Settlers of Catan: Where to from here?
February 3, 2009 8:10 PM   Subscribe

I just bought Settlers of Catan! But now I have some questions surrounding expansion packs and two-player variants. I'm hoping some experienced Catan players could help me out.

My questions are;

1. What expansion should I buy next? Seafarers of Catan or Cities and Knights of Catan? In other words, what's the better of the two?
2. Is Catan: Traders & Barbarians worth getting at some point down the road?
3. Can the original Catan be played with two players only, or is it really unplayable without 3+ players?
4. With the 5-6 player expansion packs, will I only need one of those to cover Catan and all its expansions, or will I need to buy a 5-6 player expansion for every new expansion I buy?
posted by Effigy2000 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Yay! Congrats! Prepare to have fun forever.

1. I would say get Seafarers next because it is awesome and Knights of Catan is a bit more complicated. It seems like Seafarers is the natural next step. You pretty much just add one component (boats) whereas Knights has all sorts of stuff.
2. No idea
3. You can play with 2+ people if you get creative, but it is really much better to play the traditional game with 3 or more. I have done it with 2 by doing a couple different things. For instance, making it so that you have to place 3 roads instead of 2 roads between each settlement. We also have turned over all of the elements and placed settlements blindly or placed settlements on elements before placing down the numbers. None of these things are in the rule books, it was just our way of playing with 2 people and it was all pretty fun...except the road thing that was hard and kind of horrible.
4. I don't think so, but I'm not sure.

Have fun!
posted by janelikes at 8:18 PM on February 3, 2009

I can only speak to #3:

My girlfriend and I recently bought Settlers of Catan and played it three or four times just the two of us before we realized it was, um, meant for 3-4 players. Doh.

That being said, obviously it was interesting and fun enough that we got something out of it. However, after playing with three players for the first time, we realized that the trading aspect of the game, as well as the constraints imposed by having to deal with expanding roads and settlements with three players, were more compelling in terms of richness of game-play with three players. I think fundamentally the game is designed very deliberately for three-four players, and plays best that way.

I say give it a shot with two, and see what you think. But definitely play it with 3-4 to get a sense of the mechanics involved so you understand how it was meant to be played.

Oh, and I think there are some "neutered" versions just for two players? Also.
posted by dubitable at 8:19 PM on February 3, 2009

Best answer: The 'family tree' poster you got with your game should explain which expansion packs are codependent.

Yes, there is a set of custom rules that allows you to play SOC with only two people. I've never tried it, but you can find a version here:

and another one here:

and a bunch here:
posted by spacefire at 8:20 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

*whips out "I worked at a tabletop & CCG store for two years" credentials*

1. No expansions needed. I think Catan is perfect exactly the way it is. However, if you must make me decide, I like Seafarers slightly more because trading fish for things never really gets old, especially if you are drinkin' and settlin'.
2. No. Spend your money on Carcassonne and the River expansion instead.
3. You really want to keep it to 3+ players. A two player game breaks the balance of the road system, skews the length of the game and really messes up the distribution of resources. Feel free to try it, though. Apparently Traders & Barbarians has a two player variant but I've never tried it.
4. The 5-6 player expansion covers Seafarers but not Cities & Knights, which has a separate 5-6 player version.
posted by Mizu at 8:24 PM on February 3, 2009

1. I prefer Cities & Knights. BGG has C&K ranked very slightly higher than Seafarers. But they're both fine additions and will depend on what you most enjoy about Catan.
2. No idea, never played it.
3. There is an addition in T&B that allows you to play 2 player, also available on BGG. There are loads of other variants for 2 players -- the card game has worked well for me, but that's yet another separate game. It's a 3 player game, though, at heart.
4. You need to buy the 5-6 player expansion for Catan, and the 5-6 player expansion for each expansion you buy.
posted by jeather at 8:25 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

You want to go with Seafarers for "in person" play. Cities and Knights is a great game to play online, but I found the "keeping track" aspects of it a bit too tedious for in person play.
posted by sherlockt at 8:25 PM on February 3, 2009

Best answer: 1) Cities and Knights is probably a bigger dynamic change, whereas Seafarers expands the board dramatically. I'd say Cities and Knights is the more popular, though my experience with both is limited. There are some people who play with both, though that generally takes all night. C&K radically increases the amount of time for each turn. The basic game takes a minute or three per turn. C&K can easily take ten minutes each. There's just that much going on.

2) Traders and Barbarians is worth getting. Actually, I'd recommend getting that one before either of the expansions mentioned above, as it's a lot easier to get the hang of quickly. It contains five or six minor changes to the game without completely redoing the rules the way the others do. It also contains variants for playing with two people. You basically create dummy players.

3) See 2. You really can't play with two players as such. As dubitable indicated, the game really doesn't work for two. You'll need to either both play two hands, which kind of works, or use the variant in Traders and Barbarians, which works almost as well as three players.

4) You need a 5-6 player expansion for every expansion you buy. You also need the basic Catan expansion, as that's the one that has things like pieces for the new players, extra tiles, etc.
posted by valkyryn at 8:25 PM on February 3, 2009

I found 2-player Cities and Knights to be very enjoyable. The key is to just ignore the trading aspect entirely - this speeds up the game immensely.
posted by 0xFCAF at 8:49 PM on February 3, 2009

1. It depends. Seafarers is simpler than Cities and Knights.

Seafarers' major additions are boats (which are basically roads), the idea of having some hexes being hidden until someone build a road that connects to it, and all kinds of options for different board layouts, usually involving multiple land blobs separated by water.

Cities and Knights adds several new kinds of rules. Cities now produce both resources *and* commodities, a new kind of card. You can now build knights, which protect against the robber and more importantly the barbarians. The barbarians attack every so often, based on die rolls, and if there aren't enough knights certain cities might get razed. You can spend commodities to upgrade "city improvements" which increase your chances of earning progress cards, which are now divided into 3 categories, corresponding to the 3 commodity types. I find C+K games tend to take longer than regular catan games, at least with our group.

Both C+K and Seafarers are fun, and you will probably enjoy either. (or both, as they can be combined)

2. No idea

3. Playing Catan with 2 players is usually not as fun, because there is no real incentive to trade. If you really want to geek out, you can create a third "robot" player that follows certain predetermined rules - like it always builds when it can, it always builds toward vertices with the most dots, it always places the robber on the hex with the most production, it always trades 1 for 1 if the trade would help it build, etc.

4. You would need a 5-6 player expansion for C+K and seafarers if you wanted to play 5-6 players with those expansions. with seafarers, you would need the extra 2 colors worth of boats, and with C+K you would want the two colors worth of knights, city improvement markers, etc. Note that if you know someone else with a copy of Catan, you can always paint some of your pieces a new color to simulate having an expansion pack. You could probably find the altered rules online somewhere if you went this route.

Also, is a good resource if you're getting into board games like catan.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 8:50 PM on February 3, 2009

Just throwing this out there: the Catan Card Game is brilliant for just two players.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:40 PM on February 3, 2009

1. From my experience, Cities and Knights is better than Seafarers. It's almost like playing a different game. It makes it much more complex.

That said, I probably would've enjoyed Seafarers better if I played it before Cities and Knights and then moved on to Cities and Knights.

2. Not sure about this, sorry :x

3. Once you play Catan many times, you'll find creative ways to play it with 2 people. It's really about knowing what rules work and what doesn't. My friends have played one-on-one Catan. They didn't say it was spectacular, but it killed time.

4. You technically need to buy the 5-6 player expansion for each version of the game. It has got to be one of the biggest rip-offs ever because you're paying $25-$30 for just a few more peices of paper and wooden blocks. Each one just gives you 2 more colors and tiles.

Again, that said, 4-6 player Catan can be pretty fun, if not extremely time consuming.

Ultimately, my advice would be to play what you have for a while and see if you like it. If you do, then move on to an expansion, etc.
posted by carpyful at 9:43 PM on February 3, 2009

1. I personally like seafarers better. But Cities and Knights is excellent when you feel like a game where everyone can screw someone else over by splitting their road with a knight or something. I've also found that C+K games tend to run pretty long though, since victory points will keep changing hands and you have a million options for things to do on your turn.

2. No idea.

3. 2-player Catan can be done....but as other people have said, it kind of blows without special rules to accommodate fewer players. One couple I know has each person play two hands that aren't allowed to trade with each other.

4. Ugh, yeah. You need to buy the expansions for each one, I believe, since each one comes with pretty new pieces for each player. Warning: don't wait too long to buy the expansions! I have the original version of Settlers, but a newer version of Seafarers - the tiles all look different, as do some of the cards, and it's totally infuriating. If they roll out another update you might run into the same problem.

Happy gaming!
posted by universal_qlc at 10:00 PM on February 3, 2009

Uh... my wife and I have been playing Catan as a two-player game for years, with no special variants, and have always had fun. It isn't until this very moment, in fact, that I learned Settlers is not intended for two players. Give it a try!
posted by arcticwoman at 11:40 PM on February 3, 2009

Response by poster: Hmmm. At this stage then, I think I'll get Catan: Traders & Barbarians next, so that my partner and I can play two players more easily, given that three player games will happen less frequently than a game between just herself and I. If money allows, I'll probably try and get Seafarers of Catan at the same time, or not far behind, and then Cities and Knights of Catan in a few months time, once I've got a few games under my belt.

It also seems I'm going to need to get 5-6 player expansions for all of them, which will be costly, but given that 5-6 player games are likely to be even less frequent than 3 player games, those can definitely wait a bit!

Thanks for your help all. If anyone else wants to chime in with their views on my 'purchasing strategy', or just their views on Catan's expansions (and how good/bad they are), please feel free to chime in as both my wallet and I would probably find your opinions on them useful.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:34 AM on February 4, 2009

Personally, I find both expansions are great once you've got the basic play down. We added both Seafarers and Cities and Knights and always play with both. I wouldn't be able to go back now. Also, two player games are fine if you've got no other option. My husband and I have played our share of games. It's not nearly as fun as three or four but it works fine. Some people get tired of only having one other person to screw over, though.

We like the 5-6 player expansions solely because my husband loves to build really big game boards. It's his thing. But we rarely play with more than 4 people.
posted by threeturtles at 4:55 AM on February 4, 2009

Our gaming group much prefers Cities and Knights over Seafarers. C&K adds a lot of strategy, whereas Seafarers just adds another dimension of luck (oh look, you just discovered a gold tile with a 9 on it, great...).

I'd like to point out one thing you may not be aware of, 5-6 players C&K takes less time to play than 4 players. This is because they added a mechanism allowing each player to build 1 thing during every players turn. It sounds weird but it really works wonders to speed up the game.

In any case welcome to the world of Catan!
posted by Vindaloo at 5:50 AM on February 4, 2009

Personally, I think the most essential Settlers add-on is the "food stamp" variant, which speeds up the beginning of the game. It's especially good for new players, and best of all: it's free.

Basically, every time there's a dice role that doesn't produce any resources for you, you get a food stamp. (We use pennies or poker chips.) The food stamps can be traded with the bank for one resource card, based on the number of points you have. That is, if you have four points, you'll need four food stamps to get one resource card.

EXAMPLE: I have six points and five food stamps. Anna rolls an 8, which produces wood for her, and wood and sheep for Bob. Neither Carol nor I get any resource cards, so we each get one food stamp. This brings my total up to six, meaning that, on my turn, I can trade in my six food stamps for the card of my choice.

(Oh, nobody gets food stamps on a roll of seven. Nice try! Also, if the production of your number is blocked by the robber--meaning you usually produce on a roll of, say, six, but the robber is on your six--you don't get a food stamp. Because technically, you *did* produce that turn, but the robber stole your resources.)

That's it. It really helps speed up the beginning fourth of the game, when no one has anything and no one wants to trade because everyone needs wood and brick. The neat thing about how they're tied to your score is that, as the game goes on, the food stamps become increasingly rare (because you have more settlements to produce resources) and increasingly worthless (because you have more points). They're good for breaking up the tedium of the beginning of the game, then they sort of go away.
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:09 AM on February 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

The Settlers Card game, which was reprinted recently, is a great 2 player Settlers game, and feels similar.... I hear the expansions (which were also reprinted recently) add to the game significantly....but I don't have them yet.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 7:02 AM on February 4, 2009

You can play the Cities and Knights expansion online at:

There's no real guide on how to play C&K there, but I imagine you can find it elsewhere.

I like it, but when I play the actual board game, I tend to play Seafarers. Easier to setup, and I can't be bothered to teach people the extra rules for C&K (it is quite different, but good)

You'll need the 5+6 additions for each expansion - although this may not be true for Traders and Barbarians (haven't played that one yet)
posted by backwards guitar at 11:09 AM on February 4, 2009

Response by poster: On second thought, having now found the official way to play Catan with two players I'm going to forego getting Traders & Barbarians for some time and just get Seafarers next. Then, once I get a few games and some experience under my belt, I'll get Cities and Knights of Catan, probably in a few months time.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:43 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

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