FAQ for Settler of Catan

FAQ published by Trevor Dewy

Table of Contents

    Questions you might ask before you play.

    Questions you'll ask after you play.

    Miscellany and Variants.


    A Die Siedler FAQ

    New: FAQ for "Die Siedler" 1.0
    >From           jerry@uni-paderborn.de (Gerald Siek)
    Organization   University of Paderborn, Germany
    Date           Tue, 23 Apr 1996 09:05:59 +0100
    Newsgroups     rec.games.board

    Fellow settlers,

    here's version 1.0 of the FAQ for "Die Siedler from Catan".  The
    answers are based on the original german rules and clarifications
    given by the german publisher Frankh-Kosmos.   Please mail any
    questions or errors found to me (jerry@math.uni-paderborn.de).\
    Thanks to David desJardins for correcting some english-language

            Gerald Siek, 04/23/96

    "Die Siedler von Catan" Mini-FAQ / rules clarifications

    Q: I have a 3:1 harbor.  Can I trade 3 different resource cards
       for one?
    A: No.   All 3 cards must be of the same type.

    Q: Does above apply for trading 4:1, too?
    A: Yes.

    Q: I just built a sheep harbor.   Can I trade my sheep immediately?
    A: No.  All trading must be done *before* building.

    Q: I have enough resources for a settlement *and* a city.  Can I build
       a settlement and upgrade it to a city in the same turn?
    A: No.  You have to wait one round.  Only *existing* settlements may
       be upgraded.

    Q: Can I play a Ritter card *before* rolling the dice?
    A: Yes.  Cards can be played anytime during your turn.  Your
       turn starts when the player before you hands the dice to you.

    Q: Can I play a Ritter card *between* rolling the dice and the production
       of new resources?
    A: No.   Resources are produced *by* rolling the dice, thus this is an
       indivisible operation.

    Q: I have 9 victory points and I've drawn an Entwicklung card with
       one additional VP.   Do I win the game immediately or must I wait
       one round?
    A: You win immediately.  VP cards are not played in the same manner
       as Ritters or other Entwicklung cards.   You gain the victory points
       a soon as you draw the card.

    Q: So the "one Entwicklung card per turn" limit does not apply to VP cards?
    A: Yes.

    Q: Can I build a road past an opponent's settlement?
    A: This depends on who came first.   Here's an example:

       \_______/           \_______/
       /      H\           /       \
      /         \         /         \
    _/           \_______/           \_
     \           /F     G\           /
      \         /         \         /
       \_______/           \_______/
       /B     E\           /       \
      /         \         /         \
    _/           \_______/           \_
     \A          /D     C\           /
      \         /         \         /
       \_______/           \_______/
       /       \           /       \

    Suppose Player 1 (p1) has a settlement at A and roads at A-B and B-E
    Player 2 (p2) has a settlement at C and roads at C-D and D-E

    If p1 builds a settlement at E, p2 may *not* build a road at E-F.


    If p2 builds a road at E-F *before* p1 builds the settlement at E,
    p2 *may* continue to build roads at F-G or F-H  After that p2
    may even build additional settlements at G or H.   However, the
    road C-D-E-F-G/H is "disconnected" at E with regard to the "longest
    trade route"

    Q: Where can I find additional information about "Die Siedler" on the net?
    A: Trevor Dewey maintains an excellent Siedler web page.  It can be found at:

    Q: I've found another ambiguous rule.  How can I add it to the FAQ?
    A: Just mail it to jerry@math.uni-paderborn.de

    This FAQ is maintained by Gerald Siek (jerry@math.uni-paderborn.de)
    Those who like good boardgames and can read german may want to check out:
    or   http://math-www.uni-paderborn.de/~jerry/mirror/kmw/spielplatz/

     Gerald Siek  -  jerry@uni-paderborn.de  -  University of Paderborn, Germany

    Questions you might ask before you play.

    What the heck is Die Siedler?

    Die Siedler is the short name of Klaus Teuber's Spiel des Jahres(1995) winning boardgame Die Siedler Von Catan. It is produced by Franckh-Kosmos in Germany. This page is not associated in anyway with Franckh-Kosmos or Mr. Teuber; being merely the mutterings of a a man pushed over the edge by the game.

    In english Die Siedler Von Catan translates as "The Settlers of Catan". Die Siedler is one of the most addictive board games to come around in the last twenty years.

    Fair Enough. So where are the rules?

    The English, French, and Dutch translations of the rules for Die Siedler can be found, along with a great many other useful gaming items, at Ken Tidwell's most excellent Game Cabinet. There is a great review of Die Siedler by Jocelyn Becker in the cabinet (Though I disagree rather strongly with a few of the strategies she proposes. See the Laws of Catan section in this document for futher information on strategy.)

    How would you describe the game in terms of games I know about?

    That is a tough one. Are you going to force me to describe it like this to you? You know this always leads to weird interpretations.

    I'll take my chances.

    Whatever. I would liken it to a mixture of Go, Eon's Borderlands, and Go Fish, with a dash of Civilization and a pinch of Poker.

    Huh? Go and Go Fish? Eon? Who are they? What?

    Like I said...

    Can you give me a better description of the game?

    Sure, but without my gifs (peter?) you're going to have to tax your imagination.

    Die Siedler is played on a game board composed of 37 semi-randomly placed hexagons. The hexagons represent the various lands of the newly discovered island of Catan. Players represent four bands of settlers (red/blue/white/orange) who settle in this brave new world.

    1 Wasteland
    3 Mountains
    3 Hills
    4 Farmlands
    4 Pastures
    4 Forests
    5 (1 each) of Wool/Timber/Brick/Ore/Wheat special harbors.
    4 3:1 harbors
    9 Opean Sea tiles (decorative only)>

    The players assemble the board by shuffling the land tiles and placing them face down. They then shuffle and place the harbor tiles and finally the place the open sea tiles. After the tiles are placed they are turned face up and the players scrutinize the board. As might be expected the one of the most important board tile is the wasteland. It's placement can determine the tempo of the game. Center placement is by far the worst, followed by placement in the middle ring of tiles and (best) placement in the outer ring of land tiles.

    After the tiles are placed the tokens are distributed counterclockwise around the board in alphabetical order. They are then turned face up to gasps of horror if the two and the twelve are on the hill tiles or perhaps gasps of disgust if the six and the eight are on the pasture tiles.

    Players then place their two inital settlements and roads. Each player places one settlement in clockwise order, when the fourth player has placed his first settlement and road each player then places his settlement in reverse order. The upshot of which is that the fourth player places his second settlement and road immediately after he places his first. Obviously playing fourth is best.

    Regular play commences with each player, in turn, doing the following actions.
    Player phase:

    1. Production.
    2. Trade.
    3. Build.


    During the production phase. The phasing player rolls two six-sided die to determine which tiles will prodcue. On a roll of seven no tiles produce, instead the phasing player moves the robber to any tile he chooses, stealing one card from any player with a settlement or city on that tile. Furthermore, that tile is now locked until another seven is rolled or a player plays a Ritter card and the robber moves. Locked tiles do not produce. On each tile is a token with a number there are two of each number between three and six and eight and eleven, there one two token and one twelve token and (obviously) no seven tokens. Any player with a settlement or a city that is on a vertice of the producing tile recieves one resource card for each settlement and two resource cards for each city. A tile may have (due to the distance rule either one, two or possibly three (if all cities are placed orthogonally) settlements or cities.

    Mountains are mined for their Ore.
    Hills produce Clay which are made into Bricks.
    Pasture produce Sheep which are shorn for their Wool.
    Farmlands grow Wheat.
    Forests produce Timber.


    During the trade phase. The phasing player may trade with anyother player. He may also preform sea-trade. The other players may only trade with the phasing player. If a player does not own a harbor he may trade his resource cards at a 4:1 ratio: 4 of any single type of resource for one of any other resource. If the player owns a 2:1 special harbor or 3:1 general harbor he may trade his resource cards at those rates during this time. The player may trade so long as he wishes -- though clubs may want to set some time limits.


    During the build phase the player transforms his resource cards into various structures and/or development cards. Costs are as follows:

    1 Brick + 1 Timber == 1 Road
    1 Brick + 1 Timber + 1 Wool + One Wheat == 1 Settlement
    2 Wheat + 3 Ore == 1 City (Cities are upgrades to existing settlements)
    1 Wheat + 1 Ore + 1 Wool == 1 Development Card

    It is during this phase that the game is most often (but not always) won. The game ends win one player declares he has ten victory points. Victory points are accumulated in the follwing ways:

    Settlements == 1 VP (Limit 5)
    Cities == 2 VP          (Limit 4)
    Longest Road == 2 VP (Limit 1)
    Most Knights == 2 VP (Limit 1)
    VP Development Cards == 1 VP (Limit 5)

    Development Cards bought in one turn may not be used or displayed until the next. Development Cards may be used or displayed at any time during that players turn.

    Well it doesnt seem all that great.

    It is a great game. But you have to play it to figure it why. Any text or graphic description wont do it justice. Hell, even when you get the box and look at the rules and materials you still wont figure it out. Play with three other good gamers (do not play a three player game) and then you'll figure it out.

    Hey. I bought it and played it with a couple of guys and it was OK.
    You said it was great. I'm out sixty bucks. I want you to know that 
    I think you s..

    Whoa. Hold on. Did you just say you played it with a couple of guys? By couple you don't mean two do you ? You do? Man, oh Man. You didnt check out my How to ruin your enjoyment of a Great Game section.

    I keep reading endless messages on rec.games.board that there is going to be an expansion set.

    Yes Virgina, there will be an expansion set. According to a post from Gerald Siek on r.g.b the current release date is set for the Nuremberg Game Fair in march(feb? can someone confirm?). The alpha-version of the expansion has the following:

    Chris Farrell (farrell@cicero.lerc.nasa.gov) writes:
    >I heard talk awhile ago about an expansion for Die Siedler to accomodate 5
    >or 6 people, that was to be available in October. Has anyone heard anything
    >more about this? 
    I've been in Essen and the folks from Frankh-Cosmos (the german distributor
    of DSvC) told me that the 5-6 players expansion is planned to be released
    at the "Nürnberger Spielemesse" (Nuremberg Game Fair) in February (or March)
    1996.  A lot of people were quite disappointed about this.  Of course one
    could make his own "expansion" by using two copies of DSvC :-)
    If I remember correctly, the "alpha-version" of the expansion set included
       18 additional land tiles (one additional desert, one less willow)
        3 additional port tiles (3:1)
        3 additional sea tiles
        2 sets of buildings for the 5th and 6th player
        7 Knight cards
        3 "Fortschritt" cards (one of each)
        3 Vicory point cards
       10 additional resource cards of each type
    There was one major rule modification:
    Every player is allowed to build or buy developement cards during every
    player's turn, i.e. after the current player has built settlements/roads/etc.
    all other players may do this, too, following clockwise.
    This new rule was introduced because in a 6 player game players can accumulate
    a large number of resource cards during one round which would make the robber
    too important and powerful.   
      Gerald Siek  -  jerry@uni-paderborn.de  -  University of Paderborn, Germany
            Click Here

    The expansion also introduces the controversial all build rule.

    Doesnt this expansion list seem a little excessive?

    Sure looks that way to me. Disregarding the rule controversy. I can see the need for the addtional development cards and resource cards. But 18 land tiles? The expansion sounds like its going to be the equivalent of playing two three player games as opposed to what I hoped for: the equivalent of a pumped up super-psychotic four player game.

    You keep going on endlessly about four player as opposed to three player games.

    See the following.

    How to ruin a game of Die Siedler.

    1. Play with more or less than four players.
    2. Allow free trading during every players turn.
    3. Allow builds to occur during every players turn.
    4. Play nice.
    5. Whine.
    6. Forget to Bathe.

    Why does it suck to play with more of less than the four players?

    Both in play of the the normal game and playtesting of a 5/6 player variant a general consensus emerged from all players and testers. Three player games suck because there are too many resources. Four player games suck because the game time increases and there are too few resources. Die Siedler as it stands is perfectly balanced for four players. So it goes.

    Who on earth would allow free trading?

    Got me. But apparently some groups do. Since this is explicitly verboten in the rules I have; I am curious as to what their rationale is. Seems to me it would skew the game.

    Who on earth would allow builds to occur during every players turn?

    Klaus Teuber. This apparently is the current change to the rules for the 5/6 player expansion. Their rationale, if that is the appropriate word, is that the robber becomes too important. Klaus, I doubt if you will ever read this, but if you do please, please don't make this rule change. Here is why the rule as it stands is just fine for a six player game.
    The likelyhood is that the robber will move once during every complete phase(1 in 6 chance!). This is true, but to quote Douglas Adams, probably unimportant.

    The card loss due to robber movement should essentially balance with the increased production due to five players rolling for production before you move as opposed to three. Of course this all assumes that the game balance hasnt been altered already by adding way to many land tiles. Oh hell go check out my six player variant.

    What do you mean it ruins the game to play nice? 
    Corollary Question: 
    But there is this gamer who has never played before so we thought...

    You thought you'd give him or her some slack. Listen, people don't learn how to play games by being given slack. If you play nice with a novice you aren't teaching him or her how the game is played with real gamers. I'm not saying that you should all laugh at the person when he or she places his second village on a coastal hex between a 2 sheep and the wasteland (though maybe you should). Give him the 2 minute intro and then let him sink or swim, in the end he or she will be a better player and thank you for it.

    Corollary answer: Die Siedler is most fun when it is at its most brutal.

    People who whine sure do suck.

    They sure do.

    Why wont some gamers bathe? They give the rest of us a bad rap

    No idea. But I do try to avoid playing with that small minority of gamers who appear to have an allergy to water and soap.

    Questions you might ask after you've played a bit.

    Wow man, Die Siedler Rocks! But like I.. I..

    It's okay. Take a breath. You've bought Die Siedler, looked at the componets (Wow! I didn't know an orange could be that...ugly. Eeeh.) For the hell of it you went to your gaming club or invited some friends over and suddenly you look at the clock its 3:00 am you just played your seventh game in almost as many hours (well not including the gastronomic interphase). And you know you are about to go to sleep dreaming of little black figures locking down your brick production...

    There is only one question in your mind. Why is it such an awesome game?

    Die Siedler rocks for the following reasons:

    1. It's Quick! Four good players can play a game in a smidge over an hour. You can play 5 games of Die Siedler in the time it takes to play one game of Titan.
    2. It's Dirty! I can't recall a game where there are so many ways and means to screw your so-called friends. From the initial placement of cities(You really didnt think you were going to be all alone on that 6 brick did you?), to moving the robber(Red and White are on the 6 brick lock em down Scotty!), to trading(You really want to build that road? I'll give you my wood for three brick. Dont bother asking anyone else. I've got the only wood in the game and you don't have a 3:1 port), to building (You really didnt think I'd let you get out?).
    3. It's Hard! Die Siedler is not an easy game to win. Because of its ever-changing board the optimal strategy changes for each game. There are however some general strategic guidelines.
    4. It's Easy! The rules are reasonably clear. Most players can learn it in a sitting. Whether they can master it, is another question.

    I keep rolling good dice but I still lose. Why?

    You keep losing because you can't win Die Siedler with lucky dice rolls. You've just discovered one more appeal of Die Siedler: Luck has almost nothing to do with Die Siedler. In the end the odds even out. In a four player game by the midgame all available settlements slots have been taken. You can not produce without someone else also gaining via your "lucky" rolls. This is a little less true in the three player variant--yet one more reason to avoid three player games.

    Maybe so but what about the (guy/girl/thing) that rolled three twos to win the game

    Someone won a game just because he/she/it rolled three twos allowing her/his/its' forest/hill/mountain/farmland/pasture to produce three times in a row? Come again? Was he/she/it at seven victory points and you all just gave him/her/it a victory point for rolling the two? Either the player was well placed to take advantage of this fortitous rolling (possible in 2nd place before this statistical blip occured) or you all failed to realize the effects of this production on his/her/its' ouput and so did not respond properly: failed to trade embargo, play a ritter to steal his cards, etc.


    Look, if you depend upon dice to win then you should stop playing Die Siedler and go play Risk.

    So give me some strategies

    Hey didn't I just tell you to go play Risk? No. No. I'm just trying to change the subject now. OK, I will give you some strategies but not the optimal strategy, because frankly an optimal strategy doesn't exsist. Caveat: all strategies are for four player games only. You play a three-player at your own risk.

    The Laws of Catan: Strategy and Other Good Advice.

    Anyone else with wisdom to distill please email me and I will add to the Laws of Catan with credit to the proposer.

    Some Rules Clarifications

    Well the rules are generally pretty clear, there are a couple of things that seem to have been left out or forgotten. This is what a few of my gaming club members and I have come up with. Feel free to argue or flame me. Ultimately it is up to you and your group to define the rules you wish to play under.

    Miscellany and Variants

    A Five/Six Player Siedler Variant.

    Currently this variant is undergoing playtesting. Abuse at your own possible. Playing time ups a bit. Warning: During playtesting the general consensus of the testers was the Die Siedler works best as a four player game.

    As you can see this variant encourages intense competion over scarce resources.

    A Siedler's Dictionary and Thesauraus

    Arms Race:
    An Arms Race occurs when two or more siedlers purchase more than three tech cards. Star Wars occur when said tech cards are kept face down and hidden. It is pretty much a forgone conclusion that the siedlers engaged in the Arms Race will win the game (See Jeremy's Observation. After Star Wars begins you can pretty much ignore the points on the board.

    V. A useful tool for the experienced siedler. Usually used in conjunction with Ritter cards.
    Example Usage.
    Siedler#1: If you dont trade me your ore I'm going to play a Ritter card and lock you down.
    Siedler#2: That's blackmail!
    Siedler#1: And your point is what?

    V. A block is a the strategic placement of a road or settlement such that it restricts (or prevents) another siedler's expansion. A good siedler is alwyas looking for blocks.

    N. Useful for roads, settlements and trade. Produced on Hills.
    Vital in the early game.
    Syn. Mud. Clay.
    Germ. Baustine
    Collq. Expressions: All bricked up/out. Brickless. Mudless. No clay, no play.

    Development Cards:
    There are three main types of Development Cards: Ritters(Knights), Fortschriftt (Progress), and Siegpunkte(Victory Point Cards). Development Cards all cost 1 wheat, 1 sheep, and 1 ore. See Jeremy's Observation.
    Syn. Tech. Chance.
    Collq. Expressions: See Arms Race.

    Distance Rule:
    A settlement may only be placed at intersections where the three adjoing vertices are also bare of settlements. The upshot of this is as follows: All settlements are at least two road lengths away from each other. Greedy siedlers can lock out settlement opportunities by placing their settelments opposite each other on any given tile. This limits that tile to just those two settlements due to the distance rule.

    N. The condition in Die Siedler of having access to free edges and intersections for the future play of settlements or roads.
    Syn. Space. Alone.
    Collq. Expressions: "Let my people Go!" (Said while building a road toward through the only available pass in hopes that another siedler will not beat you to it.)
    Lock, Locked:
    V. Not producing. A conditon caused by the prescense of the Robber on a tile.
    Syn. Shutdown. Shutout. Robbed. Slammed. Screwed.
    Collq. Expresions: Locked down/up/out. That tile has been locked down.
    More properly: Stop asking for ore nitwit. The 6 ore has been locked down for ever.
    Also: You are NEVER seeing that 6 ore (must be said gleefully for proper effect.)
    N. Useful for cities and development cards.
    Vital in the mid game.
    Syn. Rock. Stone.
    Germ. Erz
    Collq. Expressions. Oreless. Rudderless.

    N. Knight development card. Playing a Ritter card allows you to move the Robber. Having the greatest number of Ritter cards over three gives the player 2 Victory Points and the Grosste Rittermacht card. Ritter's are good for a number of different reasons: You can use them as threats to coerce someone into trading. You can use them to end a lock out of one of your tiles, and you can use them to win the game by revealing sufficent cards to gain the Grosste Rittermacht card.
    Syn. Robber (by hopelessly confused gamers)

    N. The black piece on the board. Starts in Wasteland moves on a production roll of seven. Steals half the cards from your hand if you have over seven cards. Sometimes your best friend, other times your worst nightmare. Very useful as a threat.
    Syn. The Dude, The Thief, The Baron, The Robber, Ritter (Called so by hopelessly confused gamers).
    Germ. Rauber
    Collq. Expressions. Moving the Dude. Make my day. In your FACE. See Locked.

    N. More common name for Wool. See Wool.
    Adj. Worthless.
    Example Usage.
    Your brick is about as useful as sheep to me.

    Tech: N. A Development Cards.
    Collq. Expressions. Aquiring Tech. Teching up.

    N. The playing area of Die Siedler is composed of 37 tiles. 9 Open Seas, 9 Harbors, 4 Farmlands, 4 Forests, 4 Pastures, 3 Hills, 3 Mountains and 1 Wasteland.
    Syn. Hexes, Lands

    N. Most useful in the early game. Necessary for roads and settlements.
    Syn. Wood. Trees. Forest
    Germ. Holz

    N. Small round cardboard disks. On one side is written a letter, on the other a number. The tokens are placed on the tiles before play.

    N. Always useful. Necessary for settlements, cities, and development cards.
    Possibly the most underrated of all the resources. You can win with wheat.
    Syn. Bread. Grain.
    Germ. Getreide
    Collq. Expressions: Let my people go! (Said when converting 4 wheat into 1 brick: Biblical Reference).
    N. Useful for settlements and development cards. See Becker's Law. Usually just called Sheep.
    Other Syn. Lamb. Mutton. Baa.
    Germ. Wolle

    A Review of the Expansion

    In an article by paul@morat.demon.co.uk (Paul Andrew King) writes:
    |> Has anyone played Die Siedler Von Cataan with the new expansion set ?
    |> How does it work with 5 or 6 players ?
    We played it this weekend, and I for one thought the game dragged too much.  The
    great thing about regular Settlers, is if you get unlucky early, you only have
    about an hour of misery to suffer through.  In the expansion, it was more like
    2-2.5 hours of misery.  Also while the card mix was partially increased, no more
    VP cards were added, removing some of the incentive for buying them I think.  The
    good rule change is that after the main person takes his/her turn, everyone elase
    gets to build (no trading or even using ports).  I think it plays much better as


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