Settlers of Cataan Optional Rules

by Thomas A. Stobie, S.F.O., ( with contributions from others (see Contributers list below).

These options can be used individually or with others for both the basic Settlers of Cataan as well as for Seafarers of Cataan and for multiple sets. All options should be decided before play begins.

Two Player Game Version

These rules adapt the original rules for use with just two players. These can be used with Settlers of Cataan or Seafarers of Cataan.

  1. Each Player uses two colors.
  2. Trading with the other player is not used. Trade with the bank only.
  3. 20 Victory Points are required to win (higher totals can be used for longer games.)
  4. Increase the threshold from 7 to 9 where discarding on a "7" is required.
  5. Option: Fast Start - each player starts with 3 settlements and 3 roads/ships. One player deploys 1st, 4th, and 5th; the other 2nd, 3rd, and 6th. This will tend to eliminate most of the really lucky (for one) & unlucky (for the other) starts.1

Settlers Variable Board Layout

I have created these rules to allow the players to customize the layout. As the board layout significantly affect strategy, players should be aware that the choices they make during the layout phase will affect the way the game plays and how productive any settlement or city will probably be.

  1. Shuffle the land cards in one pile facedown.
  2. Shuffle the port cards in another pile facedown.
  3. Place the sea hexes in another pile.
  4. Place the number chits in another pile.
  5. Determine which player will do the first layout action and alternate layout actions among all the players until the board is totally layed out.
  6. Layout the land tiles as follows:
    1. The first player draws a land hex and places it face up on the table. Place the bandit on top of it to remind all that this hex is the center hex.
    2. Then, the next player, draws a land hex and places adjacent to an already placed land hex and not more the four hexes away from the center hex. Repeat this step until all the land hexes are deployed.
  7. Layout the port tiles as follows:
    1. The next player draws a port hex (port marker if using Seafarer components) and places it so that both ports touch land, no port touchs as already deployed port and, if possible, no port hex (port marker) touches another port hex (port marker). Repeat this step until all the port hexes (port markers) are deployed.
  8. Place the regular sea hexes around the board to provide support for the other hexes. Sea hexes are assumed to cover the remaining spaces around the board as well.
  9. Remove the bandit from the board.
  10. Choice one of the Chit Layout options and then layout the number chits as follows obeying the number chit placement restrictions listed below:
  11. Now determine the player that will start first, and follow the normal rules of play. It is important that the order of play be determined only after the board is laid out. If this is not done, the first player to go may be able to set up the board to his advantage.

Number Chit Placement Restrictions

The restrictions help to avoid unbalance in the potential settlement sites. In discovery scenarios, you should redraw the number chit if the drawn chit violates these rules.

  1. Special Rule: No number may be placed in a hex adjacent to a hex with the same number in it.
  2. 6's and 8's may only be placed on an empty non-desert land hex that is not adjacent to an already deployed 6 or 8. 6's and 8's should be deployed first.
  3. 5's and 9's may only be placed on any empty non-desert land hex that wouldn't create a junction (potential settlement site) with more than 2 of 5, 6, 8, or 9. 5's and 9's should be deployed after 6's and 8's.
  4. Option #1: Rule of 14. No number may be placed next to a number when added to itself equals 14, so for example, 2 and 12 could not be placed next to each other. 1
  5. Option #2: 11-2 and 12-3 are not permitted to be adjacent pairs. 1

Seafarers Variable Board Layout

Follow the guidelines above for Settlers Variable Board Layout, but shuffle all hex tiles together. Use seafarer port markers instead of the ports listed on the hex tiles. Steps 6-8 are combined into just drawing a tile and playing it adjacent to one already deployed.

Seafarers' Discovery Scenarios

The Seafarers of Cataan rules includes a number of Discovery Scenarios. This generalizes them and permits the players to select the starting options, bonus victory points options, and amount of discovery desired. In each case, the known isles are place, sea hexes are placed around the isles, then the remaining tiles are shuffled and deployed upside down. The players need to decide before play whether the number chit placement restrictions will be used for discovered land.

Known World Tile Major Options

  1. One starting isle with two each of ore, wood, grain, sheep, and brick. [10 Tiles]
  2. One starting isle with three each of ore, wood, grain, sheep, and brick. [15 Tiles]
  3. Two starting isles with a total of two ores, woods, grains, sheep, and bricks. [10 Tiles]
  4. Two starting isles with a total of three ores, woods, grains, sheep, and bricks. These islands can either be near to each other or at opposite ends of the map. [15 Tiles]
  5. One starting isle per person with one each of ore, wood, grain, sheep, and brick. These isles should be as far as possible from each other and each player must deploy both his starting settlements on the same island. Each isle should have the following number chits, one of 6 or 8, one of 5 or 9, one of 4 or 10, one of 3 or 11, and one of 2 or 12. [5N Tiles]
    1. Option #1: Replace for all players the 2 or 12 chit with a 4 or 10 chit or even a 5 or 9 chit. This will speed up the early game by marking resources less rare.
    2. Option #2: For less experienced players replace the 2 or 12 chit with a 3 or 11 chit (very light handicap), a 4 or 10 chit (light handicap), a 5 or 9 chit (moderate handicap), or a 6 or 8 chit (significant handicap) to provide handicapping of players based on their skill.

Known World Tile Minor Options

These options can be applied to most of the major options above.

  1. Scarce Ore - reduce the ore tiles by one or two. This tends to defer the building of cities until the later game after some exploration has occurred.
  2. Scarce Brick - reduce the brick tiles by one or two. This will slow down the building of roads and encourage sailing.
  3. Plentiful wood - increase the number of wood tiles by one. This will speed up the early game.
  4. Initial Gold – add a gold tile to the starting mix. This will speed up the game, particularly if a likely number chit is placed on it.

Bonus Victory Point Options

They should be used individually.

  1. 1 Victory Point for building a settlement on each new island.
  2. 1 Victory Point for each island containing only your settlements and cities.
  3. 1 Victory Point for each island where you have more settlements and cities than each of your opponents.
  4. 1 Victory Point for each island where you have more than half the total settlements and cities on the island.
  5. 1 Victory Point for each settlement or city placed on the starting island of an opponent. This should only be used if players start with equal-sized islands.
  6. 1 Victory Point for each settlement or city placed on the starting island of an opponent and -1 Victory Point to the opponent who isle it is. This should only be used if players start with equal-sized islands.
  7. -1 Victory Point for each settlement or city bordering a gold hex. This penalty helps balance the usefulness of gold hexes, particularly those with more probable numbers.

Other Options

Flexible Bank Resource Trading – The Standard Rules requires that the 4 (or 3 with a port) resources traded be the same to receive 1 of your choice from the bank.
Option #1: Allow any mixture of resources to be traded at the standard rate.
Option #2: Allow any mixture of resources to be traded at the standard rate plus an additional resource.

No Trading with Other players - The Standard rules allows players to trade cards at their whim.
Option: No trading between players at all. 1

Pirate & Bandit Expires – The Standard Rules state that the Pirate & Bandit stay in place until moved.
Option #1: Allow the Pirate & Bandit to expire after adversely affecting a player a number of times, such as 1, 2, or 3.
Option #2: Allow the Pirate & Bandit to be bribed to leave, by giving the desired Pirate or Bandit 2 or 3 resources and removing them from the board. This can be used with Option 1 as well.

Pirate & Bandit Moves – The Standard Rules do not have the Pirate & Bandit moving except as directed by the players.
Option #1: On a roll of "7" whichever of the Pirate or Bandit is not moved may move to an adjacent hex. After deciding which roll corresponds to each surrounding hex, roll one die and move the token to the rolled hex. If the move is not applicable, such as the Pirate on land or the Bandit at sea, the token does not move.
Option #2: If using the bribing of Pirate & Bandit in the Pirate & Bandit Expires Option, when one is bribed, if will move instead as list in option 1 or removed if the rolled hex is invalid for the token. This can be used with Option 1 as well.

Bandit less Effective - The Standard Rules states the the Bandit stops all production from the hex.
Option: Bandits takes half the resources. Calculate the number of resources the player would normally receive and half it, rounding down. 1

Settlement & City Defense – The Standard Rules provide for no defense for a city from the effect of Pirates & Bandits.
Option #1: Permit a player to deploy an army permanently in a settlement or city. This can be done with a chip or other marker placed under the settlement or city. The effect this has is that the settlement or city is totally unaffected by the effects of the Pirate & Bandit. The used army either may or may not still be counted in the most army calculation.
Option #2: A player with an unexposed army can immediately play the army exposed, pre-empting the play of Pirate or Bandit, and allowing that player to place that token on any hex except the hex where it started or any hex that was pre-empted this turn. This can be used with Option 1 as well.

Equal Probability Number Chits – The Standard Rules provide that some number chits are more likely to occur than others.
Option: Use number chits from 1 to 9 in sufficient quantities to apply to the land hexes. Roll a ten-sided die instead of two six-sided dice for determining which hexes produce resources. On a 10 the normal effects of a "7" on two dice is used.

Permanent Road Placement – The Standard Rules states that once played, a road remains for the remainder of the game.
Option: A player can choose to remove a road. The road is returned to the player’s out of play pieces. This can be useful if the player is out of roads.

Ties for Largest Army and Longest Road - The Standard rules states that once a player earns on of these titles, another player has to have more than him to take the card.
Option: If a tie exists, return the victory point card to the bank. 1

No Limit on number of Pick-a-cards played - The standard rules limit it to one a turn.
Option: Allow as many as desired to be played. 1

Official Competition Board Layouts

I see the following options for official competition board layouts. This can be used with Settlers, Seafarers, or Seafarer discovery scenarios.

  1. Standard Rules, competition official deploys tile according to random setup in rules. I feel this one has the potential to be the most unbalanced.
  2. Standard Rules, each round uses same setup (created per rules or design by competition officials)
  3. Variable Layout Option, competition officials create the layout. Same layout used by all boards in a round.
  4. Variable Layout Option, players create layout.

When competition officials create a layout, it is recommend that they playtest the layout prior to the competition and make sure it is fairly balanced.

Different Victory Scenarios

I have come up with a number of victory points required based on the number of players and the length of game desired. You should decide what the target is before play begins. If it is not discussed, it is 10 for 3 or 4 players and 20 for 2 players. The longer the version the more significant becomes the "Pick a Card" deck.

Length of Game 2 Players 3 Players 4 players
Short 16 10 8
Normal 20 13 10
Medium 24 16 12
Long 28 20 14

If there are ways to earn additional victory points, you may want to add to the total listed.

Note that with the 3 player medium or long version, additional settlement, city, and roads markers are needed (unless at lot of use of the "Pick a Card Deck" is desired or sufficient opportunities to ear bonus victory points.)

For Competitions, I would recommend 4 player-normal, 4 player-medium, or 4 player-long.

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These people made suggestions that resulted in or influenced some of options (footnoted above).

1 - Vin Bartone - email:

© 1997-2003 Thomas A. Stobie, SFO - Permission to use and copy for personal use is granted.

Last revised 24 Sep 2003.