Settlers of Catan Variations

"Settlers of Catan" is a fun game where colonizing powers settle the island continent of Catan, getting resources and building roads, settlements and cities, and gain victory points in so doing.

Normal Game Variations

Natural Disaster

My brother thought up this variation originally, and we improved it as we playtested it. He didn't like the fact that both the Robber and the Soldier make the players into robbers, and wanted something that was less nasty and more cooperative. This replaces the Robber and Soldier with Natural Disaster, Foriegn Aid, and Disaster Recovery Corps.

Natural Disaster

This replaces the Robber. When a seven is rolled, the player rolls again to see what hex the Natural Disaster is going to strike. The Natural Disaster token is placed on the hex which matches the second roll and which is closest to that player. If a seven is rolled for the second roll, reroll.

As with the Robber, a hex with a Natural Disaster on it does not produce anything as long as the Natural Disaster token is there.

Foriegn Aid

If, when a seven is rolled, any player has more than seven cards in their hand, they still lose half their cards. However, instead of them all going to the bank, most of them are used in Foriegn Aid.

The player with too many cards choses which cards he will lose. This then becomes a pool for Foriegn Aid. Foriegn Aid is distributed as follows:

  1. to the players upon whom the Natural Disaster struck
    • if there are three players, they get one card each
    • if there are two players, they get one card each
    • if there is one player, they get two cards
  2. to the player(s) with the least number of victory points
    • if there is one player, they get one card
    • if there are two players, and there are more than three people playing, they get one card each
    • if there are more than two players, then no cards are given in this category.

Therefore between two and five cards will be given in Foreign Aid, and since there will always be at least four cards in the Foreign Aid pool, this should be sufficient in most cases. If there is not sufficient Foriegn Aid to give it to all those who qualify, the victims of the Natural Disaster go first, and roll a dice to see which player gets the remaining Aid.

A player may qualify for Foreign Aid in both categories, and get cards accordingly. However, a player cannot give themselves Foriegn Aid, even if they qualify for it.

If more than one player has more than seven cards when a seven is rolled, all of them will give Foreign Aid. (Therefore it is possible for people to receive Foreign Aid from each other, even if they cannot give it to themselves).

Disaster Recovery Corps

This replaces the Soldier. When a Soldier card is played, instead of robbing someone, it simply removes the Natural Disaster from active play, putting it back into the desert.

Desert Resources

A way of making the game easier is to abolish deserts, instead making them a resource hex -- either clay, or ore, or a special resource called "mineral sand", which can behave either like clay or ore.

You need to take a spare blank number token and write a number on it (possibly something like 4 or 5) and add it to the pool of number tokens and distribute it along with the others. This is easier to do if you are using the "semi-random" method of token allocation (pull the tokens from the pool at random, and if you get either the same numbers next to each other, or a 6 or 8 next to each other, put the token back and pull another one).

To use "mineral sand" you'll need to make yourself a set of "mineral sand" resource cards. A mineral sand card can be used as either a clay or an ore. Which actually makes it the most useful card on the board, so maybe this variation is a bit unbalanced.

Absolute Longest Road

A variation used by my other brother, which makes the "longest road" harder to keep. If a player has the longest road, instead of keeping it until someone else makes a longer road, if another player makes a road of equal length, then the "longest road" card goes back in the box, since nobody has the absolutely longest road.

Presumably one could do a similar thing with "largest army".

Explorers of Catan

(a "Settlers of Catan" variant devised by Kathryn A)

(revised 19-10-2004)

Explorers of Catan is a game where three players settle and explore the unknown continent of Catan, with the aim of settling the most territory. Some of the ideas of this are based on "Intimate Settlers", a Settlers of Catan 2-player variant.

standard Settlers of Catan set
(Variation: use 6-player extension set also) Number of players:


  1. Separate out the land hexagons, the port hexagons and the water hexagons.
  2. Shuffle (or otherwise randomize) the land hexagons, and lay them out face down in the usual hexagon shape.
  3. Lay down the water hexes around the edge, leaving a space between each hex -- that is, water, space, water, space. The spaces are for the port hexes.
  4. Pull out three 3-in-1 port hexes, and place one, face up, on one side of the "continent", so that it touches two land hexes. Place the next 3-in-1 port hex on the third side of the continent, face up, so that it touches two land hexes. Likewise place the third 3-in-1 port hex on the fifth side of the continent, so that it touches two land hexes.
  5. Place all the other port hexes face-down in the spots left for them around the edges of the continent.
  6. For each of the face-up 3-in-1 ports, turn the land hexes next to them face-up, and place a number token on each one, such that the probability marks of both tokens add up to 8. That is, one can put a 9 + 5, or 8 + 10, or 8 + 4 or 6 + 10 or 6 + 4.
  7. Take the remaining number tokens and put them face down on the table, or in a bag, so that they can be picked randomly.
  8. Use your favourite method of figuring out who goes first.
  9. The player who goes first picks which exposed port is his. He can place two settlements and two roads as follows: one settlement at the port, a road to the vertex of port-land-land, another road from that vertex between the two face-up land hexes, and a settlement at the end of this road.

    (Variation: place one city at the port and one road instead of two settlements and two roads)

    In either case, he then turns up the third land hex (the one between the two known land hexes) and pulls a token from the pool for it, just as if he were exploring new territory (see below for Exploring New Territory). Note that he does not get to see the third hex until after he has chosen which port is his own.

  10. The second and third players do likewise, with the ports of their choice.
  11. Turn all the port hexes face up.
  12. Everyone is given one resource card of each type.

Then you can start playing.


Play goes as for normal Settlers, with the following additions.

Exploring New Territory

When a road is built such that it points towards a vertex which contains an unexplored (face down) hex, then the player building the road can turn the hex face up.

If the hex is a land hex, the player then takes a random number token from the unused pool, and places it on the new land hex, provided that it
- is not identical to the number of any hex touching it - its placement does not put a 6 token next to an 8 token

If either of these happen, then the token must be placed back in the pool and another one drawn. If there are only two tokens left and they both break the rule, then one must be swapped with the next-most-recently placed token. (Note: see below about Bonus Points)

After a hex has been "discovered" it is treated just like an ordinary hex; roads and settlements can be built on it, and so on.

Bonus Points

If you wish, you can make yourself one or two bonus Explorer Points cards, which are worth one point, for the first person to expose a 2 and/or 12 hex and/or desert.

Victory Conditions

The whole board must be explored before anyone can win. After that, the first to 12 points is the winner (though you can choose to play to more or less points if you wish). If you are playing to more points, then you may wish to give a player two colours of blocks to use, the second colour to be used after the player has used up all of the first colour.

The Longest Road

Note that since every person is playing from one starting spot, it's more likely that there is going to be a "longest road". Some variants have it that as soon as someone else makes a road of equal length to the longest road, then there is no "longest road" and the card goes back into the box until there is again just one person who has the longest road.

As ever, where there are variant scorings, double-check with the people you're playing with before you start, as to which rules you are playing by, so as to avoid squabbles later.