Settlers of Catan Questions

Settlers of Catan is one of my favorite games.  But the rules are ambiguous in a few places, and I'm curious to hear other Settlers players' opinions about what should happen in these cases.  So here are my questions:

1.  What happens when there is not enough of a resource to satisfy all concurrent demands on it? 

The rules say that when a resource is gone, nobody can collect any more until somebody spends the resource (through building or maritime trade).  But my question is different.  If there is still some of the resource left, but not enough for everyone who's entitled to it by the latest roll of the dice, who (if anyone) should get the remaining cards? 

Someone on a netnews channel (, I think) told me that an earlier version of the Settlers rules said that no one collects the resource in a case like this.  If that's so, I wonder why they took out that rule in later editions?  Was it just an oversight?  An error in translation?

As I see it, there are two possible alternative rules.  First, you could go with "first come, first serve."  Whoever grabs the cards first gets them.  But that could lead to cards getting ripped up.  Second, you could prioritize claims so that (for instance) the player who rolled the dice collects first, then the player to his left, and so on around the board until the resource is gone. 

2.  Is terrorism allowed?

When I play Settlers with my friends, there's invariably a lot of terrorism.  It typically works like this:  Someone rolls the robber or plays a Soldier.  He picks up the robber piece, holds it above a hex with one or more players' settlements on it, and says, "I'm putting it here... unless someone will make it worth my while to put it elsewhere."  A threatened player will then (often) bribe him with a resource card to place the robber elsewhere. 

So, is there any rule against doing this?  I can't find anything preventing it in my copy of the rules, and it seems like a simple one-for-zero resource card trade to me.  But I'm told that the German rules (or maybe an earlier version of the English rules) say that all trades of resource cards must involve each player giving up one resource card.  However, even this rule would not eliminate all terrorism, but merely make it more byzantine (e.g., "If you leave me alone, I'll give you a wood and sheep for one sheep").  All that's required is that the two players involved have a resource type in common to use as a "carrier," like the sheep in the example I just gave. 

Incidentally, if the alleged rule against uncompensated trades -- that is, trades in which one player's compensation is not in the form of resource cards received immediately -- is taken seriously, it could eliminate some other strategies that are sometimes used in my circle of friends.  For example, sometimes a player who is scared of the robber (because he has too many cards) will "trade" several cards to another player with few cards to immunize them from the robber.  The other player will trade them back after the dice roll for a commission of, say, one resource card.  Another strategy that could be eliminated by the rule against uncompensated trades is triangular trade with delayed payments (e.g., I agree to give Jim a sheep for a wood, take the wood, make a trade using the wood to get a sheep from Bob, and then give the sheep to Jim). 

3.  In the 5-6 Player Expansion, can you win the game during a Special Building Phase?

The 5-6 Player Expansion allows any player to build in the intervals between other players' turns, using only the cards in his hand.  This is called the Special Building Phase (SBP).  Now suppose that a player has 9 victory points already, and then gets a 10th in a SBP (say, by upgrading a settlement to a city).  Does he win immediately?  Or does he have to wait for his next turn to declare victory?

Of course, it would not be possible to win during the SBP by buying a Development card that turned out to have a victory point on it.  The rules clearly state that Development cards can only be played during your turn.  But when a new city or settlement is built, or the longest road taken, the victory points are acquired immediately. 

4.  In the 5-6 Player Expansion, can you buy a Development card during the Special Building Phase and play it on your next turn? 

The 5-6 Player Expansion rules make it clear that you can buy a Development card during the SBP, but they are unclear about how soon you can play it.  The original rules state that you can't play a development card until the turn after you bought it (with the exception of victory point cards.  The spirit of that rule was to create a waiting period for use of cards like the Soldier.  But if you can buy a Development card in the SBP between your turn and the player on your right, and then play it immediately on your own turn (perhaps even before the dice roll), then the waiting period is nonexistent. 

On the other hand, if you can't play a Development card until one full circuit of the table after buying it, then the waiting period could be exceedingly long.  For example, if you buy the card in the SBP right after the player to your left, you'll have to wait 1 and 2/3 circuits of the table (or 10 whole turns) before being able to play it. 

In my house, we've adopted a compromise rule:  In order to play a Development card on your next turn, you must buy it during or before the SBP that occurs half-way around the table from your turn.  (If there are five players, that means the SBP directly across from you.  If there are six players, that means the SBP just before the turn of the player directly across from you.)


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This page was last modified 30 August 2005.