The Settlers of Catan (Die Siedler von Catan) is a turn-based strategy board game developed by Klaus Teuber. Three or four players (up to six with the six-player expansion) develop settlements, cities, and roads on a hex-based board. Settlers won the 1995 "Spiel des Jahres" (Game of the Year) award, and the 1996 Origins Award for best board game.

Board layout

The Settlers board consists of a number of terrain hexes surrounded by water. There are seven types of terrain:

Each terrain hex other than desert has a numbered marker on it, which determines when it produces resources. The desert, in addition to providing a hex more or less useless to the players, marks the starting location of the robber (see below).

Around the outside of the terrain are a number of port hexes. These hexes are water hexes with the notation '2:1' and a resource icon, or '3:1' and a question mark. Ports allow more efficient maritime trade; see below.

Starting the game

Players begin the game by placing two settlements and two roads. The first player places a settlement at a hex corner (intersection), and a road at an edge adjacent to the settlement. Other players do the same in clockwise order, until reaching the last player. This player places two settlements and a road adjacent to each; then the other players proceed counterclockwise, placing one more settlement and road. In the initial placement as well as the later games, settlements must have at least one intersection between them.

When a player places eir second settlement, e receives one resource for each hex that settlement borders. For example, if e places eir second settlement at the corner of a hill hex, a forest hex, and another hill hex, e will receive two brick cards and one lumber card.

Turn sequence

Each player's turn consists of three steps: resource production, trading, and building.

Resource production

In the resource production step, the current player rolls two six-sided dice. If the total rolled is not seven, each hex on the board marked with the number rolled produces resources. If a player owns a settlement located on a corner of that hex e receives one resource card of the type produced by that hex. If a player has a city there instead, e gets two of that resource. If two players both have settlements around a producing hex, each gets one of the resource produced; if a player has two settlements around the hex, e gets two of the resource.

If a player rolls a seven, the robber attacks. Each player with more than seven cards in eir hand discards half of those cards, rounded down. Then the current player moves the robber to a hex of eir choice. If the robber is on a hex, that hex will not produce resources until the robber is moved again. If there are any settlements bordering the robber's new hex, the current player takes a single resource card from the owner of one of those settlements.


Now the current player can trade resources. E can trade with other players, in which case it is up to the players involved to determine the conditions of the trade; or e can perform ``maritime trade'' with the bank. Without a port, maritime trade is very inefficient: the player trades four of any single resource, and in exchange receives one resource of eir choice.

If the player has a settlement or city bordering a port hex, the situation is slightly better. With a 3:1 port, the player can trade three of any single resource for one resource of eir choice. 2:1 ports are marked with a resource icon; with a 2:1 port, the player can trade two of the pictured resource for one of any resource.

Note that a player can trade only if it is eir turn, or if e is trading with the current player.


Players can expend resources to build things:

A road is placed on the edge between two hexes. Roads can only be built adjacent to a settlement, city, or another road.

Settlements can only be build adjacent to a road; furthermore, settlements must have at least one intersection (vertex) between them.

Cities are upgrades for settlements. By paying the city development cost, the player upgrades a single settlement of eir choice to a city. Cities are just like settlements, except they receive double resource production, and they are worth an extra victory point.

Development cards do various things. Some are worth victory points, some allow the player extra resources, and the Soldier allows the player to move the robber. Development cards can be used only by the current player. Other than the victory point cards, a player can play only one development card a turn. However, they can be played at any point in the turn---even before dice are rolled. In most cases, development cards are returned to the deck when used. The exception is the Soldier, which the player keeps in an attempt to win Largest Army.

Winning the game

A player's "score" in Settlers is measured by victory points. The first player to reach a certain number of victory points (usually 10) wins the game. Each settlement a player owns is worth one victory point, and each city is worth two. In addition, there are two special sources of victory points: Longest Road and Largest Army.

The first player to have a chain of five roads (not including forks) receives the Longest Road card, which is worth two victory points. Other players may capture Longest Road by having a road longer than the current owner's longest road. Largest Army, also worth two victory points, is awarded to the first player to have three Soldiers (Knights in the original German); other players may capture this card by having more soldiers.

Expansions and such

Klaus Teuber has developed a number of expansions for Settlers, as well as similar games:

  • Seafarers of Catan (Seefahrer) is an expansion which allows the board layout to go beyond a simple island surrounded by ocean. Players can build ships to allow settlements on distant islands.
  • The Cities and Knights (St├Ądte und Ritter) expansion adds Knights which can travel around the board, larger cities, and new resources.
  • I have, unfortunately, not played the Wizards and Dragons (Zeuberer und Drachen) expansion.
  • There are expansions for Settlers, as well as for the above expansions, which allow up to six players.
  • The Starfarers of Catan (Die Sternenfahrer von Catan) is not an expansion, but a separate game similar in spirit.

Computer versions

TenMinJoe tells me of an official version of Settlers available for download for the Xbox 360. I do not know of an official PC release; however, a number of fans have developed their own:

  • NetSet is a networked Settlers game for Windows.
  • There is a Java version of Settlers playable in a web browser:
  • Pioneers, formerly known as gnocatan, is a networked Gnome version of Settlers:
  • Settlers is a networked X version of Settlers:
  • TallRoo tells me of Sea3D, available at I've not played it, but e says it's ``amazing''.
Also a card game for two players. The card game is based on the board game, with many of the same concepts (like the resources, roads, cities, etc.), but abstracted away from the map used in the board game. A lot of special cards are added, giving more variation (e.g. industries adding resources, commerce buildings, knights and many more).

Personally, I still prefer playing the board game, but the card game is a good substitute if not more than two players are available. It is one of the few good games that work well with two players.

There are a number of games based on Settlers of Catan. Most of the derivatives released fail to have the repeated playability of the original.

Seafarers of Catan
This game is an expansion to Settlers. It changes the game in small ways, although the presence of two robbers (the robber-baron and the pirate) can lead to serious amounts of eit being dumped onto a player. The gold resource tends to be a trifle unbalancing.
Knights and Cities of Catan
Another expansion to Settlers, this game focuses on the development of civilization, warfare, and fighting off barbarian incursions. The addition of advanced resources (paper, cloth, et al) and a tech tree tend to distract players from winning. The barbarians and knight combat are enjoyable, although the random effects of the civilization cards can lead to odd fringe cases.
Historical Variants - Cheops and Alexander
These are interesting "play once" expansion games. Alexander follows the conquests of Alexander the Great, with players vying for control of conquered land. This game involves a lot of bidding. Cheops has players building a pyramid in addition to normal play. Both of these play on static boards.
The Settlers of Nurembourg
This stand-alone game plays on a static board, with players vying for trade routes, and building inside the city as well as outside. A fun game once or twice; but there is a clear winning strategy for repeat players.
The Starfarers of Catan
The stand alone game takes the Catan series into space exploration. A wonderful variant, if a bit expensive (USD 75.00). There is a clear distinction between the early, mid, and end game. The addition of alien races to trade with makes for an interesting swap.
The Settlers of Catan Card Game
If you have nothing else to play, this is an okay game. But it doesn't resemble Settlers too much.

The Settlers of Catan Two-Player Variant

So, you want to play Settlers, but you only have two people. As noted above, the card game isn't great. Here are some rules for a two player game. Play with the normal rules except as noted.

Map Layout
Place the desert in the center of the island. Beginning at a point, and circling inward, place the number tiles in this order: A,R,K,B,P,I,G,Q,C,H,E,D,M,J,F,O,N,L
Initial placement
The first player places two settlements, each with an adjacent road. The second player places three settlements, each with an adjacent road, and takes resources for one settlement. The first player places one more settlement and adjacent road, and takes resources for it.
The robber is much more limited in this variant (otherwise, whoever builds a card factory is virtually guaranteed to win). When a seven is rolled, discard half your cards (rounded down) only if you have more than nine cards. Roll d6. Divide by two, round up. This is the number of hexes the robber can be moved from his current location. (If you are moving the robber by playing a knight, you can always move him at least two hexes). Every time the player who last moved the robber completes a turn on which they did not move the robber, move the robber one hex towards the desert. If there are two equivalent options, select randomly. Reroll sevens in the first three full turns of the game.
Victory is achieved when a player has 13 victory points.

(Note: In the interest of full disclosure, it should probably be mentioned that, at the time of this writing, the author has lost three consecutive games in so many weeks. But that's only because my best-friend is damned lucky. Also, if you don't have the slightest idea what I'm talking about, I pity you, for you do not know Settlers. The Settlers of Catan is one of the finest board game ever made. See the rest of this node for more details.)

Above all, Settlers is a game of constant strategic choices and manuevers. What this node really needs is some tips on general strategy and tactics. Allow me to offer a few of my own which, at least in my experience, should help you stay on top of your game...

1. Don't trade with someone with 7 points or above. Just don't do it. I mean it, don't. The person that's in the lead can make their own resources when their turn rolls around, that's how they got the points in the first place. Stonewalling is usually the only effective way to slow down another player long enough to catch up yourself.

2. Count on the worst case. You should always assume that any unplayed Development Card is a victory point waiting to happen. If you have 6 points, and another has 5 points and 2 Development Cards, they're probably already a step ahead of you. Remember that Dev-Cards follow the same rules as ninjas: the longer they quietly sit on the sidelines, the more likely they are to be really really nasty.

3. Choose your path wisely. The two points you get from either Longest Road or Largest Army make a huge difference later on. However, it's unlikely that you'll be able to take and hold both. That said, it's a good idea to pick which path you'll follow right from the beginning. Lots of roads and settlements? Or lots of development cards and cities? The only time you'd really want to switch from one path to the other is if the first Dev-Cards you pick up are "Road Building" or "Year of Plenty", since both make great weapons in a race for Longest Road.

4. Moderation is the key to happiness. The conventional strategy of Settlers is to begin by focusing on Brick and Wood in order to grow quickly, and then transition into Grain and Ore later in the game to build cities. The counter-conventional strategy is, not surprisingly, to do just the opposite, starting with Grain and Ore and then switching over to Wood and Brick. IMO, however, both of these ideas are flawed, since the transition itself is often expensive. I like to make sure I've got at least a toe-hold on every resource, and build up a balanced hand. Nothing hurts more than realizing, 10 turns in, that you're completely cut off from a suddenly vital resource.

5. Don't forsake the desert. The desert tile isn't just a hole in the map. You can use it for other things. For instance, since no one is in any particular hurry to put settlements there, the desert is an ideal place to loop a road. Also, depending on its location, the desert can be used to block off wide swaths of land from an invading player.

6. Play it cool. Don't get too preoccupied with doing something on every single turn. Instead, plan a few turns ahead, and just do your best to get there. Trying to build a structure or force a trade on every turn has all kinds of negative side-effects, all stemming from the fact that you're ticking people off by slowing down the game. Other players will be less likely to trade with you (and more likely to rob you) when their turn finally rolls around.

7. Race for the coast. Ports may not help you right away, but they become critical in the endgame. Even if you can't use a Brick Port, someone else is bound to want it; block them off with roads.

8. Where you sit *is* important. If all other factors are equal, you always want to trade with the person on your right, never with the person on your left. Simply put, the longer it takes someone to use those hard-earned resources, the better it is for you.

9. Play your Soldiers before you roll. Yes, you can do this, says so in the rules. Still, some players reason that, with any luck, they could roll a 7 on their turn and thus save their Soldier for later. Believe me, this is a Bad Idea. As we all know, Settlers dice have been imbued by evil German warlocks with the perverse magical ability to screw you over. Play your card now, fool. Save your luck for later.

10. Avoid trying to monopolize the best tile. Picture this: There's three Ore tiles on the board. One of them is a big, fat, juicy 8. The other two are 11 and 4. The gut reaction of most players is to jump on the 8 and dig in. This is a recipe for disaster. A cunning player will do the exact opposite, quietly taking over the 11 and 4, for this reason: an 8 on Ore is robber-bait to the extreme. While the first player spends 3/4ths of the game with the thief permanently fused to his Ore supply, the smart player suddenly finds himself the sole purveyor of a very rare and valuable resource.

11. The Good Shepherd Gambit. The one exception to the previous strategy is if, by chance, the three Sheep fields are located within close proximity to the 2:1 Sheep Port. By some cosmic force of nature, Sheep are the one resource that everyone always forgets about until they really need it. All but the sharpest players will be more than happy to let you "waste" your starting settlements trying to monopolize the island's wool supply. However, this makes it all the sweeter when you start construction of your vast, soft and cuddly empire! The glorious roads and sprawling cities made entirely of sheep! Variants of this tactic are possible with Wood or any other resource, but are always much more tricky to pull off. Furthermore, the sheer comic potential of Sheep cannot be understated.

(SHEEP! SHEEP! SHEEP! Sheep make you Strong! Strength crushes enemies! SHEEP!)

I thought I'd add some of my own observations to RoguePoet's excellent tips.

12. Rob Everybody at Once. This nasty little trick works best in a three player game. When you control the robber, decide ahead of time who you want to rob. Then tell the other player you will rob them unless they give you any card of their choice. Point out to them that at least in this case they get to choose which card they lose rather than risking the loss of a card they desperately need, and they also win by having the robber on another player's tile rather than one of theirs. Most of the time the player will grudgingly see reason and you will end up with two cards instead of one. Be prepared to back up your threat with robbery if they don't, however. Alternatively you could demand that they trade you a certain resource you need to not get robbed, pointing out to them that at least they will get a card back.

13. Numbers Don't Matter. Don't worry about the production numbers when placing your starting settlements. Focus more on good combinations of resources rather than which ones have the highest numbers. The dice rolls are unpredictable anyway, and as RoguePoet points out, high numbers are robber bait. More importantly, resources with high numbers are inherently less valuable because they are so plentiful. No one is going to trade you much for a sheep when they know you have ten sheep in your hand. The middle number tiles are the best, and even a 2 or a 12 is not to be scoffed at if the other two tiles are decent.

14. Make Every Soldier Count. It is generally a good idea to only use a soldier card when the robber is currently on one of your resource production tiles. This way, the soldier does double the work - getting you more resources while taking away resources from one of your opponents. Conversely, if the robber is not adjacent to one of your cities or settlements, your soldier is only doing half the work, hurting one opponent while helping another opponent.

15. Never Start on a Port. Just don't. No matter how rare a certain resource is, you will always be hurt more by the lack of a third productive tile than you will be helped by starting on that resource's port. The same goes for a 3:1 port. The problem is that at the beginning of the game, pure quantity of resources cards is important and you will rarely have enough extra of one resource to trade for the another until much later in the game. Not only will you be producing less resources overall, but you will also be tempted to trade for resources too early at the costly trading prices, putting you in a resource hole compared to your opponents. A better strategy is to try to block off a key port for yourself while still producing the maximum amount of resources by placing a starting settlement two roads away from the port and racing to get there first.

16. Two Good Ways to Win. In my experience there are two good ways to win. You can either go for wood and brick and try for the Longest Road and five settlements, or you can try to get as much sheep, ore and grain as possible to win with cities and lots of Development Cards. The first method gives you more power over the gameboard because you can use your road building powers to block other players from resources, but requires you to make the delicate late-game transition to sheep, grain, and ore to get the last 3 Victory Points via development cards and cities (five settlements + the Longest Road = only 7 victory points). The second method allows you to terrorize opponents with your soldiers and will probably win you the Largest Army card, but your lack of roads will limit your ability to get around the gameboard. I've seen people win without building a single road using this second method. Either way will work - pick one from the start and go with it. Although you will sometimes win just by trying to have a good supply of all five resources and going with the flow, you will greatly increase your odds of winning by picking a plan from the get-go and sticking to it.

Wow! There's some good stuff here. But there's also some stuff missing and a bunch of stuff that I disagree with.


For the record, I win more often than I should. I've played over four hundred games including all the variants. And I've placed well in national (US) tournaments.

Most importantly, I won my wife with this game. Prior to this, she only played train games. (And mostly Empire Builder variants and a few 18xx games.) With Settlers in '95 I nudged her into full gamerdom and now must watch our bank statement carefully! But I don't think I would have popped the question to a non gamer.


Klaus Teuber designed the Seefahrer set first. That's how he intended the game. So it's only sort of an expansion. Siedler was released as it was because marketing Seefahrer (longer-play time and easier to get spanked badly) would be tough in Germany. Once Siedler won the Spiel des Jahres, they could have marketed Settlers of my Colon and it would have sold.

There is a new set of Historical Variants now available to add to Cheops and Alexander (and Nurnburg). These are The Great Wall (of China) and Troja (The Trojan War). They're both a bit more polished than the first two. It seems that The Great Wall is fairly widely acclaimed as the best of the lot.

There is also a third-party historical scenario (though, it's actually a complete game) out by Cactus Game Design called Settlers of Canaan in which each player represents a tribe of Israel. It uses some of the mechanics of Cheops and suffers some of the same problems: dragging on, being dull, and having the extras seem kind of irrelevant. I played it once and didn't feel the need to try it again.

There is a product sold in Germany called Die Siedler von Catan: Das Buch zum Spielen, which is a collection of alternate rules and scenarios. I haven't gotten through my copy yet, but what I've seen looks good. You can find similar resources at the Kosmos web site.

In 1997, still early in the popularity swing of Siedler, Die Siedler von Catan: Das Wasser des Lebens (usually called Whiskey Settlers) was released for Glen Grant Distillery Company. It came in a scotch tin, and you're settling a valley in the Scottish highlands, and the water of life is whiskey. The hexes aren't regular hexagons, but instead a tessellating variant that works just like hexes. And it came with an airline-sized bottle of scotch. This set quickly became a collectors item.

Das Kartenspiel, the Settlers card game is one in the line of Kosmos 2-player games -- which is a fantastic line of games. I happen to think this one is among the worst, but it is widely popular and has five expansion sets.

Jay Tummelson, working at the time for Mayfair Games, worked to bring Die Siedler to the US. Mayfair secured rights to the line, started importing and reprinting, sold them like crazy and went bankrupt. They've been nursed back to health and still have the rights to Settlers. Jay taught me the game at GenCon in 1995. He has continued to bring many great German games to the US through his own company, Rio Grande Games.


There are two nodes previous to mine that espouse strategy. I don't agree with it all. And I realize that in all those cases, they're guidelines, but I think there are important reasons to disagree, clarify, and emphasize.

Don't trade with someone with 7 points or above.
Seven points means they're still three shy off winning. If you don't trade with them, then you're hurting yourself too. I agree that some caution is suggested in the end game, but if you have eight and another player has eight, you just need to get your two points before they do. Trade to win, consider the number of cards they have. And after you trade with them, consider what they wanted, what they must be trying to build (and thus what else they have in hand), and what they're likely to generate from the roll. Then, use the final Ritter you have in reserve to dump the robber on them. I trade above seven regularly. Stonewalling usually just slows the game and if you're more than two points behind you've more than likely already lost.
Choose your path wisely.
In general this is a good tip. You should know what you're planning from your first placement. But the way to win and win often is to be able to roll with the punches. The most important thing in this game -- because so much depends on those pesky dice, is to be able to capitalize on your strengths even if they are not what you'd planned. And while the two bonus points are great, they make you a target, and I've seen people flush their game down the toilet by relentlessly pursuing them against someone better able to take and hold them.
Moderation is the key.
I'm not convinced. My best games against other good players involve completely dominating a production market and getting that port. If you can start with a solid brick producer and the brick port, or an option on it, and bricks turn out not to be plentiful for the others, then you rock!
Race for the coast.
I don't disagree with this. In fact, start at the coast. Depending on the fallout of the numbers and the order of the tiles, you might not be able to get stunning numbers to begin. If not, start with a port that is fed by your first placement. You'll also be able to trade for things to trade into the port.
Avoid trying to monopolize the best tile.
I like to have one city on the single fat ore tile particularly when two others have one too. BUT, I'd take it all too. So what if it's robber bait? You should have enough ritters to bump him off and at least he's not sitting on your other stuff. If you're losing, you won't get hit anyway. If you're winning, you will get hit anyway. If you can set it up just the way RoguePoet said it, then that's great, but it's a pretty specific case.
Rob Everybody at Once.
This is an interesting meta-gaming strategy, but it's illegal. You can't just give cards away, and the robber has to be placed (from a seven) before trading starts. You could secure an agreement to trade in a certain way, but it wouldn't be binding.
Numbers Don't Matter.
I couldn't disagree more. While good combinations are great, and you can usually make that happen, a 3/4/11 isn't nearly as desirable as a 6/9/4. I'd take a hit on the specific resources for the increased production. You can always spend your resources somehow.
Never Start on a Port.
There are many times when two tiles and a port are a better than any three tile combo that's left after the first round of placement. Keep the value of ports in mind as an option.

All in all, Siedler is one of the great light German games. The longevity shown by the game really attests to a winner.

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