There are two special kinds of spaces that may appear on a map, though they do not appear on all maps.
Gold is represented by a river with pieces of gold in it, and is a very valuable commodity. It works exactly like a resource, except when you roll its number, you get to choose what resource you want from it. If you get multiple gold resources, you may choose different types of resource, you do not need to choose the same one. Gold spaces are usually rare, and either have poor numbers, or are in hard to reach places, such as islands.
Hidden spaces are just normal spaces whose resource value are hidden from view. They appear as plain white hexagons. Hidden spaces are uncovered when anyone builds a road towards one, revealing their resource and dice number to all players. The person who uncovers the space receives one of the resource uncovered (if it's gold, you get to choose). Note that the first settlements placed may not be placed on these hidden spaces.
As mentioned, Victory Points are your score, and you need a certain number to win the game. In a standard Settlers of Catan game, this number is usually 10, though it can be 13 or 15 depending on the settings of the game. Once you have the required number of VP, you must click the "Claim Victory" button in the bottom right to win.
Here is a list of all the ways that you may obtain Victory Points in a basic Settlers of Catan game:
Settlements = 1 VP each Cities = 2 VP each Settlement on new landmass = 1 bonus VP +1 VP cards = 1 VP Longest Road = 2 VP. These 2 VP are given to the player who has the longest straight connected road. It must be at least 5 roads long to qualify. Ships also count towards the longest road, even when combined with a stretch of road - but it must be a legitimate connection with a settlement between the roads and ships, direct ship-road connections do not count. These 2 bonus VP are given immediately, but are lost to another player when they build a new road/ship and their record beats yours. Largest Army = 2 VP. These 2 VP are given to the player who has played the most "Soldier" development cards. It must be at least 3 soldiers to qualify. Like the longest road, this bonus is given immediately but lost to another player if they beat your record.
List of Development CardsEdit
Here, I will list every Development Card that is in a basic Settlers of Catan game. I'm going off memory, so I apologize if I forget any.
Soldier - The most basic and common development card. This card allows you to immediately move the robber or pirate. Soldiers also count towards the "Largest Army" bonus (see "Victory Points").
Road Building - This card allows you to build two roads or ships immediately, free of charge.
Year of Plenty - This card allows you to take two resources of your choice from the bank.
Monopoly - This card allows you to choose a resource and steal every card of that resource that your opponents have.
Market/Parlement/University/Chapel/Library - Gives you a permanent +1 to VP.
I think that learning the strategy behind this game is something best gotten through experience, but I'd like to share a few strategy tips with beginners to get you on the right track.
- Remember, all dice numbers are not created equal. The closer a number is to 7, the more valuable it is - therefore, a 6 is far, far more valuable than a 12. 6s and 8s should be your top priority as they yield the most resources, 5s and 9s are solid numbers and good for steady resources, 4s and 10s are okay but a bit more unreliable, 3s and 11s are weak and should only be targetted as a last resort or a mere bonus, and 2s and 12s are very near useless. Here are the odds of each dice number being thrown:
7 (Robber): 17% 6 and 8: 14% 5 and 9: 11% 4 and 10: 8% 3 and 11: 6% 2 and 12: 3%
- For your first settlement placement, for beginners, I recommend making getting a good brick and wood source a top priority. One 5, 6, 8, or 9 would do great, or at least try to get a 3, 4, 10, or 11 as a last resort. Brick and wood are probably the most important resources in the early game, since they are necessary for building roads, as well as settlements. Wheat is also a very good investment since it is used for many things. Don't ignore sheep and ore, either, but I recommend - To go against what I said, though, don't underestimate the strategy of early wheat/sheep/ore resources. It's also a common strategy to get lots of these early on to build cities as soon as possible and buy lots of cards, and this can be a very dangerous strategy. Cities allow for early surpluses in resources, and cards can control the flow of the game, and can nearly win the game by themselves. So, no matter what resources you start with, you can probably make a viable strategy from them.
- When building new settlements, go for resources you don't have an income of, or a very small income of. In general, you're going to want to have a nice spread of all five resources - if you can get that, then you definitely have a chance of winning. Getting ports is also recommended, even if the space provides very little resources otherwise.
- Be aware of the fact that your opponents' settlements and roads can block your development, and they may even try to do so intentionally. Try not to let yourself get boxed in, or waste your efforts building roads that will go nowhere. If there's a mad dash for a desirable spot, you may want to focus all your efforts to getting it first, or you may want to avoid it entirely.
A Brief Overview of Cities & KnightsEdit
Cities & Knights is the expansion to Settlers of Catan, and adds a lot of new elements to the game. You may build knights, which have many effects, including chasing the robber off, and fighting the barbarians, who land on Catan after about 14 turns and attack, destroying cities if the players do not have enough knights. There are also tons of new development cards (like 20+ new ones), technology that you may develop with commodity cards for extra bonuses, and other new buildings like city walls and metropolises. I have only played C&K once or twice, so I do not know the rules very well, and I don't recommend that beginners start playing it, however I'd really like to learn how to play it, and when I do, maybe I'll write a more thorough tutorial for it.
That's all! I'm really hoping that this guide will help some people learn how to play the game, and convince people to give it a try. Seriously, even if you don't understand the rules, I still urge you to give it a try - the game is much simpler in practice than it seems. I was playing just fine on my second game and won my third game, and I started playing the first game with no idea of the rules whatsoever, so it can be learned very quickly.
I'm almost always available for a game, but beware. I teach newbies how to play Settlers of Catan the hard way. :)
tl;dr Version of this GuideEdit
Build settlements! Get resources! Build roads! Build more settlements! Build cities! Don't do drugs! Move 'zig! Be a bad enough dude to rescue the president!