Olivia and I have played a lot of the Settlers of Catan board game recently...a lot. We've played with a few friends and got them hooked too. And our playingness increased (if that's possible) after getting the Cities and Knights expansion for Christmas.
If you've never played Settlers, the rest of this post will make no sense at all. Please feel free to go out and buy the game, and come back!
The basic Settlers game, with no alterations to the rules, can technically be played by only two people; however, often one person gets ahead and stays ahead. Some simple tweaks can make 2-person Settlers a little more balanced while still keeping it enjoyable.
While I didn't invent any of these changes, I thought it would be worthwhile listing them all in the one place:
- The player with the least points controls the robber when a 7 is rolled (by either player). Difference: the trailing player doesn't get too far behind.
- The robber is placed using a dice roll instead of the player who rolled the 7 choosing. Difference: the placing of the robber is random - we find a 12-sided dice works best for placing the robber.
- The robber can go back to the desert when a 7 is rolled. Difference: the 7 can be a neutral number.
- Instead of 2 dice, roll a 12-sided dice for normal turns. Difference: This means that any number is just as likely to be rolled. We don't use this a lot.
- No player trading, only trading with the bank allowed. Difference: stops arguments!
- When the game starts, you get resources for both of your starting settlements. Difference: you start with more cards and are able to start doing things quicker.
- Each player gets two rolls of the dice on their turn. Difference: you collect resources quicker, which counters one of the main problems with only two players that the game is slower to get anywhere.
- The limit of cards you can have in your hand before you have to return them to the bank when a 7 is rolled goes from 7 to 9. Difference: you can stockpile a couple of extra cards without having to spend them. Works particularly well with the "two dice rolls" variation.
- A dummy third player or "neutral player" is added. This player only builds roads and control of where he'll place the roads alternates between both players. Difference: Having a third player means more dice rolls (more resources) and placing the settlements at the start of the game for the third player can be used to hinder your opponent. See this explanation for the full run-down on using a third player.
- Each player plays two colors. Difference: I haven't used this variation, but I can imagine it would increase the competitiveness for real estate.
- Play to 12 (or more) victory points (instead of 10). Difference: Longer game, and the potential for the trailing player to catch up.
- One of Olivia's favorites is called "Intimate Settlers" where each player has an island and you build towards each other, uncovering hexes as you go. Difference: you need to explore to find the good resources, rather than just sitting on the starting couple you get.
Here's some of the links I've used in putting together this list:
- 2 Player Settlers of Catan game variation
- Settlers of Catan for 2 Players
- Intimate Settlers
- Catan on Yahoo! Games
- University of Catan
- Settlers of Catan
- "catan" tag on del.icio.us
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