Settlers of Catan: Online Game to Play with Friends

by JoHarrington

Your buddies become valued trading partners, or sworn rivals, as you battle it out for domination of the map one city at a time.

Our whole gang has become quite addicted to playing 'Settlers of Catan'. Every evening for weeks, we've been logging on for another bout.

It used to be that we'd all sit in our Skype call, each doing our own thing, as we chatted away. These days, mere minutes pass before someone is bound to say, 'Catan?' and a chorus of 'Yes!' will follow.

We've all developed strategies, our own ways to win the game. We've all spent our days contemplating new tactics to try.

Our love affair with 'Settlers of Catan' looks set to run and run. Have you discovered it yet?

What is Settlers of Catan?

It's a multi-player strategy game, whereby you gain control of the world by carefully building your territories.

Each evening, you will find my friends and I contemplating maps like the one shown below. We're looking for the best positions; the most valuable ports; the most cunning places in which to drop our roads.

In short, we're trying to build our mini-empires without being thwarted, and in such a way that our fellows have to bow down to us.

Image: Completed map from Settlers of Catan.
Image: Completed map from Settlers of Catan.

Four different players are represented on the above Settlers of Catan map. Jelmer won. The settlements, cities and road in blue utterly obliterated any chance that the rest of us had of expanding. You can see our puny efforts in red, white and orange.

With the right kind of eyes, you can also identify the bitter battle, that took place before Jelmer made it to ten points, thus winning the game.

Down at the bottom, Jethraw's road - in orange - cut straight across mine in white. I couldn't build onto the port to gain an advantage there. Jelmer (blue) and Robin (red) then hemmed me in, stopping me spreading in any other direction.

But it was quid pro quo. My white settlement on the grain port prevented Robin from building the same.

The final desperate struggle to stop Jelmer winning can also be seen in the center of the board. That group of people, positioned on the 11, were there to rob him two-fold. The player who placed them there was able to steal resources from Jelmer's inventory, and as long as the robbers remained on that spot, he was unable to draw grain to replenish his stock.

Settlers of Catan is all about tactics, and colonizing the most precious positions on the map. May the best gamer win!

Play Catan Online Free

My friends and I currently all have accounts at PlayCatan! The Official Catan Game Portal.

This is where we get our nightly fix of playing Settlers of Catan online. There you can jump into public rooms, or create your own private games for 3-4 players. It doesn't cost a cent.

Settlers of Catan for XBox

Catan [Online Game Code]

Single Player, Xbox LIVE Multiplayer 2-4, 5.1 Surround Sound, HD (High Definition). Catan, based on the best-selling board game "The Settlers of Catan," puts you in the role of ...

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Settlers of Catan Board Games

While we all play on our PCs, the more traditional format is a physical board game. There are many variations on offer there!

How to Play Settlers of Catan

Catan maps contain grids filled with resources. You will need them all in order to win.

In setting up a game, all players are invited to built two settlements, each with a road attached. Their placements become the foundation for an empire, hence their positions are chosen with care, and with all due regard to the resources around them.

Clay and wood are the most important materials at the outset of the game. They are needed to build roads in order to expand. They are also half of the resources necessary to create settlements - the other two are grain and wool - hence they are doubly in demand at the outset.

Your road can be intercepted by another player, until it has a settlement upon it. Roads can cut up other roads, but can't cut through a settlement.

In addition, no other settlement may be built on a neighboring spot. It dominates the whole area.

Image: Four players begin a game of Settlers of Catan
Image: Four players begin a game of Settlers of Catan
Here's an example which illustrates all of these points:

Image: Detail from Settlers of CatanIn this detail from the Catan map, the four materials required to make a strong start are all present and correct.

As an opening gambit, the white player placed one of her two initial settlements between wood, clay and wool spots. There is a grain spot nearby.

Throughout the game if the two dice rolled by any player added up to two, six or nine, then she would have received the appropriate resources. This was a decent position for someone aiming to build roads and settlements. 

But the valuable clay spot also enticed another player, who was able to use his resources to ride roughshod across her road.

However, he chose to do so at the cost of resources to himself. Her settlement prohibited him from building in the more lucrative spot between the wood and clay. He was forced to move into a neighboring position.

Wisely, he chose the clay over the wood. It was much more likely to yield resources due to the number upon it. Two dice have a greater chance to total six than two.  There are many combinations of numbers that add up to six, but only a couple of ones will equal two.

As the game progresses, the final material - ore - grows in desirability.

Ore, along with grain, are the resources needed to upgrade your settlement. It's no accident that the ore spot (pictured right) is flanked by two cities. Those with towns there were able to gain  enough ore to do so!

Cities double the amount of resources awarded, when the dice total triggers a pay-out from that spot.

Cities in Settlers of Catan
Cities in Settlers of Catan

More Board Game Versions of Settlers of Catan

As I mentioned before, there are a lot of variants out there, if you want a Catan board game to play at home.

Material Boosts in Settlers of Catan

Building settlements, cities and roads aren't the only things you can do with your resource stockpile in Catan.

While playing Settlers of Catan, you will spend a great deal of time wishing that you had one resource or another. Perhaps an extra clay to make a road, or one more ore to construct a city.

But you can make your excess materials work for you to achieve your goals.

Players may trade with each other, when it's their turn. I might swop my wool for a grain, or hold a special offer - two wood and a clay for just one wool, please! Your friends may oblige or laugh in your face, depending upon how close you are to beating them.

If it's the latter, then all is not lost. Players with four items of the same kind may trade with the bank. While the deal is guaranteed, it's very one-sided. The bank will only provide one material in exchange for your four.  That's interest in action.

However, there is a way to get a better exchange rate - colonize a port!

Image: Completed map from Settlers of Catan.
Image: Completed map from Settlers of Catan.

All around the Catan map are tiny islands. By placing a settlement upon an anchor spot, you get to utilize the port beside it.

The majority are 3:1 ports. As the name suggests, this allow you to swop three of the same material for one in return. Hence the bank will only ask for three wool in exchange for one grain, instead of the usual four.

Even more valuable are the bespoke ports dotted between. There's one for each resource. If you can grab one of them, then you only need two of that material in order to swop it for another.

Settlers of Catan Games in Other Formats

Settlers of Catan - Portable Edition

Catanophiles rejoice! Now you can take Klaus Teuber's popular game of expansion and development out of the house and hit the road. Cleverly designed to be compact and self conta...

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Rivals for Catan - Age of Darkness Expansion

Determine Catan's spiritual balance. A Religious Dispute causes both players to lose cards. Churches and Temples minimize losses. Temple cards strengthen your access to your own...

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Settlers of Catan Wooden Game Piece Set - 95 Pieces

Have you ever stepped back and realized your game play is really in two very different worlds? One world with cute wooden houses and cities, great roads winding among resources,...

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Using Development Cards to Gain an Edge in Catan

You can use your stockpile to purchase these. For the cost of one wool, one grain and one ore, you might just benefit enough to win the game!

Image: Knight card from Settlers of CatanDevelopment cards are your secret arsenal in Settlers of Catan. You buy them from the build screen, using up an ore, wool and grain apiece.

You can't choose what card you draw (it's a little like the Chance cards in Monopoly in that respect). But you can keep them safely hidden, until the optimum time for deployment.

A clever use of development cards can easily win a game. I have a friend who's particularly good at judging the right moment. We all worry when we know he has a card in his inventory.

There are five cards to use to your advantage in Catan:

  • Victory Point. This awards the player a secret point, invisible to all of the other players. If you can collect ten victory cards, you've automatically won the game!
  • Knight. You may use this to remove robbers from one resource and place it on another. It's perfect for freeing up one of your own squares, if another player has blocked it with robbers. But it can also be utilized aggressively. If you know that an opponent has a certain resource, yet they refuse to trade, then you can attempt to steal it. Just draw your knight and move the robbers to one of their resource spots!  Also worth noting is that you can gain a point for having the largest army, if you've used a knight card more than any other player.
  • Monopoly.  Play this to automatically drain every other player's inventory of your chosen resource. You get the entire bounty to yourself.
  • Inventory. This card is used to create two materials of your choice. It can be a pair of the same, or two different resources.
  • Road-Builder. Without any materials at all, this Catan development card will allow you to construct two roads.  Brilliant for getting somewhere fast, or quickly cutting off an opponent's prospective route.

There is a lot of room for different gaming styles in Settlers of Catan, and a great deal of scope for tactical playing, particularly when you're pulling out development cards. Which is why it's so utterly compelling!

Presumably by now, you can see why my friends and I have fallen in love with this game. Enjoy your own explorations into the world of Catan.

Settlers of Catan Board Game Expansion Packs

There are dozens of these to extend your basic Catan game too! But unfortunately they're not available to play Catan on your computer.
Updated: 04/24/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 03/19/2014

I have nephews in their late teens and early twenties, who are about four in my head. Large four year olds, granted...

Thamisgith on 03/19/2014

I still think of them as little boys too Jo - probably shows when I write about them.

Glad to hear we're not the only ones who turn the air blue (on occasion) when playing Catan. :o)

JoHarrington on 03/18/2014

I've learned swearwords in Dutch, especially to fully express myself during Catan games with my Dutch friends. They already knew how to cuss me out in English, so fair was fair.

I'm assuming that it is possible to play Catan without the need to shout expletives at fellow players, but I've never been in a game like that. :D Polite Catan... LOL

Your oldest son just moved out?! Wow! Based on articles that I've read of yours - admittedly recollections - I just pictured them still as little boys.

Thamisgith on 03/18/2014

I love playing settlers with my two sons. We have had a bit of an amnesty on profanity during game play for years now, which was an added attraction for them I think. Not sure how it started - but now they're both old enough to be responsible for their own vocabularly without any permission from me. In fact, oldest son just moved into his own flat - so maybe the online version is what we need to look into now.

JoHarrington on 03/07/2014

So it was a joint effort!

Have you tried telling your sister that she's wrong? Bring her into one of our on-line games, we'll soon teach her to love it!

Jyreeil on 03/07/2014

Yeah i love the board game too, but unfortunately it is the one game my youngest sister won't play. She says it's too long and boring. Anyways, don't forget who suggested catan in the first place. Ember may have suggested a board game but I was the one that said catan or nothing. Ember was the one that really pushed the idea though, and Freya was the one that actually found it in the end.

JoHarrington on 03/07/2014

Maybe... *grin* Yes! I won that game, through cunning, strategy and being extremely nasty to my friends. You taught me everything I know.

After so many weeks playing it on-line, I admit to wanting and coveting the board game too. Thanks for your recommendations.

Ember on 03/07/2014

That one at the bottom wouldn't be the time you all blocked me from winning, would it? e_e

This game is equally as great, if even better at times, in person with the physical game. But if people do pick it up, I highly recommend picking up the first expansion pack for the basic game (unless they just know for sure they'll never play with more than four). The expansion makes the board a bit bigger, and just makes the game a little bit better.

JoHarrington on 03/07/2014

I've been thinking of writing this for a while, so I had about five screencaps in there! LOL I bet Jelmer will be smug that his win made it through.

Ember on 03/07/2014

Haha how many games did you take to collect your screen caps?

Now you all know why I was so sad when I couldn't get anyone to play with me the first time I asked to play :p

We're prepping to play Citadels tonight ;)

(Another favorite board game of mine)

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