How to play Settlers of Catan
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This is written with new players in mind. My effort here is to introduce you to this classic game with an overview of the rules and a few pictures. This is not exhaustive, but it should give you a sense of how this popular game works.

There is an ulterior motive...we want you hooked on games! If you are new to the hobby you will probably enter through the Island of Catan. Once you get your feet wet on this island, you will begin to see on the horizon a thousand other places that games can take you. And once that happens...well, just clear some cupboard space. You may just end up Through the Desert or shouting Ra!
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Colonel Mustard
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The Settlers of Catan is a 3-4 player game where each player is a new settler on the island of Catan.

The game board is created using hexagon tiles. The 19 land tiles are placed in a randomized fashion to create an island. Needless to say, the water tiles surround the island.

Each player starts by placing two settlements and two roads. Throughout the game, players will collect resources. Then, using those resources players will purchase other roads and settlements, as well as cities and development cards. Doing so gains each player Victory Points. The first player to gain ten Victory Points is the winner.

Allow me to explain...
 
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Colonel Mustard
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These are the hexagon tiles that create the island of Catan. Each colour or type of hex will produce one of the five resouces used in the game.

From left to right, beginning at the top row, they are: lumber, brick, wool, (bottom) grain and ore. The hex on the bottom right, is the one desert tile used in every game. This land produces nothing of value to any player. (It is where the Robber resides as the game begins...which will be explained later.)

Players will build their settlements and cities on the corners where these hexagons touch. In turn, this land will provide them with the resouces needed to build further.
 
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When the game board is set up, each of the hexagon tiles that form the island will have a number chip placed on it. The chips are labeled with letters and placed alphabetically around the board. This evenly distributes them so that the more frequently rolled numbers (such as 6 and 8) are spread apart. These represent the numbers on the dice rolls.

The dice are rolled at the beginning of each players turn. Any player with a settlement or city built on a hex that matches the dice roll, receives one (or more) card(s) representing that resource.

Let me illustrate...
 
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Pictured is an example of how the board may look part way into the game. We will use the centre Grain hex,numbered with an 8, as an example.

You will notice that both White and Red have built bordering on this Grain hex. White has one City (top left) and one Settlement. The sticks between them are Roads. Red has built one Settlement on this hex. (Red's other settlement does not border this Grain hex.)

Currently, whenever any player rolls an 8, Red will receive one Grain Resource Card. White will also receive Grain cards. One for the Settlement, and two for the City...three altogether.

All other hex tiles with the number matching the dice throw will also produce resource cards. And all players collect resources with each dice toss, regardless of whose turn it is. Players may be receive several cards at any one time.
 
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Pictured here is one of each of the five types of Resource Cards. They match the game board hexagons: wool, ore, grain, brick and lumber. Players collect and hold these cards and use them to purchase items.

Players may only build on their turn. The cost of each item that may be purchased is listed on a handy card.
 
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This is the card that outlines the building costs.

There are four things that players can purchase: a road, a settlement (worth one victory point) a city (worth two victory points) and a development card.

If, for example, a player has one brick card and one lumber card he may purchase one road (on his turn). Players may build as much as they wish so long as they have the resource cards to pay for each purchase.

There are rules about where buildings can be placed. And any new buildings you add must be connected to at least two roads.
 
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There are no number chips on the board with a seven...so no resources are collected. Instead, the Robber comes into play. The player who rolled the seven may move the Robber (the black pawn) to any land hex of his choosing.

As pictured, the Robber has been placed on a brick hex. Once the Robber is placed, the player who moved him may steal one card (blindly) from the hand of a player who has built on the hexagon where the Robber now resides. (If more than one player has built on the hex, he may choose which player to steal a card from.)

Furthermore, as long as the Robber remains on the hexagon, no player can collect any resource from that hex. As well as this...all players who are holding more than seven resource cards in their hand, lose half of them.

The Robber can play an important role of helping to maintain a balance to the players. The leader is usually the one who finds the Robber on his property. This can potentially slow his progress down enough for others to catch up.
 
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Players may also (on their turn) strike a deal and trade cards with any other player. If you would like to build a city and find yourself short one card, you can offer one or more of your cards as a trade.

A wise player may see what you up to and deny any negotiation. Or you may find an opponent so desperate for a card(s) they will trade regardless of any benefit you receive.

Trading is a key aspect of this game.
 
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Players may also trade (during their turn) with the 'bank'. That is, players can trade any four of the same resource cards for any one of another. This is a steep price to pay...but it is sometimes necessary.

There are, however, cheaper ways to trade. Placed around the board (among the water hexagons) are various trading ports. Pictured here is the Brick Port. Any player who builds a Settlement or City on a Port can trade at a much better price. In this case, a player on this Brick Port would be able to trade (to the bank) two Brick (only) resource cards for any one card of their choice. There are two-for-one ports in each resource.
 
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There are also several Three-for-One Ports. These are not specific to any particular resource. Players who build on these can trade (to the bank) any three of the same cards for any one of another.
 
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Building settlements and cities has rewards. First it gains victory points...which are needed to win. Each settlement is worth one Victory Point. Each city is worth two Victory Points. (A city can only be built to replace a settlement.)

But second, it increases your opportunity for new resources. If you build on a game hex that holds a chip number that none of your other buildings are next to, you will begin gaining new resources when that number is rolled on the dice.

Each city will enable a player to gather two resource cards. Each settlement gives the player one resource card.
 
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Among the items players may purchase are Development Cards. (These cost one Ore, one Wool, and one Grain card.) A player making the purchase randomly draws from the top of the shuffled stack.

Some of these cards give a special ability such as building two roads for free, or taking any two resouce cards for free. Some of these Development Cards also give Victory Points to players. These are important cards that are often underestimated by new players.
 
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A majority of the Development Cards are Soldier cards. A player may use a Soldier (on his turn) to chase the Robber away. This has the same effect as rolling a seven, allowing that player to place the Robber and steal a development card from another player.

A player who manages to purchase and play three Soldier cards, is considered to have the Largest Army. This gains him the card pictured, and two Victory Points.

This card (representing the 2 points) is passed on to that player. Any player who subsequently plays more than three Soldier cards will take the card and the two points!

Each time a new player has the largest army, the card is passed on.
 
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And there is another way to gain 2 Victory Points...

The first player to have a minimum of five road segments (all connected) is considered to have Longest Road. That player receives the Longest Road card which is worth two Victory Points.

Any player that creates a longer road receives the card and the two Victory Points.
 
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The Settlers of Catan is a nice blend of luck and strategy. Games are often tight and feel almost like a race to the finish. It has been well received in my game group...and around the world.

I trust this has been a helpful overview of the game. But while it may give you the gist of how things work, it can never fully explain the strategy, tension and fun this game offers.

You will always find a good dose of naysayers who will complain about the random action of the dice. But the rating on this game illustrates that there are certainly more people who have found this to be a great source of fun. Perhaps you will too...

If you are interested to learn more, here is a link to my review:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/161585
 
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