How To Play Catan Board Game

Catan, also known as Settlers of Catan, is an incredibly popular board game that combines strategy, planning, and negotiation, and we here at ‘Learning Board Games’ appreciate the unique blend of fun and educational value it provides. Designed for three to four players, the game revolves around gathering and utilizing resources to establish settlements on the island of Catan.

Catan board game - catan rules
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How To Play Catan

Let’s quickly summarize what you can expect from a game of Catan:

  1. Resource collection: Players gather essential resources such as lumber, grain, brick, wool, and ore by building settlements near resource-generating tiles.
  2. Trading: Players negotiate and trade resources with others to optimize resource utilization.
  3. Building: Using resources, players build roads, settlements, and later upgrade their settlements to cities, earning victory points in the process.
  4. Winning: The aim is to be the first player to reach 10 victory points.
Infographic of Catan rules
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The Game Components

The Game Board

The game board in Catan is composed of 19 terrain hexes (tiles) and 9 water hexes that are arranged to form the island of Catan. These tiles are shuffled and placed in a specific pattern to create a new, diverse game board every time you play. The terrain hexes are marked with a numbered circle token, which indicates the dice roll needed to produce resources from that particular tile.

The Resource Cards

The resources in Catan are represented by 95 resource cards. These cards correspond to the five resources in the game – brick, grain, lumber, ore, and wool. The type of resources you can generate depends on the tiles your settlements or cities are adjacent to.

The Development Cards

Development Cards are a significant aspect of the game strategy. The game contains 25 development cards that come in three types: Knight Cards, Progress Cards, and Victory Point Cards.

Knight Cards, when played, are added to your army and allow you to move the Robber. Progress Cards give you a specific reward, like picking two resources of your choice. Meanwhile, Victory Point Cards stay in your hand and add to your Victory Point (VP) total.

The Building Costs Cards

Each player receives a “Building Costs” card at the start of the game. This reference card lists the required resources needed to build roads, settlements, cities, and to buy Development Cards.

The Special Cards

Catan also includes two special cards: “Longest Road” and “Largest Army”. These cards are awarded to the players who have built the longest road and the largest army, respectively, and each is worth 2 Victory Points.

Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the game components, the next step in mastering the Catan rules involves setting up the game. We will delve into this in the following section.

Setting Up the Game

Mastering the Catan rules starts with understanding how to properly set up the game. This process involves placing the terrain hexes, number tokens, the robber, and the initial settlements and roads.

Placing the Terrain Hexes

To begin, shuffle the 19 terrain hexes, which represent different resources in the game. Create a column of 5 hexes in a line. On each side of this line, create a line of 4 hexes, centered vertically. Finally, create a line of 3 hexes on both sides of the 4 hexes, again centered vertically. This formation forms the game’s central playing field.

Placing Terrain Hexes - catan rules
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Placing the Number Tokens

Next, assign numbers to the terrain hexes. Pick one of the land hex tiles on a corner and place the numbered token with an “a” on it in the hole in the tile. Following a spiral pattern going inward, place the “b” token on the next hex. If the next hex is the desert, skip it and move to the next one. Continue this process in alphabetical order until every land tile has a number on it.

Placing the Robber

The robber is a critical element in the Catan rules. Once all the number tokens are placed, place the robber (the meeple with a cane) on the desert hex. This will block resource production from this hex until the robber is moved.

Placing the Robber - catan rules
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Placing the Initial Settlements and Roads

Each player then selects a color and takes their 5 settlements, 4 cities, and 15 roads. The first player (determined by a roll of the dice) chooses an intersection of 3 tiles to place one of their settlements. Along one of the edges leading away from this spot, the player places a road tile. The second player, and subsequent players, do the same, ensuring that their settlement is at least 2 edges away from any existing settlement.

After all players have placed their first settlement and road, the last player places their second settlement and another road, again ensuring it is 2 edges away from any existing settlement. This player then takes the resources from the three tiles their settlement is touching, beginning the process of resource collection.

Initial Settlements and Roads - catan rules
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By setting up the game correctly, you lay the groundwork for a successful game. In our next section, we’ll dive into the three phases of a turn and how to play the game according to the Catan rules.

Playing the Catan Game

The game progresses in turns, with each player going through three sequential phases: Resource Production, Trading Resources, and Building and Development.

The Three Phases of a Turn

Resource Production

The first thing you’ll do on your turn is produce resources. This is done by rolling two dice. If any player has a settlement adjacent to a tile marked with a numbered circle token that matches the total dice roll, they receive one resource card corresponding to the tile’s resource type. If you’re lucky enough to have two settlements next to the rolled tile, you’ll get two cards of the relevant resource.

However, if you roll a seven, there’s a twist. No resources are produced. Instead, you get to move the Robber to a new hex of your choice. This pesky robber stops all adjacent settlements or cities from generating any resources until another player moves it.

Trading Resources

The second phase is all about negotiation. You can trade your resources with other players. Maybe someone’s willing to take your Sheep in exchange for some Ore? Or you can choose to trade four of any one resource for a single card of another from the bank. Only you can negotiate with others during your turn. They’ll have to wait for their turn to strike deals.

Building and Development

Finally, it’s time to build. You can use the resources you’ve gathered to construct on the board. By paying the required resources, you can build roads, settlements, cities, and even buy Development Cards. You can build as many items as you like on a turn, provided you have the resources.

The Role of the Dice

The dice in Catan play a crucial role in determining resource production. The number you roll on your turn influences which resources are produced. The dice also control the movement of the Robber, adding an element of chance and unpredictability to the game.

The Special Role of the Number 7 and the Robber

The number seven has a special significance in Catan rules. When a player rolls a seven, the Robber comes into play. The Robber is moved to a new hex, stopping any resource production from the adjacent settlements or cities. This adds a strategic element to the game, as players can use the Robber to impede other players’ progress.

Building in Catan

In Catan, your progress and potential to win largely depend on your ability to build and develop your territories. Let’s explore how to build various structures in the game. Each structure you build costs resources, so manage your resources wisely.

Building Roads

Roads are fundamental to expanding your reach across the board. They connect settlements and cities and open up new areas for potential development. Each road costs 1 brick and 1 lumber. You can only build a road adjacent to one of your existing settlements or cities, or along one of your existing roads. Keep in mind that having the longest continuous road can earn you extra victory points!

Building Settlements

Settlements are the primary building blocks of your civilization in Catan. They generate resources and contribute to your victory points. Each settlement you build costs 1 brick, 1 lumber, 1 wool, and 1 grain. Settlements must be built on an open intersection along your road, adhering to the ‘distance rule’ which stipulates that settlements must be at least 2 edges away from any existing settlement or city.

Building Cities

Cities are upgraded settlements. They cost 2 grain and 3 ore to build, and you can only build a city by upgrading an existing settlement. Cities are vital to your victory strategy as they are worth 2 victory points and yield double the resources of settlements.

Buying Development Cards

Development Cards offer special abilities that can give you an edge in the game. They cost 1 wool, 1 grain, and 1 ore. You can use them to gain resources, build roads, or move the robber. Some Development Cards even grant you extra victory points.

You can build as many items and buy as many cards as your resources allow, as long as they are available in the supply. Each player has a supply of 15 roads, 5 settlements, and 4 cities. Be strategic about how and when you choose to build, keeping in mind your long-term game plan.

Earning Victory Points

Victory points are the key to winning in Catan. They are earned through various means, and the first player to accumulate 10 victory points wins the game. Let’s delve deeper into how you can earn these crucial points.

Victory Points from Settlements and Cities

Each settlement you build is worth 1 victory point, while cities are worth 2 victory points each. This is a fundamental rule of the Catan rules. It’s important to strategize your building process to maximize the number of settlements and cities you own, thus increasing your victory points.

You need specific resources to build settlements and cities: a settlement requires one brick, one lumber, one wool, and one grain, while upgrading a settlement to a city requires two grains and three ores. Your settlements and cities also generate resources when the adjacent hexes’ numbers are rolled, providing a steady stream of resources to further your building efforts.

Victory Points from Special Cards

Special cards can also contribute to your victory point tally. These are the development cards, which cost one sheep, one ore, and one wheat to purchase. They encompass three types: knights, progress cards, and victory points cards.

Victory point cards are particularly valuable as they directly contribute to your victory point count and remain hidden until you win the game or when it ends. These cards can be played on the same turn they are purchased, unlike other development cards which can only be played on subsequent turns.

Victory Points from Achievements

Achievements are another avenue to earn victory points in Catan. The two achievements in the game are the “Longest Road” and the “Largest Army”. The player with the longest continuous road of at least five segments earns the “Longest Road” card, worth 2 victory points. Similarly, the “Largest Army” card, also worth 2 victory points, goes to the first player who plays three knight cards.

These achievements can change hands throughout the game. If another player builds a longer road or plays more knight cards, they claim the respective card and the 2 victory points that come with it. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep developing your road and army to either claim these cards or prevent others from taking them.

Variations and Expansions of Catan

Catan is a versatile game that caters to different player counts and offers numerous expansions for added complexity and fun. The base game is designed for three to four players, but with some modifications, it can also be enjoyed as a two-player game. Additionally, several expansions introduce new elements and game mechanics to keep things exciting for seasoned players.

Catan game board - catan rules
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In conclusion, understanding how to earn victory points is paramount to mastering the Settlers Of Catan Gameplay. By building settlements and cities, purchasing development cards, and striving for achievements, you can accumulate victory points and aim for victory. Stick with us at Learning Board Games for more guides and tips to enhance your gaming experience. If you’re interested in exploring more games, check out our guides on other popular board games like Monopoly, Uno, and Triominos.

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