Settlers of Catan

So, I got introduced to this game called Settlers of Catan during a after-work hangout about 3 years ago, and it didn’t seem all that interesting until maybe 2 weeks ago. Suddenly, I discover that EVERYONE plays it — coworkers, random strangers,¬†trusted friends, great spiritual leaders… Something clicked in my head — “You know, I should become a better Settler of Catan.”

And for all those of you who haven’t yet played Settlers of Catan, don’t have a clue what it is, and are about to start skimming through the rest of this rant to see if there’s any non-Settlers-related thoughts, I must ask– what are you waiting for? You can start with the $39.99 classic boxed set (in German or English), and the $19.99 expansion set, or at least the $24.99 travel set. All this and more, at ( There’s even a Java version of it out on the web, but it’s no way nearly as fun. ( And I doubt Mayfair Games is particularly pleased with this unauthorized release of their flagship product.

Anyway, I was quite pleased with myself for having gotten back into this curious game, and the pace at which I was beginning to understand its intricacies. Then I got nosy and started digging around on the web. And there it struck me, quite unexpectedly — *GASP!!* Not everyone played it the way I had learned it! I began to panic.

I didn’t even realize until I checked the University of Catan FAQ ( that I’ve been very very bad, and have been unashamedly breaking the official rules of Settlers of Catan without even knowing it. Sure, I’m tempted to say that I’ve only played the game like 3 times (okay, okay, 4 times) and I didn’t know any better and that other people inadvertenly led me astray with their “house rules,” but really I am without excuse. The rules are written in English, and it isn’t even like a bad German translation or something — it’s actually written for people who primarily speak English, so the fact that I didn’t bother to read through all of it fearfully and with great care is the only explanation for my blatant negligence of the time-tested, time-honored rules that make Settlers of Catan such a great game.

So, for the purposes of my own public confession, and for the added benefit of all who have not bothered to read the Settlers of Catan Almanac carefully, or whom I have personally led astray or oppressed in my unorthodox teaching through example of the game, I now list a dozen rules of which I have broken or have been tempted to break in the course of discovery, settlement, and trade. In each case, I will state the actual rule or nuance, followed by my own diversion from the rule in brackets:

1. Trades may be initiated by anyone, but they all must be made with the person whose turn it is, and the person whose turn it is makes the final decision to trade. [We only allow someone to initiate a trade when it’s his turn.]

2. Trades are only legal when some number of resource cards are exchanged. You may not make “trades” where a player gives but does not receive any resource card in return. [We often allow people to give gifts and bribes to the person moving the robber around the board.]

3. Trades can only be done for resource cards. [We’ve traded development cards, promises of goodwill, and first-born children before.]

4. The number of cards you are holding is public information. [No hiding your cards or lying about what you have.]

5. The only development cards that have any effect on the game are those that are “played” or used. [Victory points and soldiers are not considered until you play them during your turn. Oops.]

6. The Longest Road is awarded to the person with the longest “unbroken” road. A settlement or city between two sections of road breaks it. [We always count the Longest Road regardless of the settlements and cities between the segements.]

7. If the bank doesn’t have enough resources to give everyone what they are due during the production stage, nobody gets anything. [Never had to deal with this, though I would’ve suggested that people have to fight for it or something.]

8. If the development card pile runs out, nobody can buy any more development cards. [Never had to deal with this, though I would’ve suggested that people put used cards back in the bottom of the pile.]

9. Each player must roll the dice first during his turn, except to play a development card. [No trading or building and trying to get rid of extra cards before you roll a 7.]

10. Victory point cards may be played on the same turn that they are drawn. [Never had to deal with this, but if somebody else was winning, I would’ve told him he can’t play that card until the next turn (meanwhile hoping desperately that I miraculously get to 10 points first).]

11. You may only play one development card per turn, with the exception of any number of victory point cards. [Never had to deal with someone trying to play a soldier and a monopoly and a year of plenty and a road building card during the same turn, and boy I would’ve used them all at once.]

12. All trading must be done before building, except in the 5-6 player expansion, where this rule is dropped. [Nobody seemed to care otherwise, and I was foolish enough to think that this was okay.]

Ahh, I feel much better now. =]

Currently watching: Drumline (2002)
Currently reading: The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine, by Frank Huyler

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  1. someone had way too much time today. and since i have no inclination of ever playing the game nor reading its rules nor your disatisfaction with the rules, i failed to give you any eprops. hope you’re not too disappointed. but since you had so much xanga info on one of your previous entries i have 2 questions:

    can i reply to someone’s comment to me in my comment box? would they receive the response?

    how do i change the time to my own time zone?

  2. This is an excellent example of how to reply to those insufferable Xanga subscribers who have no regard for the actual content of your posts, but they still expect you to answer their questions.  Maybe I should just name this site “niftyken’s help desk.”  Wow, am I on a sarcastic/mean streak or what?

    In any case, yes, you can reply to someone’s comment in your own Xanga entry, though the likelihood that s/he will ever look at your reply is about as likely as you ever playing a spontaneous game of Settlers of Catan.  I seriously doubt that Xanga would be so kind to let the comment writer know, since your reply would just be another comment on your page.  And so it’s clear — to increase the chance that your replies to people’s comments get read, make sure to play more Settlers of Catan.  Strategy, friends.  Strategy.

    To change your time zone, log in to your private Xanga site, click Account Info, and change the Time Zone.

    All this assistance, and I didn’t even get a stinkin’ eProp.

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